Students Explore Morocco and Spain
Jennifer Sutton

Nov. 7, 2017 — First stop, Morocco.

The travelers who embarked on NMH’s inaugural study-abroad trip of the school year wasted no time. Within a day of landing in Tangier, they were discovering the charms of Moroccan mint tea, admiring brightly colored street murals, and climbing a hill to catch sight of the Spanish coast across the Strait of Gibraltar.

The 24 students and four faculty members are part of “Hum II” — the sophomore humanities curriculum that combines courses in world history and world religion. Nearly all sophomores enroll in Hum II, and about a fifth of them opt for a travel program, in which they focus on a certain country or region and travel there for two weeks in the middle of the semester. This year’s contingent will continue on to Spain after a week in Morocco.

While the journey is in its early days, the stories are already streaming in via a travel blog, which consists of student journal entries.

After a concert of Gnawa music by local performers in the city of Assilah, Sonia Hernandez ’20 wrote that “from our brief study of Sufi Islam in class, I knew that Gnawa mysticism would have a strong focus on music, since that is how many Sufi people praise Allah. However, I was not expecting the joy and comfort the music brought me. The rhythm of the songs consisted of a beat that was played very quickly, ra-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta. The banging of the karkaba, which sounded similar to Spanish castanets, was so powerful I could feel the rhythm in my throat.”

In between visiting museums and attending talks and lectures over the course of the two-week trip, each NMH student also makes a research presentation — with topics this week ranging from early Moroccan civilizations to commercial shipping in the Strait of Gibraltar to women’s roles in Moroccan families and society. The NMH students also spent time with a group of Moroccan university students who are studying English.

Among the revelations after that exchange, wrote Caleb Little-Poole ’20, were the facts that “soccer is really the only sport in the country,” that Moroccans are no fans of the current American president, and that most of the university students hoped to leave Morocco someday. “After some questioning, I realized that they did not want to leave Morocco because they did not like it,” Little-Poole wrote — but because they wanted “to be able to have new experiences in life.”

Sounds a lot like NMH students.