First, we post a notice at the Center for Language and Culture (CLC) in Marrakech addressed only to CLC students. This gives us a pool of over 3000 students who already have an interest in both English and cross-cultural exchange.
Second, students at the CLC who are interested are then asked to fill out a questionnaire concerning the home situation they can offer: what kind of sleeping arrangement, distance to CLC, transportation, toilet facilities, and meal arrangements.
Third, these are then reviewed by two Americans responsible for homestays. If these include homes that have successfully participated in homestays in the past, we will likely include them. If they are new, we arrange a personal visit to the home to evaluate things for ourselves.
As for the arrangements: in some cases, more than one visiting student has gone to one home. Last visit, for example, a family with two daughters and a lot of space invited three of the female UGA students to stay with them. This was a very successful homestay. Other female students stayed singly and all the male students stayed one per family. This is largely up to the UGA student and the situation that best suits her or him.
Lastly, we do not put a male visiting student in a situation where the Moroccan student is female nor vice versa.
While the UGA Moroccan Maymester program is resident in Marrakesh the participants will stay with Moroccan families. The homestay is perhaps the most intensive aspect of this program; both linguistically and academically. It offers a rare and potentially rewarding experience, that few people will ever be able to share. Much of the program will be spent in the company of each participant’s “family;” the learning experiences this “space sharing” affords are considerable.
The following comments are offered towards giving you a basic means of optimizing this experience.
Moroccans, in general are a warm and hospitable people. The Center for Language and Culture of Marrakesh asked for volunteer families that would be willing to provide room and board and a culturally nurturing environment for a group of American students. The families you will be spending much of your time with are thus your hosts, and you are a guest in their homes. The program has allocated a weekly monetary allotment to cover the basic expenses but this sum seldom equals the total outlay made by the family during your stay with them. This is important to keep in mind, for you are NOT a “paying guest” with special rights or privileges NOR is the homestay residence a hotel. It is thus expected that you will be “one of the family” and partake in the general ambiance and harmonize with the ways of the household.
As mentioned above, Moroccans are a warm and hospitable people. Moroccans in general like people, and live in a people-centered world. Moroccan concepts of personal space and time may differ from our own. You may therefore at times wonder why you are being treated like “the center of attraction,” this is in fact a form of what is considered polite behavior for Moroccans. It is a way of showing interest in their guest and their readiness to serve your needs. This kind of social etiquette and learning to interact within the climate of a “people centered culture” will be central to your homestay learning experience. The language classes will concentrate from the beginning on social skills and the basic adab (social etiquette) of greeting, showing appreciation and thanking people. The concept of adab is founded on mutual respect. Adab can often be key to “weathering” any uncomfortable social situations. Should you find yourself feeling uncomfortable in a given situation at “home,” stay calm, and keep smiling; then ask either Prof. Godlas or Prof. Honerkamp about it the next day. In a very real sense we are all ambassadors from America. How we reacted and interacted with our homestay “families” will be remembered and talked about long after we have returned to the States and taken up our lives. It is for all these reasons that it is important to always look for the best interpretation for what you see and remember your adab.
Although alcoholic beverages are available in Morocco, we discourage your consumption of them there. Drinking alcohol is more than simply an intoxicating beverage in Morocco, it is also for the most part a symbol signifying disregard for traditional Moroccan culture. While available in Morocco, alcoholic beverages are consumed only by foreigners, by those Moroccans who are distancing themselves from Moroccan culture and who are attempting to demonstrate that they are more Western than they are Moroccan, and by those unfortunate Moroccans who, like alcoholics in the West, lose themselves in a life of alcohol. Homestay families come from all walks of Moroccan life, but they will all be Muslim families since Morocco is 99% Muslim. Alcohol and pork products are not consumed in Muslim households. It would be extremely bad adab to bring alcoholic beverages into a home or to go out drinking and come home intoxicated or smelling of alcohol. This would be both against the ways and values of the household and would also be setting a bad example.
Should you ever want to bring something small to the home as a gift, it is best to bring pastries, fruit, or flowers. Gifts are always appreciated, but based on mutual respect and not as an obligation. The bonds formed during homestay often remain strong over the years. Who knows, you may be back, so leave only the best impressions behind you.