Kingdom of the West

Kingdom of the West

A study abroad experience in Morocco inspires a yearning to learn more in economics major Abigail Grider.

Abigail Grider knew she wanted to pursue a study abroad opportunity even before she arrived at Indiana State.

But it didn’t hurt that international travel was a requirement for the Honors student from Fort Wayne. Grider is seeking a double major in economics and language studies with a focus in French and a certification in teaching English as a second language.

“After my freshmen year, I traveled to Belgium for five weeks because a professor knew of a family who wanted to host an American student,” she said. “I had the opportunity to live with a native family while tutoring two girls in the family in English. After that, I wanted my next experience to be more than the average study abroad program. I discovered an affiliate program through International Studies Abroad, where I could do four weeks of classes and then do another four weeks of an internship in Morocco.”

The experience in Morocco was perfect for Grider, who is also a student athlete on the track and field team. She wanted to find a summer travel opportunity so she wouldn’t miss eligibility in the fall, winter or spring of a senior year.

“Morocco checked all of the boxes for me. I wanted to travel to a French-speaking developing nation because I plan to pursue economic development studies and work after my undergraduate studies,” she said.Abigail Grider poses for a photograph during her study abroad experience in Morocco.

The first four weeks in Morocco, Grider was enrolled in a beginning Arabic class and a course on Moroccan migration to study the historical and recent migration policies associated with Morocco. The next four weeks included an internship with a non-governmental organization that helps train women in vocational skills, while also functioning as a youth center.

“When I was taking classes, we had three-hour blocks with a lunch break and then another three hours of classes. On the weekends, we traveled to other cities around Morocco, but it was different once I started working the second four weeks,” she said.

The organization, Grider explained, is located in a more isolated part of the city of Meknes, so the population surrounding the organization benefits from its assistance. Grider and her colleagues would walk or take a taxi and arrive at work around 9 a.m. They worked with the children until about 1 p.m.

Grider drank mint tea with the women before the workday resumed with cleaning and painting murals that now covered the facility’s once bare walls.

“We would finish the day by making lesson plans and getting supplies, which amounted to long days that rarely ended before 5 p.m.,” she said. “The experience gave me the chance to teach English the entire day to children ages 5 to 15 and work on my French, while fulfilling the Honors College requirements. But, most importantly, it allowed me to work in a developing country, use French, translate, teach English, work in a facility that helps women — all of which I intend to do professionally in the future.”

Grider’s excursion was aided by the helping hand of her professors, who were encouraging about study abroad. They helped make sure her courses transferred, allowing for a smoother process before and after her trip.

The experience also opened her up to new research ideas, like applying for a Fulbright grant after graduation. She hopes to return to Morocco to research the contracts with Moroccan women working in strawberry fields in southern Spain, and how they understand their identity after they are released from their contracts and return to a different way of life.

“Having study abroad as a requirement of both the Honors College and the language studies major really encourages you to seek out opportunities like this. I’m a motivated person, but knowing study abroad was a requirement is a good push to seek out the best opportunities,” Grider said. “Anytime you have the opportunity to encounter somebody different than yourself you will learn something new. There is no better opportunity for such learning than to have an opportunity that immerses you in something unfamiliar.”