Classified: Mission Moroccan Summer

AGENT’S CODE NAME: بريجيد (Brigid)

Mission Status: Successfully Complete 

Background: Over the span of six weeks beginning on June 2, the agent will travel to Meknes, Morocco, and complete an intensive Arabic language program at the Arab American Language Institute in Morocco. 

Objective: It is imperative that the agent seek to possess a greater understanding of the Moroccan language: grammar, vocabulary, (much improved) conversational skills, and syntax. Moreover, the agent must learn to cope with and immerse herself in Morocco through the exploration of family life, religion, gender roles, food, and history. 

Post-Mission Agent Log:

After being back in the States for the past week, I have been able to catch up not only on sleep but also on the weight of my time abroad. Over the span of six weeks, I spent a total of 138 hours in a classroom learning Arabic (which equates to roughly an entire year’s worth of time). Beyond that, I spent almost every moment outside of the classroom learning both Arabic and about Moroccan culture. 

In this short amount of time, my conversational skills have improved beyond what I had hoped to accomplish. I not only feel comfortable speaking in a classroom setting in Arabic but also in daily conversations, such as with my host family or at the سوق (marketplace). Moreover, I was astounded by my ability to have difficult and abstract conversations and discussions on pertinent issues such as the war in Ukraine and abortion rights. Along with my improvements with speaking, I finally mastered or have begun to master the correct preposition usage within complex sentences. Finally, I learned new vocabulary outside of the classroom in order to navigate daily life. These new words include parts of the body, colors, basic animals, and other important keywords and phrases in order to ride in a taxi, order at a restaurant and communicate with my host family. Being in Morocco made learning these words that much more important and provided me with the initiative to expand my learning beyond that found in a book. 

Moreover, I learned so much about the culture, people, and life that is in Morocco, but I never imagined how hard it is to return home and describe my experience. One of the hardest parts to grasp is that no one could ever really understand the true depth that this experience has had upon me, but that’s okay. I just hope that I am able to express even the tiniest bit of the awe and wonder that I witnessed during my short time in Morocco. 

I want people to know about the joy felt when my teacher would say براڤو عليك بريجيد (bravo Brigid) or when my host sister made tea which we shared. I want people to feel the excitement of walking through the streets of the مدينة قديمة (Old Medina), knowing that you are surrounded by the oldest architecture in the entire city. I wish people could experience the beauty of seeing the stars in the Sahara, the vastness of the Atlas Mountains, or the beautiful coasts along the Mediterranean and Atlantic. These are only a few experiences that I wish I could communicate in their entirety along with so many more; I only hope my words and pictures can capture a glimpse of that for you. 

With that being said, I want to sign off with an enormous thank you. Foremost, I want to thank the Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures for providing me with this opportunity. Thank you to everyone at AALIM who provided constant support and assistance throughout the whole process, my professors both from Notre Dame and AALIM for all of their encouragement and support, my host family who opened their home to me, my classmates and friends who made the six weeks in Morocco unforgettable, and finally everyone who was following along with my mission. I hope my mission reports were enlightening and as much fun to read as they were to write. 

This is Agent Brigid Dunn signing off.

!مع السلامة! شكرا

Mission Update:أربعة) ٤ -four)  15/07/2022

Mission Status: Concluding

Skill: Saying ما سلامة (goodbye)

Status: In Progress/Extremely Difficult

Over the past six weeks,  I have had an extraordinary time in Morocco, which makes saying goodbye very difficult. As a self-proclaimed, wanna-be Moroccan, I am being parted with a nation I have grown to love. My second, hardest, and longest goodbye is to the people I have come to know and love. 

First is the wonderful people from the AALIM institute where I studied and learned so much. From my decision to join the program and my close to 20 preliminary emails to my orientations all the way to the end of my time in Meknes, the people from AALIM have been nothing but welcoming and supportive. Moreover, my استاذتان (two teachers) were so encouraging and motivated in helping my classmates and me learn and succeed in becoming more proficient in the Arabic language. 

My second goodbye was that of my host family. والدي، امي و اختي (my sister, father, and mother) were the sweetest people. From listening to Fairuz every morning at breakfast, having my host sister thread my roommate and I’s eyebrows, drinking lots of tea, and having my picture taken at every critical occasion for memories, my host family treated me as if I belonged and truly made me feel like I did. I became one with the family so much that at one point my host mom made fun of me because I bought a bunch of peaches and two of them were no good. Afterward, she told me she never buys bad ones and is the expert at picking the best peaches, which I have no doubt in my mind that she is. Moreover, my host sister and I got very good at entertaining each other with only a look from across the small dining table, and at least half the time we did not know what we were laughing about. 

This particular goodbye become one of the hardest when my host mom and sister took my roommate and me to the street to find a taxi that would take us to the train station for the last time. As we stood on the corner with all of our luggage, my host mom and sister became to cry which caused my roommate and me to cry. So then, there were two Moroccan women and two American tourists crying on the corner as they try to hail taxis in the middle of a busy intersection and spend over five minutes hugging and exchanging goodbyes and extended thank yous. 

My last and hardest goodbye was with my cohort, fellow students, classmates, travel buddies, and most importantly my newest friends. As my roommate and I prepared to leave our newfound friends from these past six weeks, she commented that although we were partaking in an intensive language program we also were participating in an intensive friendship program. She could not have been more right because over six short weeks I made great friends who I studied, learned, traveled, and grew with. One of the hardest portions of the entire trip was that I knew when I returned back to the States that I would not be separated by entire country from my newest friends, but I would still be multiple states away, which is almost a worse feeling because I know that we are in the same country but still so separated by place. 

Although I am still sad that I will no longer be able to see my friends every day, I am beyond grateful for the memories that we made together. From eating egg and cheese sandwiches to traveling over the entire northern portion of Morocco in one whole weekend to traveling 9 hours on a bus to spending the night in the Sahara to late nights studying and learning Eastern European dances, there are countless experiences that are completely unforgettable and untreatable. So, although this may be goodbye, for now, I have no doubt that the people I met in Morocco will reappear in my life again. 

Camel Ride in the Sahara

Mission Update:ثالثة) ٣ – three)  12/07/2022

Mission Status: In Progress

Skill: Embracing Cultural Customs

Status: In Progress

One of the first bits of information I learned before coming to Morocco was that I would, luckily, be in the country for عيد الكبير or عيد الأضحى (Eid al-Kabir or Eid al-Adha). Being a first-time traveler to the Arab world and a novice to Islamic and Arab culture, I had no clue what this holiday entailed, but I was very much excited to find out. After a quick Wikipedia search, I learned not only the history/origins of the holiday but also the unique reality of what Eid would actually be like. 

The Origins: 

In a time very long ago (before the birth of Christ), there was a man named Ibrahim who longed for a child and was granted one son, by way of Hagar, who would be called Ismail. Given the wonderful nature of Ismail’s birth, Ibrahim rejoiced and bestowed his son with endless amounts of love. In order to test Ibrahim’s devotion, الله (God) tasked Ibrahim with killing his only son. Ibrahim had no other option but to follow God’s will. Right before Ibrahim was about to kill Ismail, God presented a lamb that should be killed in place of Ismail. Ismail would later go on to head the line that would produce the great prophet of Islam, Muhammad (عليه الصلاة والسلام). 

The Tradition:

In honor of Ibrahim’s devotion and God’s sacrificial offering, Muslims slaughter their own sheep as a reminder of God’s mercy and love. The day begins early with men attending prayer at the مسجد (mosque). Once they finish the prayer, the men return to their homes. In Morocco, it is customary to wait until the King slaughters his sheep first, which is conveniently broadcasted on television throughout the entire day. Once the King kills his sheep, households around the whole country follow suit. Once the sheep are killed and cleaned by the men, the women take over by preparing the parts of the sheep for consumption. This process takes hours and specific practices have to be carried out. The holiday concludes with eating the sheep in large family gatherings that draw visitors from near and far.

Beyond the celebratory aspects of the day, there is a tone of almsgiving and sincerity that encompass the whole day. While sheep are essential for the day’s events, it is known that not all people can afford one of their own. Therefore, Moroccan families with sheep, like my own, donate parts of their sheep to charity. Additionally, while millions of animals are slaughtered worldwide on Eid, no waste is produced. Every part of the sheep is consumed or saved to be used for a specific purpose. 

My Experience:

As someone who feels faint at the sight of blood and strongly dislikes anything remotely medical because of the sight of blood, I was wary about this holiday, but I can gladly say that I appreciate my ability to celebrate with my Moroccan family because I was able to appreciate what this holiday means to them. Although I did not participate in the killing or eating, I did meet the sheep before his slaughter,  witnessed some of the cleaning processes, and spent a wonderful time with my host family and for that, I could not be more grateful. 

Mission Update:اثنين) ٢ – two)  01/07/2022

Mission Status: In Progress

Skill: Acknowledging Cultural Issues 

Status: In Progress

Over the past four weeks, I have grown to fully embrace the culture and country of Morocco as if it were my own, but like the rest of the world, everything can not be viewed through rose-colored glasses. I have been very fortunate because my long-term stay in Morocco and my situation as a student living as a member of a Moroccan family has opened my eyes to the issues that lay underneath the surface of what the average tourist might see.

One of my first lessons about Moroccan culture came with disclaimers from orientations and various online blogs on the importance of money, specifically cash, in the Moroccan economy. The unspoken reality of the money-based culture is that if you have money, you have privilege and influence, which while at first appears promising for an American foreigner, actually turns detrimental when the full reality is understood. My best understanding of the issue cam from a twenty-something American who has lived in Morocco for the past 10+ years in a small farming village: 

Imagine you are a farmer from a rural village in the outskirts of a major Moroccan city. After an accident on the farm, you need medical assistance and decide to go to the hospital because there are no other cheaper options. Once you arrive, you add your name to a list of three people and wait to gain assistance. As you wait, another patient, who lives in the city and has more money than you, arrives and bribes the hospital attendant to move his name to the top of the list. This pattern continues to where you are unable to seek the immediate care you need. 

While this is only one unique example of the disparity surrounding wealth, there are many more examples that cause Moroccan society to prevent class improvement and equality in terms of treatment. This practice is also common in terms of job opportunities where if you do not know the correct people it can be near impossible to find a job, which in turn plays into the issue of homelessness. 

Along with the issue of bribes hurting the poor, Morocco is facing major environmental issues, specifically drought. Over this past weekend, I took a 9-hour bus ride down to the desert, which opened my eyes to the various landscapes of Morocco. The ride showcased the living standards in small mountain villages that rely heavily on rivers as the main source of water. The heartbreaking reality was that most if not all of the rivers that ran through these small villages contained little to no water at all. This visual reminder put a greater perspective on water conservation tactics used in my household, especially in conjunction with showering. One of my first experiences with Moroccan culture was the Moroccan shower, which consists of a large bucket that is filled with water and used as the water source during the shower via a smaller bowl. This method ensures that water is being used intentionally and no water is unnecessarily going to waste. Although this small act is not curing the Moroccan drought the intentions behind the practice were put into perspective after witnessing the severity of the drought in person. 

I would like to preface that these are by no means the only issues that face Morocco nor are they the most severe, but these are some of the issues that I have seen firsthand and have some knowledge on.

Mission Update:واحد) ١ – one) 


Mission Status: In Progress

Skill: Religious and Musical Comprehension

Status: Accquired

When coming to Morocco, I was fully prepared for the presence of the Islamic faith to be prevalent in my daily life. This couldn’t be more true when on my first night I was woken up at 4:30 am after some serious jetlag to the sound of the first prayer call of the day. I can now say I have become accustomed to the prayer calls but I still pause in awe whenever I hear the sound coming from multiples mosques (الجوامع) within a very short distance. 

Although I expected to be surrounded by the Islamic faith, I have been surprised by Morocco’s beautiful blend of ethnicities and religious influences. One of the now many routes to school in the morning sees my roommate and I walk pass a big Jewish cemetery in the heart of the city. Additionally, I was fortunate enough this past weekend to attend the Gnaoua Festival in Casablanca. The Gnaoua music stems from a mixture of Islamic Sufism and sub-Saharan, pre-Islamic African tradition. Legend claims that the Gnaoua music is so potent that it takes over the body and causes spontaneous religious dancing. While I myself did not experience the magic of spontaneous dance, I was enraptured with the beautiful blend of traditional instruments and the call and response verses. 

Skill: Colloquial Daily Greetings

Status: In Progress

The very first thing I learned in Morocco was the importance of greetings. How you address someone, what you say, how you situate your body or gesture with your hands make a very big impression about yourself before you even know a person. When I first met my host mom (امي) and my host sister (عائشة), I have enraptured into a hug and a series of cheek kisses that established my place in the family sturcture and secured my place in the intimate feminine relations of my household. Furthermore, when I met my language partner, a university student who I meet with every week to learn more about Meknes, the colloquial Arabic (Darija), and other Arabic related topics, I was put to the test with my greeting skills when I was forced to navigate a series of cheek kisses and greetings. Now, I can safely say the greeting people has become one of my favorite parts of my day because it allows me to interact with the local people in a warm and welcoming manner. Despite learning the various greetings, there are still many greetings and conversational elements that I am still trying to grasp. The biggest skill I have yet to master is the many ways to response to thank you. Before my travels to and around Morocco, the only you’re welcome I knew was عفوا, but now I have been exposed to more sayings: لا شكرا على واجب (no thanks it’s [my] duty), مرحبا and  اهلا (both common greetings – equivalent to welcome). These are only a few examples of an upcoming study that I will conduct in hopes of developing a master list of the possible responses to thank you for all situations. إن شاء الله! (God willing)

Classified: Mission Moroccan Summer

Mission Status: Accepted

AGENT’S CODE NAME: بريجيد (Brigid)

Background: Over the span of six weeks beginning on June 2, the agent will travel to Meknes, Morocco and complete an intensive Arabic language program at the Arab American Language Institute in Morocco. 

Objective: It is imperative that the agent seek to possess a greater understanding of Moroccan language: grammar, vocabulary, (much improved) conversational skills, and syntax. Moreover, the agent must learn to cope with and immerse herself in Morocco through the exploration of family life, religion, gender roles, food, and history. 

Pre-Mission Agent Log:

26 May 2022

Today, as I prepare for my first mission abroad, I am overwhelmed with the task that has been assigned to me. 

When I was given the opportunity to study abroad this summer, I was hesitant to go through with my plans. I knew eventually I would end up studying abroad while at Notre Dame, but my plans were always a semester program during junior year. My hesitancy led to a very last minute decision, application, and approval.  الحمد الله! (Praise be to God)

As I quickly approach my departure date (June 2), I can still feel the hesitancy, but now the hesitancy and nerves are being overcome with excitement and anticipation. My time abroad will completely change the way I experience Arabic and the study of the language. In an immersive environment, I can use new vocabulary and grammar in a functional and conversational environment, such as with my host family or with my classmates. Beyond that, I will be immersed in a completely new culture where I can witness the traditions, lifestyle, and customs of all Moroccans. My goals include a greater proficiency in conversational Arabic, a better understanding of grammar and syntax, and a general confidence in my Arabic skills. 

My greatest hope for my time abroad actually has nothing to do with the acquisition of language although that is my biggest goal. I want my time in Morocco to teach me the true meaning of being in a situation where I am an outsider. Going to a country where I will not be fluent in the native language, be a member of the majority population, or be familiar with the lifestyle and culture is nothing less than daunting. As an avid overthinker and a constant planner, I feel vulnerable and frantic for my six weeks abroad. Despite my discomfort, I hope that from my insecurity and uncertainty I will gain a greater understanding of myself and become more confident in the obstacles I can handle. إن شاء الله! (God willing)