Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A taste of Morocco!

Sabaha Al-Khyar
Blessed be your morning!

Kaf Al-halal?
How are you doing?
The hidden gem of Africa! Morocco is definitely, "a must see before you die" country. Ever since I stepped off of the plane at Casablanca International Airport, I am lucky enough to see the beauty most people in America does not know enough about.

Many people associate Africa with what is seen on television, but Morocco is not the Africa you could even imagine. This country is completely influenced by Europe and very little from the Middle East. An up an coming country, with much to offer. Though Morocco is in the North African Sahara, the land mass is completely diverse, every city you visit looks similar, but has it's own unique Moroccan Twang.

What you will see when you visit Morocco--
The people here are a mixture of Amazigh (Berber), Arab, and European. You can get anything from dark chocolate skin and brown eyes to  very fair skin and red Irish hair. There is also a large population of Sub-Sarahan Africans living in Morocco (stay tuned, there will be another blog post about this subject) and Europeans.

What you should see if you visit--
Morocco's history is intertwined with it's country, the cities of Morocco reflect the many different Arab and Amazigh dynasties of the last two centenaries. From the winding streets in the Medina to the open ocean air, every place you will go will have a story behind the significance.

Casablanca--Personally, you could skip this one, besides the correlation with the famous Hollywood movie Casablanca, which takes place in WWII, it does not have much to offer, but if you do REALLY want to go to Casablanca, you should take the time to go visit Hussan II Mosque, it is the third largest mosque in the World. A couple steps away from the open beach and the biggest mall in Morocco.

Marrakesh--Once an Imperial City, the name Marrakesh means- Land of God. This is an absolute must see! The history behind the Berber dynasties is extremely fascinating, and there is plenty to do around the city. It is the largest tourist city in Morocco. With one of the many standing Royal Castles still to this day, accompanied with a great night life, and a beautiful Medina.

For those people who enjoy outdoors and nature--

Ozud--This little country town is right next to a beautiful waterfall which reflects a beautiful rainbow in any direction you stare. This is a great place to hike and go swimming with the family, much like a minature version of the Niagara Falls. Dress conservatively (women) while going swimming, or expect to be a center of attention.

Beni-Melal--Is a small authenic city near Ozud, a great place to get an authentic meal and see the authentic lifestyle of Moroccans. Not many tourists come here so be ready for the stares.

Fez--Is a must see! One of the most powerful Imperial cities in Morocco, has a history dating back to 788 when Idriss I had created his kingdom. The thousands of streets that fill the crowded Medina, to the world recognized leather, and toxic, yet beautiful dying pools. Fez is definitely expensive, if you can bargain the prices to a lower point, then by all means shop til you drop, but most people want to rip you off. Fez is known to be a tourist attraction so if you can wait to make your purchases then WAIT until to a cheaper city.

Voubilis-- This is also a must see, a city of Roman Ruins. A great place to get some European history, which intertwines with Morocco. A little taste of Rome, Italy in Morocco. Is located in a desolate part of Morocco, with not much surrounding the city. The murals are in great shape and the tour guides are very funny!!

Meknes--A great place to immerse yourself in the typical Moroccan lifestyle. The slow-pace environment was once an imperial city. Moulay Ismail (also the name of my university) founded this city. A beautiful Medina and friendly people is a place to relax and enjoy some of the many cafes surrounding the city.

Stay tuned for Pace of life in Morocco next week!

Morocco is a place of discovery, come discover the undiscovered!

Ma selam maa'
Go with peace,

Ida Ayalew

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Monday, September 9, 2013

Hello from Gdansk, Poland!

Hello everyone, my name is Taylor Stoddard and I am studying in London for the 2013 fall semester. I am an English literature student in my final semester. I am thrilled to have finally squeezed in my ‘always planned’ semester abroad. I remember attending the Study Abroad Fair at UMKC three years ago with plans of going to Lyon as I was studying French at the time, but as many of us do, I changed my major and now I am in the heart of my favorite subject, London. Surrounded by beautiful libraries, huge bookstores-new and used. Train trips to Oxford, Cambridge, and Trinity College are all in store for me during my next three months. I also have plans to visit some of my favorite author’s homes here in London and in other cities.
Leaving Kansas City was easy for me. This is now my third time abroad alone since I’ve been twenty. I can’t get enough of European culture, and this time around I wanted to explore further East and further North. So my journey began in mid August with enough time to see new places.
Gdansk, a beautiful sea-side city in Northern Poland was my first destination after spending just one quick day exploring London. Here I was exposed to a culture similar to that of Western Europe, but differing by their lack of Western products, shops and English. Waiting in the cold night air for a bus from the airport to the city centre was a poor first impression, and arriving to a fully booked hostel that myself and the two other girls I was meeting had already arranged also wasn’t ideal, however the morning light completely revitalized my impression of Gdansk, its people and especially its food! As I mentioned, once at the airport I met up with two other friends from Kansas City who were already travelling. The three of us woke up the next morning a bit curious as to why I chose Gdansk, but the truth is, I was only searching for cheap travel. I visited SkyScanner.net a site that allows for users to input a point of departure and “everywhere” for the point of arrival. Meaning, they allow for you to go anywhere based on the price of the ticket. I found a ticket from London to Gdansk for £20, so off I was to a place I’d never heard of.
We happened upon an annual fair, St. Dominic’s Fair, an exhibition of Polish food, Baltic Amber, jewellery, music and beer. Thousands of tourists flood the city to experience traditional Polish flare. Though surrounded by other tourist I’d swear we were the only Americans in the entire city.
A quick (but confusing) train ride from Gdansk to Molbork Castle brought me back to the 13th century and the time of Teutonic Knights. The largest castle in the World deserves an entire day to explore its massive grounds. Though we missed the guided tour in English, it’s interesting to note it was the only tour of the day in English with only ONE customer. I met this man on the train back to Gdansk and he told me his tour guide spent 5 hours leisurely walking about the castle giving him inside information and even stopped for lunch together. These are the benefits of visiting very small cities. 
 During the second World War Gdansk was nearly completely wiped out, and so the buildings, the Town Hall and other important city features were completely rebuilt in the 20th century. However they stuck to the traditional features of architecture and design, the result of which is a colorful candy-land city on the water with beautiful crafts, rich history and friendly people. 

After Visiting Poland we ventured to Hamburg, but I'll save that for my next post! 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Seoul, South Korea I

Annyeonghaseyo! It has been a crazy week at Konkuk University in Seoul. First, my expectations:

I expected a very regimented society, highly influenced by a Confucian past, with a place for everything and everything in its place. I expected to eat delicious Korean BBQ everyday and have edible options that were similar to the Asian food I had in the States. I expected to walk in with a plan and implement it with no hang-ups. Boy, did my expectations miss the mark!

What I got:

None of the classes I wanted to take. Apparently, it is common for an instructor to advertise his/her class as being in English because it pays more. If you are the only foreigner in the class, they will not make an exception for you. My options were limited (being the only foreign engineering major), so one of my classes will be in Korean. Luckily, the book, the class notes, and the software will be in English. I'm actually looking forward to trying to follow along with the Korean lectures. Also, Professor Choo is extremely nice and is willing to work with me. In any event, my Korean is sure to improve.

The dorm is nice. I share a room with another ISA student from Ohio, Charles. He is very messy (physics majors!!!), but a nice guy. The dorm does not have a kitchen, however a meal plan is included in my program. The food served in the cafeteria has a bad reputation, even among the locals. They usually serve rice (mixed with greens or bean sprouts), soup (with seaweed or bean sprouts), and a variety of fermented sides (kimchi every day). There is no discernible difference (to me) between what they serve for dinner and what they serve for breakfast. However, they sometimes serve an approximation of typical Western food.

I'm sure the combination of the food, the change in environment, and jet lag has compromised my immune system. I have had fever, chills, and a sore throat for 5 days. The on-campus hospital is very nice and operates like a well-oiled machine (there are automated kiosks every step of the way). I spent $85 on the consultation and prescriptions without making an insurance claim. This is something I could have easily spent $200 to $300 on in the States.

What's next:

Tomorrow we are going to Everland Amusement park to ride some rollercoasters (if my health does not deteriorate) and I hope to upload some pictures of the campus and surrounding neighborhoods.

Annyeonghi Gyeseyo!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Selam Alykum! Alykum Selam!
Peace be unto you, and unto you.

My name is Ida Ethiopia Ayalew, I will introduce myself as I will be blogging for my one year abroad. I attend, University of Missouri-Kansas City, located right in the heart of Kansas City. This year is my sophomore year, I will be double-majoring (as of right now) in Biology and History (an emphasis in East African Culture).

I am currently studying abroad in Meknes, Morocco. I am here with the International Studies Abroad program, otherwise known as ISA. This academic year I will be attending Moulay Ismail University, which landmarks one of the four imperial cities in Morocco.

Before I begin blogging about my journey in Morocco, I want to tell you WHY I choose Morocco to study. Why Morocco was the right choice for me. Much of my study abroad was influenced by my older sister, she had gone abroad to study in Hasselt, Belgium for one year and her experiences abroad really influenced me to step outside of my comfort zone. Soon after school started in fall of 2012, I began to see flyers about studying abroad, I went to the informational meetings and soon I was on my way to immersing myself in French Magazines, movies, and culture. I soon came to the realization, if I went to France, I would be receiving much of what I encompass at UMKC, Kansas City, Missouri, or the United States. Same Westernized mentality, progressiveness, and government.  I choose Morocco soon after my study abroad advisor had told me about how I could really immerse myself in my temporary environment, how I could have much more to offer and receive studying in an environment which is so different than my own. For those of you who do not know where Morocco is located, it is one of the many North West African countries, right underneath Spain. I choose to study abroad here because it is a country caught between; African, Arab, and European influence. Somewhere where I can learn more about Arab culture, Arabic language, and Islamic religion.

I have been in Morocco for six days and I love it already! Now that I am finished with my introduction I will *mostly* write my blogs about my experiences in Morocco! Keep in Touch UMKC, enjoy this semester, and email me with any questions about me or how to get YOUR study abroad started!

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With Peace,


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Cape Town, South Africa

Time is flying as I continue to learn and experience everything that Cape Town, SA has to offer. Starting from the various rich cultures to the beautiful scenery of the beach. On my first month here, I was lucky to meet so many welcoming locals that toured me around their city. Out of many places I visited, I had one main favorite, Camps Bay Beach. As I reached the shore, I had a overwhelming rush of tranquility and happiness. My local friend, Kevin, and I gathered a bunch of shells and admired the sunset on the rocks. This by far, has been one of the best shots I've ever taken! I wish I could come here everyday to read a book or even to have a picnic! I would truly recommend this place to anyone looking for a breathtaking experience!

I chose the perfect study abroad journey!