Moroccan Center for Arabic Studies

Moroccan Center for Arabic Studies

About

MCAS is an Arabic language center committed to teaching Arabic as a foreign language so as to serve as a window into the culture of any Arabic speaking country.

Our mission is to make sure that the Arabic courses taught at MCAS will enable our students to speak and use the language confidently with ease, equipping students through our engaging classes with a strong basis by which they can understand and comprehend not only Morocco but the wider Arab world.

MCAS offers programs for students with a strong interest in developing their Arabic language skills while learning firsthand culture about contemporary Morocco through active involvement in the community. Through a combination of Arabic language and area studies courses taught in English and Arabic, students gain significant insight into the Moroccan society, politics, literature, religion, and Morocco’s relationships with the West and within the Arab world through detailed analysis of media reports.

Website
mcas-arabic.com
Founded
2009
Headquarters

United States

Reviews

Lori
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My experience with MCAS was unforgettable. The staff and program coordinators are devoted and committed to providing the volunteers and participants with true Moroccan cultural immersion. I learned French and Islam with my fellow group of volunteers daily, which was a helpful source during my journey with working with fellow Moroccan natives and as general knowledge to attain in a multifaceted world. My experience with MCAS and living in Morocco for two weeks is not merely a distant memory today but has had a sentimental value to my everyday life.

What would you improve about this program?
I wouldn’t improve anything about this program, it was truly a great and informative program.
Francesco
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An excellent program with really awesome people who seek to deeply immerse you into Moroccan culture beyond just a tourist perspective. our living accommodations were stellar and there was never a bad meal. My favorite thing was the people’s warmth and hospitality that they showed us all throughout the trip. Loved doing the French and Islam lessons as well because I gained a broader knowledge of this religion and I loved that I got that perspective from people who are Muslim and live in a Muslim country. That experience is highly valued for me. Highly recommend would do it 10 times over

Meryl
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Attending The Moroccan Center for Arabic Studies was truly an incredible experience that I would highly recommend to anyone! The entire staff was very organized, welcoming, knowledgeable and catered the program to your interests. The enrollment process for the program was seamlessly quick and as well as all of the professors and staff couldn't have been more helpful. I attended both the volunteer program and enrolled in private lessons and LOVED my experience. The volunteer Riad was a wonderful place to meet other people volunteering and was located in the heart of the old Medina. The volunteer and class schedules were flexible and able to accommodate your availability. Ali had very thoughtful recommendations for weekend trips, restaurants to eat in Rabat, other cities to visit after the program ended and truly went above and beyond to ensure that folks had a well-rounded experience. Looking forward to the next time I am able to attend the MCAS, thank you!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
My advice would be to use downtime to explore the city! There are so many incredible areas within and outside of the Medina to check out after classes or volunteering. The staff at MCAS is amazing at suggesting weekend trips as well! I would definitely advise folks to take advantage of the free weekends and travel to neighboring cities to experience different perspectives of Morocco.
Maddison
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Morocco is a beautiful place with so many fun travel destinations! The beach, the desert, the mountains; all are incredible and a must see when volunteering with MCAS. Ali is super helpful when making travel plans and can point you in the direction for great places to visit. MCAS offers many different types of internships. The education internship is a great way to work with kids and be creative with lesson planning if your're interested in education. Rabat was an amazing place to live for the summer and there's lot of things to do! I felt very safe at my home-stay and comfortable walking alone throughout my trip. People in the city are very friendly and helpful. There are lots of great places to eat and the medina is always busy and fun! Highly recommend the program!

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I didn't realize that the schools I would be teaching in wouldn't have any type of technology. I would have planned more in the states and probably brought supplies with me to use in the classroom. This is a great experience for utilizing experiential learning and out of the box thinking. I wasn't prepared, though, so I didn't get to do much of that. If you're planning on doing the education placement, definitely come up with lots of activities before you arrive!
Elisa
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Truly great experience in Rabat. A beautiful city to learn Arabic. I had a very warm welcome by Ali and Leyla at the Rabat train station. My lessons in Arabic couldn't be better. The teacher is very professional and patient...our lessons focused on all 4 disciplines and different topics from culture, traditions, food, politics and history. Every week we had a test on the new vocabulary learnt. The Accommodation and food with the local family was a truly immersion into the culture. They became my family and I was so sad to leave. The location was very centric, bang on the centre of the Souq. Very lively atmosphere! I went to a hamam, hairdressers, weekends away and I got exposed to Arabic.
I will be back at MCAS Rabat. I found the school very professional and organised, ready to assist on any matter.

Programs

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Lydia Ruotolo

Lydia is a high school senior who hopes to become involved with global studies in college. She has a small obsession with chickens, loves traveling, and has done service in Morocco, Cambodia, Thailand, and India.

Why did you pick this program?

I participate in a local non-profit organization that gives youth the opportunity to travel around the world and do service. I believe they have our best interests in mind and essentially scour the globe to ensure we help people as much as we can while also being safe. During this search, they happened upon the Moroccan Center for Arabic Studies and they recognized how amazing it was.

What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?

The most important thing when going abroad is to make sure you are open to new experiences. Unexpected things are bound to happen, so it is better to go into your journey with an open mind and without too many expectations.

This has the added benefit of opening you up to the culture and the people more as well. The unpredictable is what makes traveling an adventure. If it were exactly as you expected, why even travel in the first place?

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

To embrace the people and the culture. Morocco has one of the most beautiful belief systems that I have ever witnessed and it's the people that help covey it so well.

What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?

Through life, people need to learn several lessons of high importance: how to be patient, kind, forgiving, and more. However, one of the most important lessons is how to say goodbye. The kids, as well as the translators that I met, are, without a doubt, my family. This knowledge and love just make it that much harder to leave them. I need them to teach me how to say goodbye.

I have been with my students for two weeks with over 43 hours of teaching. Through the long days and difficult content, they have persevered and done their best to absorb what we have taught them. Their ability to retain and remember information fills me with pride on a daily basis. Even though we have taught them fairly mundane things like ordering food and going to the market, it absolutely means the world to them.

They hold onto pieces of information as tightly as they possibly can, knowing that it will be so useful for their lives. What moves me more than anything else, is that they remember who I am as a person. All of them can easily identify my personality and they respect me for it. In this way, they constantly remind me of why I love these service trips so much. For the past two weeks, my five students have become my life, making it difficult to imagine leaving them. In order to leave these students, they need to teach me how to say goodbye.

Remembrance is a huge part of the culture in Morocco and I see that parallel in the families that we had the privilege to meet. When we visited the families of different students, there were many times that we encountered those who had lost family members. The family of Kevin's student, Helema, had lost a daughter only four years ago. While the sadness must have still been crushing, they spoke about her and remembered her with such reverence and love.

This same beautiful remembrance could be found in nearly all of the home visits. At another house of one of Kevin's students, Amina, the remembrance they had for their deceased or far away family members was powerful. Amina's father said that he has come to learn that it's important to talk about people who are gone as if they were there, because it honors them and helps to continue memories of them. With this idea of remembering others, the people slowly teach me how to say goodbye.

To say hello in Moroccan Arabic, you say Salamu'lekum which means peace be upon you. For goodbye, you either say m'a salama meaning with peace, or lla yhennik which means, may Allah give you tranquility.

On our last day of school, we had a massive review day and a vocabulary bee to go over all that they have learned. It was a day of remembering, fun, and it was the day that cumulatively reminded me how much I love those little chums. At the end of the school day, I gave them homemade cards and said a brief goodbye.

Despite the fact that we would see them in six hours for the party, the goodbye that they gave us was tearful and solemn. It was when they asked when I would come back that my heart ripped a little. I don't know where my life and my travels will take me yet, the future is uncertain. Step by step, they teach me how to say goodbye.

The party that we hosted for the students from Abdasalam Sayah was a chance for me to be with my kids one last time. It was the last chance I got to be with the crazy and funny Fatima who is actually my soulmate. Those were the last hours that I was able to spend with spirited Aya and sensitive Malak. I savored the last moments with sweet Amina and generous Hanan.

We danced for hours with joy and I couldn't help but think that I hope they remember me as they remember their lessons as well as other people so well. When it was finally time to say goodbye, I couldn't help but cry. They all tried to comfort me, only to fall into a pile of tears themselves. Everyone from the school and from the Moroccan center for Arabic Studies made an impact on my heart. It was one of the hardest things that I have ever done, but they finally taught me how to say goodbye.

How has this trip changed you?

My journey to Morocco is one that I won't soon forget. I fell in love with the kids I taught and I became very close to the translators and directors of the MCAS program. When you travel, you start out thinking only of the place where you are going, but by the end it seems to be the people you meet that matter most.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Ali Bensebaa

We recently chatted with the Director of MCAS, Bensebaa, to learn more about MCAS and the philosophy behind their study abroad programs.

What position do you hold at MCAS? What has been your career path so far?

Ali: My name is Ali and I am the founder and study abroad director of the Moroccan Center for Arabic Studies. I had the idea of establishing a center that would teach Arabic as a foreign language, then I was so surprised that US and other Universities were not only interested in Arabic Learning , but rather in an immersion program where students can learn a new language but most importantly be able to immerse themselves into the community where they live and thus use the language. I was very intrigued with the way students have change at the end of their programs and the amount of knowledge they have gained upon finishing their study abroad terms here with us. Thus, I was very motivated to work hard and maintain a good will for MCAS across the world and reach out to more partners.

Right now, we offer so many programs, combined with study abroad terms, we have internships abroad in many areas, volunteerism plus Arabic classes. My career path has been full of challenges, but I learned so much, when I came back from the US in 2009 as a Fullbright scholar, I had the chance to work with a school that offers programs to foreigners, but I felt that I was like a slave in there despite the experience I learned. Given the fact that I was very quick-witted and someone who was like a jack of all trades inside that place, I told myself why do not I own start up my business, now that I know what it takes. I worked so hard while studying for a Business Administration and teaching English and Arabic and thus I gained so much during this phase.

Did YOU study abroad?

Ali: Yes! I was a FullBright Scholar for 1 year between 2008 and 2009. I studied in SUNY Albany. I felt so lucky to have been given this opportunity to study at one of the most prestigious schools, and learn so much from an educational system that empowers its individuals. I was inspired by how friendly, supporting, helpful and encouraging American people were with students, and thus I am right now trying to impart that to them here on my end.

What does the future hold for MCAS - any exciting new programs to share?

Ali: I think the future is always unknown for any organization, however I can humbly say that MCAS is in a very good position today especially with the turmoil that the MENA region is undergoing-like in Egypt, Syria, Yemen and Tunisia. Morocco remains a politically stable ground allowing for business to grow. The new programs that I am right now offering is learn and volunteer or learn and intern abroad in Morocco. Marrying these elements definitely gives the students a first hand experience of what Morocco is. I personally believe that it is one of the most exciting programs because students feel that they are engaged into the community and are able to challenge the status quo.

What about the future of the industry? How do you think study abroad and international education will change over the next 10 years?

Ali: This is a hard question to answer, but I think international education will always be a big added value on the future of any individual deciding to embark on an experience abroad, surely students or people who have lived or studied abroad are likely to be get a job over those that have not. I think Morocco is still a new place where there are merely just 30 study abroad programs in all over the kingdom; this means that the market is still open to penetration if I can use a marketing term here.

Which study abroad destination is most underrated? Conversely, which is most overrated?

Ali: I think Morocco is still underrated because very few people know about Morocco, although, historically, Morocco was the first country to recognize the US. One of the most overrated study abroad destination is Middle East and not North Africa; but again with the Arab Spring waves still destabilizing the region, Morocco gained so much momentum and thus is becoming increasing known to people as far as the US is concerned; while Europe is another story.