Living and learning in northern Africa


St. John’s Students in Morocco during their 10-day stay over Christmas break.

Many students spend their collegiate winter break either working hard or hardly working at all.

However, 15 St. John’s students thought it would be best to spend part of their winter break studying abroad in Morocco.

“Within the short 10-day trip, I learned more than one full semester worth of lectures in Queens,” Brock Brunson, a second-year graduate student on the Rome campus, said. “Not only did it teach me about the global issues and culture of Morocco, but it also helped me understand them analytically in the hands-on course.”

As part of an inaugural study abroad program from the Office of Global Studies led by Government and Politics professor Azzedine Layachi, PhD., seven undergraduate and eight graduate students traveled to Morocco to spend 10 days exploring three major Moroccan cities – Rabat, Fez and Tangier.

“It was truly a unique and fascinating experience traveling through Morocco,” Krista Gilchrist, a graduate student at the Rome campus of St. John’s, said. “Interacting with local Moroccans and picking their brains about life and politics in Morocco was especially enlightening. This was indeed a trip I will never forget.”

The students had eye-opening lectures on a variety of issues regarding Moroccan politics and civil society.

Some of these issues included youth and politics in Morocco, illegal immigration issues in North Africa and religion and politics in North Africa. These 15 students, getting into the swing of the new semester, are now expected to write an extensive research paper on a topic of their choice.

“Under Dr. Layachi’s guidance, he broke up the program perfectly,” senior Brendan Latimer said. “With his deep knowledge and background of North Africa, I could not think of anyone more appropriate to lead us through the adventure that is Morocco.”

More exhilarating than the lectures, in the opinion of the students, was interacting with local individuals and university students. While attending lectures in Rabat, Fez and Tangier, the St. John’s students were able to interact with local university students and young professionals.

There was a wave of approval of the Office of Global Studies Winter Intersession program, and Dr. Layachi is certainly looking forward to arranging this program again in future years.

The words of Rome campus graduate student Alexandra McGrath sum up the experience, “Rock the Kasbah!”