Not many college students have had the opportunity to travel to Morocco as part of an academic club. However, a few of Rocky Mountain College’s debate team members can say they have had that privilege.
On Oct. 12, RMC seniors Flavya Siqueira, Gerald Giebink, and associate professors Shelby Long-Hammond and Daniel Parod were invited to travel to Rabat, Morocco, to work with Dr. Stephen Llano and members of St. John’s University’s New York debate team on a project at the Institute for Leadership and Communication Studies.
Llano is an associate professor and the director of debate at St. John’s. He and Long-Hammond have been working together since 2012. Back in February, Llano and members from his debate team traveled to Montana to work with Long-Hammond and RMC’s debate team on her Tribal College Debate project conducted at Little Big Horn College located on the Crow Reservation
“He discovered many similarities in our programs so he invited me to collaborate on his project in Morocco. His Morocco Advocacy Exchange has been established for the previous five years. Now we will be included in the planning and implementation of the project,” explained Long-Hammond.
St. John’s and RMC strictly worked with the institute and its 50 undergraduate students.
The point of the project is to teach other students the different styles and dynamics of speech and debate which does not come easy. While in Morocco the debaters taught the other students the British Parliamentary style of debate, which is the format that many universities use, according to the international debate education association.
Senior Flavya Siqueira explained that the debate team taught students about public speaking, persuasion and debate techniques while staying in Rabat for a week.
“Since we were teaching beginners, we chose topics that the students from Morocco could relate to like This House (Morocco) would have no borders. We would separate the room in who was in favor and who was against [the topic] and have them develop their own arguments and present them. At the beginning of the week the students were still shy, but by the end they just go [went] for it. It was cool to watch their evolution,” stated Siqueira. “Our main goal was to encourage those students in critical thinking and to be more comfortable in delivering [what they learned] in English. People over there speak at least two languages, Moroccan Arabic and French.”
Even though the U.S students and faculty were in Morocco to teach, they were still able to explore the rest of the city.
The team was able to have an authentic experience by staying with a host family who cooked breakfast and dinner for them each day.
Long-Hammond said that all the meals were served family style and described the home as “very traditional with an open air roof, a few large living rooms with couches against the wall.” She went on to explain that the home was in the center of the open market (medina), a place where produce, leather goods, clothing, and many other items are sold.
Rabat is on the North Atlantic coast, which allowed the group to go to the beach and even surf. In addition to this the debate team also visited an ancient mosque that was constructed in the 12th century and visited Roman ruins from the 6th century.
Prior to visiting Morocco Siqueira did some research and found out that Rabat is 99% Muslim. She explained that a majority of Muslims where they stayed are Sunni.
“Based on some travel guides we were expecting to have to always walk around covered, not showing our arms and all of that but that stereotype definitely broke after we got there,” said Siqueira. “All the students from the institute were wearing ripped jeans, high heels, tank tops and had their hair down. Of course many people on the streets wore the typical hijab but Rabat is a diverse place with people from all over the world.”
Long-Hammond shared that the group did experience a sliver of culture shock due to the prayer calls that occurred five times a day but felt welcomed by the institution and its students who were eager to learn.