Classroom Learning Put Into Practice
Why spend a term studying in Fez? “This is one of the best opportunities at Dartmouth to study abroad and be immersed in a very different culture,” says Hanna Sheikh ’19, an anthropology major from Portland, Ore.
Marlene Arias ’19, a double major in government and Middle Eastern studies from San Diego, agrees. “I wanted to go abroad to somewhere that was aligned with my academic interests,” she says.
Associate Professor of Government Dirk Vandewalle, an expert on the Middle East and North Africa who led this year’s FSP, says the culture and history of Morocco—and Fez, specifically—make it an excellent site for foreign study. “Morocco’s monarchy is a unique political system, with close relations to the West,” he says. “And Fez is interesting because it emerged 1,000 years ago as an important center for religious learning. So it makes sense to come to Fez to study the history of Islam.”
During the FSP, Vandewalle taught a course on the government of Morocco and led a series of field trips for the students around the country—giving him a chance to get to know students better and them a chance to get to know him.
“In the class I took with Professor Vandewalle in Hanover, I didn’t always try to talk with him, so I don’t think I realized he actually has a sense of humor,” Hart says. “It was great to have an expert with us who could answer questions about Morocco, about the Middle East—he is a fount of knowledge.”
Students also studied the history of Fez and took intensive language classes, taught by faculty at ALIF.
“Our Arabic professors were Moroccan—their families had lived in Fez for generations, so they had a lot to say about the city’s history,” says Sheikh. “They were incredible teachers who were very motivating and engaging.”
The room where students practiced Arabic is an ornate, light-filled classroom that for many exemplified the new culture they were discovering.
“This room speaks to everything about Fez, how it has so much history,” says Sheikh. “This building was the old family home of a prominent Jewish family that lived in the Ville Nouvelle. The design includes Stars of David and scriptural phrases, showing the meshing of the Jewish and Islamic faiths within the culture of Morocco. Everywhere we went, there was some long legacy.”