Morocco ESSEC Business School was the destination, and I was beyond excited! My mind was skyrocketing with images of what the whole experience would be like.
First things first: finding out if I required a visa. Visa processing was the most stressful, as the Embassy was in Pretoria. Amidst classes and approaching exams, it all seemed impossible. However, asking questions really helped. It also really helped to have two other students attending. Although we worked and travelled individually, it was amazing to know we could help each other when we felt stuck.
Due to very little time remaining till departure, I worked with Visas International Agency in Capetown. I had previously called the Moroccan embassy for advice on the Visa type and the expected processing time. They advised a tourism visa as I was going for less than a month. This was ideal as the visa agent only assisted with either tourism or business visa applications. The visa takes at most 10 working days, but because I had exactly 10 working days left, I opted for the emergency visa, so I could receive the visa a few days earlier.
The Stellenbosch University Pre-Departure Orientation really helped with specific practical details like going to the bank to activate my card for international use and tips to ensure safety and an enjoyable experience.
Experience at the Host University:
I took a plane to the City of Casablanca and took a train ride to Rabat, where the campus is. Flights to Casablanca were more affordable. I was nervous but was blessed to have met friendly helpful people along the way. Language was the greatest barrier, as most locals are only French and Arabic speaking. Consequently, I was dropped off about 800m from the actual location, however since my luggage was mistakenly left while connecting flights, I could ironically walk light.
ESSEC is beautifully located close to the ocean, with state-of-the-art facilities and accommodation. The cafeteria operated in the morning and afternoon. Lunch was a minimum of 30dh. For supper, one either ate out or cooked in the dorm kitchens. The school provided a daily shuttle to the city, which made it easier to eat out or purchase groceries. My advice would be to use the shuttle as much as possible as transport can be quite costly. Furthermore, the staff were so welcoming and attentive to every need.
The classes were very engaging and encouraged innovative thinking. The focus was centered on business in Africa. It was beautiful to see and learn from companies and individuals working to promote the continent and its people. As a BSc Molecular Biology and Biotechnology student, choosing a Business School in Africa was not random. My life has always been centered around science and I wanted the opportunity to discover the entrepreneurial world. I wanted to challenge myself to think differently, and to view issues as opportunities to help those in need, while also making a living. What I loved the most was that just like me, some of the businessmen and women we interacted with, also had undergraduate degrees unrelated to business. This inspired me to dream big. Most days ended with a lively Arabic language class. We learned phrases that helped us with the basics for communicating with the local people.
Touring Morocco was such a splendid experience. Especially visiting the old medina, with historical homes and buildings still occupied to this day. I got to see the rich culture of the Moroccan people and how they go about their daily lives. Furthermore, experiencing everything alongside students from all over the world, made the trip even more amazing.
My Return to South Africa:
I organized a taxi to the train station, where I then journeyed to Casablanca airport. My luggage went missing once again, however the South African airport was very helpful and delivered my bags when they had returned.
The travelling aspect of this trip taught me how to deal with the unexpected. From my connecting flight to Morocco being cancelled and arriving a day later, to missing luggage and a delayed flight on my way back, it was all maturing and worth it!