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Campus Celebrity: Kelsey-Anne LeBlanc

Whenever we hear about people studying abroad, we typically hear of students going to Western Euope or Australia. Instead, Kelsey chose a more non-traditional route and last spring she studied abroad in Morocco.  Morocco always seemed like an obvious choice for this political science and international affairs student though. Read on to learn about Kelsey’s experience studying abroad in Morroco and her role in International Education week on-campus. 

 

Name: Kelsey-Anne LeBlanc

Age: 21

Year: Senior

Major: Dual major in Political Science and International Affairs and a minor in Middle Eastern Studies

 

1. What events have you been involved in during International Education week here at UNH?

I am participating in the Pecha Kucha event. In this event, students who have studied abroad will present about their international experience in 3 slides in 3 minutes. Students will spend a minute on each slide talking about their overall theme of their presentation and summarize their study abroad experience.  I am also participating in a panel discussion during the International Dude event put on by the Language, Literature, and Culture department.  During this panel, students will discuss the importance of studying a foreign language. 

 

2.     What is the goal of International Education Week events at UNH?

 goal of International Education Week events at UNH is to stress the importance of experiencing different cultures, langauges, and promoting studying abroad. Being able to study abroad has made me a more well rounded person and has helped me to figure out what I would like to do after college. The goal of Int’l Education Week is to help students utilize the resources on campus to broaden their horizons and introduce students to cultures they are not familar with. 

3.     What type of influence do you think International Education Week has had on students?

International Education Week helps students to understand the importance of pushing themselves out of their comfort zones and realizing that learning different cultures and languages is imperative especially in today’s globalized society.  Reltionships that countries have with each other affect our daily lives and it is important for students to not only recognize this, but to learn how they can become involved in learning about peoples and cultures other than our own.

 

4.     What made you interested in Morocco as a study abroad destination?

I  have been studying Arabic here at UNH for four years and I have finished the language program. Since part of the requirement to complete the International Afffairs program is to study abroad, I wanted to chose a country where I could practice my Arabic. Morocco appealed to me for this reason and its easy access to Europe was also enticing. 

 

5.     Name three reasons why UNH should feature Morocco as a study abroad option for future students.

1) Morocco is moderate, I never felt unsafe, and being an American female I was never put into any sort danger. 2)  Living in Morocco and experiencing first hand the Arab culture and the Islamic religion allowed me to develop my own opinions and dismiss any preconceived notions I had going into Morocco.  3) The food, the people, and the shopping!! Moroccan food, especially couscous Fridays is something I miss so much.  The people are so welcoming and are so excited and grateful that students have chosen to live in their country and learn about their people. The shopping is unreal.  Hand woven blankets and rugs, camel leather bags, dishes, I could go on and on.  It didn’t hurt that the exchange rate favored us Americans as well!

 

6. Do you feel like the study abroad application process was more difficult going through an organization other than a UNH Study Abroad program? 6. Do you 

I  I did not feel like the application process was more difficult going through an organization because applying to any study abroad program is pretty stressful in general. I did a UNH approved program and I do not think it added to my stress in any way. 

 

7.     What classes at UNH do you feel most prepared you for your study abroad experience in Morocco? 

Definitely my Arabic, I studied it for two and half years before going abroad.  I know my time in Morocco would not have been the same had I not had that solid understanding of the language.  My two Arabic professors, Ruwa and Islam really prepared me well, not only with my language skills, but also teaching the culture and the lifestyle of the region.  Other classes I took included an Anthropology class: Peoples and Cultures of the Middle East, Political Science classes including Compartive Politics of the Middle East, and my International Affairs classes.  All of these classes helped me to have a more holisitic understanding of the area I was about to live in.

8.     What city did you reside in while in Morocco? What were some of your favorite places that you traveled to within the country?

I lived in Mekenes, it is in the middle of Morocco in the Atlas mountains. I consider Meknes to be my second home. One of my favorite places to visit was Chefchauoen also known as the  “Blue City ” because all the buildings are different shades of blue. It feels like you are in the middle of a mystical story book when you are in that city. Another one of my favorite cities is Marrakech, it is one of the biggest cities in Morocco and it is known to be a tourist attraction. Jama al-Fna, the main sqaure in the old city, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Marrakech. There are tons of vendors, snake charmers, monkey trainers, acrobats, food, and entertainment that you must experience first hand! I also love Assilah, a beach city not too far from Meknes.  It was nice to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and stroll through the quiet town and walk along the beach.

 

9. What types of food did you get to try in Morocco? 

I had lots and lots of lamb! Mint tea, freshly squeezed OJ, olives and bread were also all staples of my diet.  In the Arab culture it is common to eat with your hands and use bread to scoop up your food.  Some of the more exotic foods I tried include camel burgers, camel balls, snail soup and pigeon pies. My motto is try everything once because you never know when you will be back to try the food.

 

10. Were there any other countries that you traveled to while studying abroad? 

I was fortunate enough to travel to Italy, Croatia, Spain, and I was even able meet some of my family who I had never met before while I was in Ireland for spring break. 

 

11.Explain the transition period and how you coped during the first few weeks living in a third world country. 

I never really felt homesick because I was surrounded by amazing people. I knew I was going to be away from family for four months and going home wasn’t an option so I decided not to dwell on the things I couldn’t change. My program directors were absolutely amazing, I can’t say enough good things about them, and anytime I was feeling down, they were there to help me. I became really really close with six other American students who went to Morocco with me, so whenever I needed someone to talk to there was always someone there.  I also made close friendships with Moroccan locals.  Having those friendships with the Moroccans really allowed me to immerse myself and without building those connections I know I would not have gotten as authentic of an experience as I did.

 

12.  On the flip side, how was the transition back to America from Morocco? 

WI was told that when you return to America, you do experience some sort of reverse cultural shock. When I heard that I didn’t believe it but when I first got on the highway going from the airport to home, I started to freak out because I hadn’t been on a major highway in awhile. In Morocco, multiple lane roads don’t really exist, not many people own cars, so just seeing that many cars on the road all at once really freaked me out. Another major thing I dealt with coming home was dealing with how less interactive Americans are with each other.  The Arab cuture is very social and I was constantly with my friends, Americans and Moroccans, at any hour of the day.  WiFi was limited so we we were never really on our phones.  I think that was a big reason why I made so many close connections; I was having real conversations with people without being distracted by my phone.  America is much more fast pace than Morocco, it was less stressful being in Morocco. Something funny I had to get used to was hearing English so much!! I was so used to not understanding people speaking around me and people not understanding me that it was really bizarre to all of a sudden being able to understand everyone around me.

 

13.  What would be your ultimate dream job?

My dream job would be to work for the government, possibly for the State Department. I am really interested in foreign policy and I am intrigued to learn more about how foreign policy and intelligence is intertwined. 

 

 

14. What has been your favorite class that you have taken at UNH? Why?

My favorite class at UNH would be Theories of International Relations. It is my senior capstone seminar class so it is small, only 10 students and it has more of a laid back environment.  I love this class because for the first time, every student shares the same interests in international politics that I have. Of course we do not all have the same opinions, but it is really cool to participate in a class where everyone is so invested in learning more about the political relationships between nations. Our professor, Professor Reardon is awesome too.  He is incredibly smart, he values everyone’s opinions and he is intrigued to hear what his students think of the current issues of our world.

 

 

15. Are you involved with any other clubs or organizations on campus?

I am the president of the Arab Culture Club on campus and I intern at a non-profit political organizaion No Labels, we are starting a UNH chapter as well.  I used to be involved in Model UN and Amnesty International.  Off campus, I work at Mixteca downtown. 

16. What is your favorite thing to do in your free time?

 

My friends and I like to go to Portsmouth, grab lunch and walk around. Just being able to get off of campus to do other activities always helps us to relax and enjoy our time at UNH!

 

 

 

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