Each year, approximately 800 faculty and professionals from over 155 countries receive Fulbright Visiting Scholar grants. Individual Fulbright grants are available for scholars from select countries to conduct research, lecture or pursue combined lecturing and research in the United States. This year, Arabic instructor and Fulbright scholar Sofyan Essarraoui is lecturing at Bennett to teach students a foreign language and bridge cultural gaps.
Originally from the village of Sarte in Zagora, Morocco, Essarraoui wanted to expand his international knowledge and teaching skills, prompting him to apply for a Fulbright scholarship. “In addition to improving my classroom management skills, I wanted to expose myself to U.S. culture and lifestyle,” he shared, adding that his time at Bennett has helped him acquire that knowledge, along with a better understanding of student and campus life. “The use of technology in the classroom is different here than it is in Morocco. I have learned how to use technology in a way that helps me teach more efficiently and helps students learn a language more effectively.”
Building on his teaching, he hopes to take interested students on a trip to Morocco, providing first-hand experience using the language and being part of the culture they are learning about: “This is a chance for students to dive into the culture and experience it outside of the classroom, beyond the videos I have shown and what I have told them.” An official tour guide for Morocco’s Ministry of Tourism, Essarraoui is excited to share the things he loves most about Morocco with his students: “It is a beautiful country with a long history, stunning architecture, natural wonders and great food!”
Teaching at a women’s college, Essarraoui is not surprised that his students are most interested in exploring women’s experiences in Morocco: “One question I am continuously asked is ‘what are we allowed to wear in Morocco?’ Students have certain perceptions of how women dress, how women are treated, and what life is like for Moroccan women. There are many pre-conceived notions that stem from media, but I want my students to see for themselves how Morocco differs from what they might imagine.” On February 18, Bennett College’s team of Anne Hayes, Penny Speas, Gwendolyn Bookman, Sylvia Nicholson, Sofyan Essarroaui, and Sarah Akiwumi submitted a Fulbright-Hays proposal titled, “Women and Democracy in Morocco: A Global Perspective on Civic Engagement, Leadership, and Women’s Empowerment.” Sofyan Essarroaui created the 4-week itinerary of the proposed Moroccan experience for Bennett College faculty and administrators.
Essarraoui will be at Bennett only one year, but hopes to inspire his students to be lifelong learners: “I want to get students interested, not just because they are currently being taught, but because I want their appreciation and passion for the Arabic language to be ongoing.”
Essarraoui, with the help of Professor Tom Lipscomb, recently created a website for his tourism company, Ben Travel. Visit the website at bentravell.com.