Tag Archives: Study Abroad

Scholarship for Study Abroad

The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program offers grants for U.S. citizen undergraduate students of limited financial means to pursue academic studies abroad. Such international study is intended to better prepare U.S. students to assume significant roles in an increasingly global economy and interdependent world. It is funded through the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000 and is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.  It is administered by the Institute of International Education through its Southern Regional Center in Houston, TX.

Over 1,700 scholarships of up to $5,000 will be awarded this academic year for U.S. citizen undergraduates to study abroad. Award amounts will vary depending on the length of study and student need with the average award being approximately $4,000. If you are studying a Critical Need Language, you are also eligible to receive an additional $3,000 Critical Need Language Supplement.

To be eligible for a Gilman Scholarship, you have to be a US citizen who is an undergraduate student receiving the Federal Pell Grant. You also have to apply and be accepted into a study abroad program eligible for academic credit at your home institution and is at least 4 weeks long in one single country. You also can’t study abroad in Cuba or any other country on the U.S. Department of State’s current Travel Warning list.

The program aims to broaden the student population that studies abroad by supporting undergraduates who might otherwise not participate due to financial constraints. Thus, students with high financial need, diverse ethnic backgrounds, disabilities,  studying in non-traditional countries, studying underrepresented fields (i.e.: any of the sciences, engineering, technology, or math), and/or have not studied abroad before are strongly encouraged to apply.

The application of the Gilman Scholarship includes the following: personal information, program information, statement of purpose, follow-on project proposal, online certifications from study abroad and financial aid advisor, and three paper copies of transcript/s. The follow-on project should help to promote international education and the Gilman International Scholarship. Examples

If you are thinking about studying abroad, this scholarship could be for you! If you have any question regarding the process of applying for the Gilman Scholarship or studying abroad, feel free to leave a message :)


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This is one of my favorite topics to write about. In case you haven’t notice, there are a lot of pictures of food in this blog. I thought food is a really good representation of a culture, and I try to eat as local as possible. Among many other things, Moroccans do eat many western food such as crepes, pizza, McDonald’s, and omelets. I try my best not to join the crowd.

When it comes to Moroccan food, most people first think of couscous. I do admit that I was worried that I will be having couscous every single meal before I arrived in Fez. Turns out that I was just scaring myself. Other than the lunch sponsored by ALIF and the cooking lesson, I didn’t really eat that much couscous. My host-family haven’t prepared couscous as a meal, and I don’t usually see it on a menu when I go out to a cafe or small restaurant. They do have them in big fancy restaurant for tourists, possibly as a response to the stereotype. Typically couscous comes with chicken and a lot of vegetables which are cooked so tender that they break apart when you try to use a fork to pick them up.

The national drink of Morocco is mint tea, also known as “Moroccan Whiskey” by the locals. It is made with green tea, a lot of mint, and a lot of sugar. Moroccans have really strong sweet tooths, so sugar is always added in the tea before brought to the table. It’s usually also boiling hot when it’s brought to the table, no matter the season. The only place I know in Fez that serves iced mint tea is a cafe owned by a non-Moroccan. Many people, men in the medina specifically, go to a cafe or tea place to drink tea with friends, strangers, or by oneself (rarely happens). The tea place, most famous for mint tea in Fez according one of my Moroccan friends, is usually packed from the morning all the way to midnight.

Tajine, another thing Morocco is famous for, actually refers to the cookware instead of the dish. It is a pot usually made of clay with a flat base and a cone-shaped cover. The food is piled at the bottom of the base, and then cooked on fire with the cover on. All sort of things could be cooked in a tajine. My host-family pretty much cook every meal except breakfast using a tajine, and so far I have been served chicken, beef, lamb, and a lot of vegetables cooked in a tajine. I sometimes also get eggs with so kind of salty meat (not bacon, as Morocco is a Muslim country) at a cafe across the street from ALIF.

Bread is an essential component of a meal (unless you are having couscous). It is both a tool and a food. You would use a piece of bread to scoop whatever is in the plate, and eat the entire thing. I have been having bread for almost every single meal I had with my host-family (there was one night when we had spaghetti and the other when we had a kind of really thin noodle with powdered sugar on top), and I am surprisingly not sick of them yet. Breakfast, though we have been waking up earlier and not had breakfast at home for a while, usually also consists of bread (usually French bread) and an assortment of things to put on it.

Olive is also something that would appear on the table at every meal, even breakfast. It’s not really a main dish or a course, but just something to eat while waiting for the main course, or to change the flavor in the mouth a little bit when having too much of something else. The olive here are usually preserved in some sort of brine. Some of them are further mixed with tomatoes and carrots to give them more flavors. Personally not really an olive fan, I do find them something nice to have once in a while.

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Regular Routine After One Month in Fès

So I feel that after living here for almost a month, I should provide some update on my daily routine. Everyday around 7 am, my roommate and I wake up, get dressed, and head to ALIF by taxi. We usually wake up earlier than the rest of the family so we don’t usually get to eat breakfast at home. The taxi ride costs exactly 7.60 Dh for both of us. Depending on how early we get to school and how much homework we need to finish (procrastination doesn’t happen only in the US), we may or may not get breakfast at a nearby cafe. Food in cafe is obviously more expansive than those sold on the street. A breakfast combo of orange juice, coffee or tea, croissant, and cheese sandwich costs around 18 Dh, a little more expansive if switching to something like an omelet.

Our first class is from 8 to 10 am. My break from 10 am to 2 pm is usually spent updating my blog, doing homework, checking email, having lunch, and maybe a little nap if I feel like it. This week the weather has been a lot more comfortable than the past two weeks. Walking out of the house in the morning is even a little chilly. Class again from 2 to 4 pm (in the awesome-looking classroom pictured below). Depends on whether we feel like going home or using the Internet, my roommate and I either stay at ALIF to use the computer lab, go to the ALIF Riad in the medina, or go back home. The Sun doesn’t really set until 8 or 9 pm, so sometimes we don’t even go home until 9 or 10 pm (dinner’s at 11 pm anyway, we aren’t missing anything). I didn’t really realize how much time I spent on the Internet in the past when it’s readily available until I get here. It’s kind of scary.

Going home, there isn’t that much to do, as my ability to have a conversation with my host-family is pretty much still zero (although I actually managed to teach 3 of my brothers what duct tape is called in English using Arabic), even though I am starting to understand some stuff they are saying. For people who wonder whether I ever took a shower since that time I went to the hamman, the answer is actually yes. It turns out that the family does shower at home without using an actual shower. I have been “showering” using a bucket and a water scoop. With the weather being extremely hot the past two weeks, I didn’t really mind showering with cold water. I did find out that one of the taps near the floor produces warm water, so it’s pretty nice.

As for laundry, so far I have only done laundry twice, and by I have done I meant my host-mom did it for me. The turnaround time is about 8 or more days, and I don’t have enough shirts to last through the period. So I have been trying to sweat as less as possible, and re-wearing some of my t-shirts. I also went out to buy my first Moroccan shirt, which looks kind of like a robe with short sleeves and is extremely comfortable to wear in the hot weather. I was pretty proud of myself for bargaining it down to 70 Dh from 110 Dh the shop owner was asking for in Arabic. Then I went home and had my host-family tell me that they have a relative that owns a shop and can sell me the same thing for 50 Dh. Oh well, lesson learned.

Dinner is at 11 pm, and consists of bread, small plates of salad and olives, and a big plate of main dish in the center of the table (sometime vegetarian and sometime with meat). Recently the family has also been giving us a kind of pudding thing (different colors ranging from white-ish, purple, to pink) at dinner. I really have no idea what it’s made of. All I know is that it’s sweet and probably is a kind of dessert. Fruit is also a must after the meal. So far I have eaten peaches, a kind of melon that looks a lot like a honeydew but has yellow skin on the outside, watermelon, and small apples. After dinner, the family either stays up a little to watch TV, or just go to bed. My roommate and I usually go to bed earlier than the family.

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Long Trip and World Cup Final

Waking up on the roof in the morning, I took a shower (the hotel actually has one, which was a nice change since I have been using a bucket and a water scoop to take “showers” at my host-family), packed, and was ready to go to the train station. I kind of wish I could explore the city a little more, but with the train ride being 7 hours long, I had to leave in the morning in order to arrive in Fez in the evening. After getting another glass of orange juice and a bottle to go, we took the taxi to head for the train station. I managed to get a shot of the Koutoubia Mosque in the taxi.

Until today, no taxi driver has tried to overcharge me for a trip. Yet this taxi driver did not use the meter, and was asking for like 50 Dh for the trip to the train station (it costs around 10 Dh using the meter). After negotiation between my French-speaking friends and him failed, we continued to sit in the taxi, gave him a 20 Dh bill when we got to the train station, and walked away from the taxi as fast as possible. I think I saw him yelling at us, but it was him not following the rule of taxis have to use the meter.

Deciding that 2nd class is really not that much different from 1st class, I bought a 2nd class ticket. I wouldn’t call it a big mistake, after the train ride, I wished I had bought 1st class. One compartment in 2nd class seats 8 people, with no individual seats. I got into one with two other people from our group, three Moroccan women who turned out to be sex workers, and two Moroccan men. Definitely not the most comfortable part of the trip after certain language exchange behaviors. I was glad to switch to the compartment next door even though the air condition wasn’t working as well and it didn’t smell really well. The sign of Fez was a huge comfort after 8 hours.

Originally I thought I would just go home and rest, but my host-family decided not to be home. Can’t get into the house and didn’t want to spend money to go into a cafe, I went to the ALIF Riad, a study place in the medina with free Wi-Fi (they pronounce it “wee-fee” here) and shades. I watched the World Cup final there on someone else’s computer, and went to a hotel to continue after the Riad closed and the game was going past the 90 minutes. The moment Spain scored, pretty much the entire city was yelling (part of Morocco was once controlled by Spain). It’s really amazing how a sporting event could attract so much attention. Now that the World Cup is over, I wonder what those people sitting in the cafe are going to do…

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Moroccans share a lot of things. More than likely, food is brought in on big plates to be put in the center of the table, where everyone shares it, instead of the individual plates Americans are used to. This is actually also pretty common in both Italy and Taiwan, where you order dishes to be shared with everyone (obviously individuals plates of food are also available if you want them). However, that’s not the only thing Moroccans share. Going to a cafe, a tea stand, or an orange juice stand, the drink you order comes in a glass or a cup, just like in the US. However, if you ask for water, it is very likely that you will see the waiter pour water into a communal cup and give it to you. He will do the same for every other customer who wants water. That cup is specifically for water, and is not rinsed after one person uses it. It’s a little hard for me to adjust to that, as I couldn’t help but think about what other people may have and what I may get if I drink from the communal cup. I am fine with doing that if it’s with my host-family, but with I have no idea what proportion of Fez’s population, I am a little skeptical.

The sharing doesn’t stops here. Sitting in a train compartment, if you are drinking or eating something, you should offer some to people sitting in the same compartment as you, whether you know them or not. I don’t have a problem with food, but if it’s a bottle of water, I am a little hesitant. I really don’t mind if it’s someone I know, but knowing that I might still want to drink from the same bottle later, I really don’t want to get whatever the previous person may have. It’s even worse when you can visibly see what the person has, but not have enough strength to actually say no to him/her. Yes, I know I probably worry too much, but I rather stay as healthy as I can manage in a country that’s not so familiar to me, even though seeing a doctor here is very very cheap (about 10 to 15 Dh per visit).

Sharing is a very much agreed upon value. In my host-family, I obviously could eat something without offering any to my host-brothers, but that would be considered rude. It is more socially acceptable and correct to offer whatever you are having to them. Maybe Americans place too much emphasis on private property. I am really impressed with how much people trust each other here (it’s a different story when it involves tourists though), enough to the point that sharing doesn’t create much problem. We have so much to learn…

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Hitting the Wall

It’s the feeling you get when you feel like nothing is going well and you just want to give up everything and walk away. I had a really good time in Italy, and I was having a good time in Morocco for the past two weeks or so. But today I just felt like crap and really wanted to go back to place where I am used to.

Today wasn’t particularly a good day. I woke up, went to class, got the second quiz back that could be improved a lot, and was extremely tired. I have no idea why, but throughout the day I just felt like I am going to fall asleep at any moment. But whenever I actually tried to take a nap, I just had trouble falling asleep (the hot weather didn’t help at all). I was also feeling sore muscles, which leads me to suspect that I am catching something, even though I haven’t seen any other symptoms yet. I did have a stomachache just before I wrote this. I realized that I didn’t finish one part of the homework that requires using DVD. My netbook doesn’t have a DVD drive, and the computer lab at ALIF doesn’t open until 9 am in the morning while my first class is at 8 am. And now I can’t think of anything else to write in the blog. Hopefully things will be better tomorrow.

Update on 7/6: so I wasn’t feeling well last night, and wrote all the negative things above. You know, when you are not feeling well, you will try to find comfort in things that are familiar to you, which are most likely not there in a foreign country, and the negative feelings just pile in. I thought about whether posting this would scare people away from thinking about studying abroad or just travelling in general, and I decided that my blog should reflect what’s really going on with me, not just all the “fun” things I get to do when I am abroad. While going to a different country and see all the different things is an important part of studying abroad, the primary purpose really is study. I have class 4 hours a day and have homework that does take a while to do. If I fail my classes here (I don’t plan on it), that’s going on my transcript. But what I am getting out of my stay here is a lot more than what I can get if I sit in a lecture hall and listen to someone who has been to Morocco talks about it. And I am feeling a lot better today, so no worries :).

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Things to get used to

Second day living with host family. I woke up, had breakfast (French bread spread with cream cheese and milk with coffee powder), and went to ALIF this morning, even though I was pretty sure I don’t start class until next week. I was having trouble telling my host-family that, and since I needed to use the Internet anyway, my host-family called a taxi and I was on my way. Checking my email at ALIF (with not really better Internet connection), I found out that my class does indeed start next Tuesday, and my roommate will be arriving tomorrow. He and I will be sharing a room together for 6 weeks, hopefully we can get along.

Since I really didn’t have anything to do, I went to an ATM machine to take out some cash, which thankfully was successful. I didn’t bring enough cash to Morocco for exchange for living here for 6 weeks. It was noon at that point, so I called a taxi in the street, showed the driver the address, and was rejected by the driver. I don’t know if he doesn’t know the place (which I highly doubt), or he just doesn’t want to drive to the old medina. So I stood by the curb for a few minutes, and another taxi just stopped by me. With some luck this time, the driver said yes and dropped me off at the right place. The petit taxi (red with yellow rack on top) here runs on meter, so it really isn’t that expansive to take a taxi. My trip from a street near ALIF to the gate near where I live was about 7 to 8 dirham, and I will be doing this everyday when I have class.

I was pretty proud of myself for walking back home without getting lost. I believed I have confirmed that the meal that occurs between 1 pm to 3 pm is lunch (it was at 2 pm today). My host-mom is a good cook as far as I can tell. She made us (me, two of her children, and herself) a kind of lentil soup, salad (more like salsa, but with more ingredients), fried fish (not breaded), almost-mashed eggplant (at least I think it’s eggplant from taste, I couldn’t really tell from the shape or color) and French fries for lunch. Eating in Moroccan family means that you use your hands a lot. At my host-family, the soup (or sauce) is placed at the center of the table in a large round plate. You are supposed to take a piece of bread (I forgot what this one is called), use it to scoop from the plate with you right hand, and then eat the entire thing. I read that you are not supposed to use your left hand as it’s used for toilet, but I did see the children using left hand so it’s probably not that big a deal. The salad is a mix of lettuce, tomato, and other fruit, vegetable, or potato, and is eaten with a fork. The fish and fries were also eaten with hands, and the eggplant is eaten the same way as the soup. For the past two days dinner and lunch pretty much consist of the same thing. The time of the meals is another story. We have breakfast after we wake up (different for everyone apparently), have lunch at around 2 pm, or when my host-dad comes home if he decides to, a snack at around 9 pm (usually includes cake and milk), and then dinner at 11 pm (or when my host-dad gets home). They go to bed after dinner.

Now, there are two things that concern me. One: shower. They don’t have one (pretty typical for families living in the medina). The bathroom is a small cubicle that has a toilet and a sink in it. There are also two tap at near ground level, but I could hardly imagine them shower in there without getting everything wet (even though the floor is usually wet when I go in there, but I think it’s because they have been using the ground-level tap since the sink is broken until yesterday). And I also didn’t really see any of them shower. I know Moroccans go to a hammam, Moroccan public bath (Turkish-style steam bath), at least once a week, and I am hoping that once a week is coming up. Yep, I haven’t showered since I moved into my host-family, and frankly I don’t really do much everyday that I feel gross not showering, but it would be nice to have a chance to clean myself in very near future.

Second thing: laundry. On my program guide, it says that my host-family is not expected to do my laundry, though they usually offer to. Well, I haven’t had the courage to ask, and I still have a number of changes of cloth. I just hope I find out what the laundry situation is before I run out of clean underwear.

And correction on the Internet in the house, there is one particular spot where I have to sit at to get a semi-stable one-bar signal, which isn’t bad, considering at ALIF the best is only two-bars. I will try to update the blog in the morning or in the afternoon the next day, but the date is still going to be the day things happened. I still haven’t taken a lot of pictures yet, and I promise I will when I get the chance to go out more. (Speaking of pictures, go check out my weekly photo project to find out how to get a postcard sent from Morocco to you!)

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