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LSU student receives Critical Languages Scholarship, studies in Morocco

Taking the trip of a lifetime, Logan de la Barre-Hays, political science and international studies senior, immersed herself in the Arabic language and Moroccan culture this summer when she embarked on an eight-week study abroad experience in Tangier, Morocco.

3D scannerBar-Hayes had the opportunity to travel to other Moroccan cities during her time in Tangire. While in Fes, she visited the Imperial Palace. Logan de la Barre-Hays

Barre-Hays, a Mississippi native, traveled over 4,700 miles as a part of the Critical Languages Scholarship awarded by the Center for American Councils. Her post-graduate plans, along with her stellar application and support system here at LSU, are to what she attributed this feat.

"The intent of the scholarship is to support grads and undergrads who want to learn non-European and critical languages and who plan on using these languages in the long-term," Barre-Hays said. "The application process itself was rigorous since we had to prove our intention to use Arabic in the future."

Barre-Hays found that while the application, which included four essays, was indeed exhaustive, departments on campus, such as the Fellowships one headed by Dr. Drew Arms, aided her greatly during the process itself.

"The scholarship itself is only given out to 600 students and I was the only one from LSU to receive it," Barre-Hays said. "Dr. Arms walked me through the process and read over my essays, making necessary corrections."

"Just having her support system was great because I felt like I wasn't trying to make something out of nothing on my own."

Her classes at LSU within the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures are what she attributes her fluency in Arabic to.

"While nothing can truly prepare you for speaking something so unique as Arabic, it's a hard thing to replicate in a classroom and there were many experiences at LSU that were really instrumental," Barre-Hays said. "The Arabic department and my professors have been fabulous."

In terms of Barre-Hays' actual Moroccan experience, she said she anticipated many of the culture shocks, taking precautions when it came to certain ways of dressing and expressing oneself in a foreign country.

"The biggest difference was how it is to be a woman there versus being a woman in the South - Southern men are typically very protective of women, and in Tangier, there was a lot of cat-calling," Barre-Hays said. "It was not as much as when I had traveled to South America, but much of it was based on the culture and what was expected for women."

3D scanner Logan had the opportunity to interact with locals while studying abroad. Logan de la Barre-Hays

Besides making sure she presented herself respectfully in public, Barre-Hays also had the chance to learn Moroccan cuisine, ride a camel on the beach and visit the American Legation Museum, a highlight from her many adventures in North Africa.

"One of my favorite things we did was going to the American Legation Museum, which was the site of the first American Embassy," Barre-Hays said. "Morocco was actually the first country to extend diplomatic relations to the US, which not many Americans know about."

Barre-Hays also took advantage of existing local programs once she reached Tangier, helping local Moroccan women learn how to read and write Arabic through the city's literacy initiatives. In addition to helping the local population, Barre-Hays interacted and became friends with many locals, taking trips to exotic venues like Casablanca and Marakesh. The amount of culture and history surrounding her was astounding, Barre-Hays said.

"I tried to get to know Tangier [and the surrounding cities] really well," Barre-Hays said. "One weekend we traveled to Volubilis and got to see some of the southern-most Roman ruins in the world, according to our tour guide."

Barre-Hays said she misses bartering with street merchants the most, but won't be walking into her area Walgreens or CVS to barter with the store clerk.

"At first, I was super-intimidated and did not want to buy anything because I was scared my Arabic would not be good enough to haggle, but it was, and I got some really cool stuff," Barre-Hays said. "It's been a month, but it is still very shocking to me to see people walking around in Nike shorts on campus."

When coming back from her trip, Barre-Hays said she found it difficult to stop speaking in Arabic, especially at airports.

"I tried to order my food in Arabic when we stopped over in Germany, and the people there looked at me as if I was nuts," Barre-Hays said. "Sometimes someone will ask me a question and I'll answer in Arabic quickly and realize it, and then I have to explain how I'm not weird."

3D scannerIn addition to immersing herself in the Arabic language, she was able to partake in many cultural experiences, including getting mehndhi (henna) on her hands. Logan de la Barre-Hays

Through this adventure, Barre-Hays has been able to solidify what she hopes to achieve post-graduation, which include graduate-level studies and reaching fluency in Arabic.

"I hope to someday work with non-governmental organizations, maybe do some research and get involved in international policy focusing on the Middle East," Barre-Hays said. "I'd like to focus on refugee issues, maybe even state-building as well, depending on how the Arab Spring continues to roll out. And of course, I haven't totally ruled out academia."

If there is one piece of advice Barre-Hays believes all students should adhere to, it is to study abroad.

"I think studying abroad has been the one facet of my undergraduate experience that I was missing up until this point, and I definitely believe studying abroad the summer of my junior year completed my college experience," Barre-Hays said. "Even if you can't fit it in a whole semester or whole year, try to do a summer program, because it is just the best experience possible."

For more information on studying abroad, please contact Academic Programs Abroad.