Thursday, February 22, 2018

My name is Nazira Coury and I am a fourth-year student majoring in International Relations, and minoring in Latin American Studies and Arabic. During the summer of 2017, I had the incredible opportunity to study abroad for nine weeks in the very hot, but very beautiful city of Fes, Morocco. As a first generation student, I am the first person in my family to go to college and now, I am also the first in my family to have studied abroad.

From a very young age, I’ve always had a passion for learning about other cultures and languages. When I decided that I would try to obtain an Arabic language minor, I knew that studying abroad would be something that would be very beneficial for my language development. I attended the study abroad fair and learned a lot of about the different programs and scholarships available. Due to my limited financial resources, I had to do a lot of research into scholarships and grants that would help offset the costs of studying abroad. I came across different scholarships that were offered through the study aboard office, including the Diversity Ambassador Scholarship, and I made sure to apply to every single one of them. I was very fortunate to have received a generous amount of funds that were extremely helpful and that gave me the opportunity to fulfill my goal of traveling and studying in a different country.

Being the first in my family to travel outside of the U.S. proved to be a huge challenge even before I had left the country. My family had no clue as to what essential things I should pack, or what needed to be taken care of before I left. Thankfully, through the help and guidance of my study abroad advisors, I was able to overcome this. Once I was abroad, I met many wonderful people at the Arabic Language Institute in Fes and, through my conversations with them, I did a lot of exploration into what it really meant to be a first generation student. Many of the friends I met while abroad had previously studied abroad in other countries and had the opportunity to do so with full support from their families. Being in the same place as them, while knowing that my background was extremely different from theirs, made me realize how hard I’d had to work to be in that spot and how important it was for me to take full advantage of my time in Morocco.


My first few days in Morocco were filled with incredible first experiences. Part of the reason why I chose Morocco as my study abroad location was due to the fact that I wanted to experience a non-traditional host country in which everything is entirely different from home. This proved to be true as soon as I was off the airplane: the heat, the language, the customs, the food, etc. Everything around me was unlike anything I had ever experienced, and I loved every second of it. There were times where I definitely got home sick, but I would always tell myself that. as the first person in my family to have this experience, I needed to be fully present and absorb everything so that I could share it with others once I got back to the U.S.

I would highly encourage other students who are thinking of studying abroad to go out there and explore the world. I can say with extreme certainty that my time abroad was highly valuable and I made lasting memories that will help guide any future decisions I make. Studying abroad allows for growth and learning, not only about the country and about the language you choose to study, but also about yourself and how capable you are at adapting in an environment completely different from everything you’ve ever known.


Please note that the opinions and views expressed by diversity ambassadors are solely those of the students and do not reflect or represent the views of International Programs or the University of Iowa.