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Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Rebecca Zipay, a sophomore criminal justice major of Pittsburgh, spent six weeks of her summer break in Morocco. This provided her with a chance learn about the region’s culture, like riding a donkey in the Middle Atlas Mountains.


BRADFORD, Pa. – University of Pittsburgh at Bradford sophomore Rebecca Zipay probably won’t have to worry about being in demand after college.

Zipay, 19, of Pittsburgh, has already spent six weeks studying Arabic and culture in Morocco, which she hopes to use in a career in the U.S. State Department.

The criminal justice major spent part of the summer immersed in Muslim culture as part of the International Studies Abroad program.

“As a criminal justice major, it is important for me to begin to understand the culture behind current events that are shaping America, and my time in Morocco allowed me to gain a hands-on experience of the culture, which made it easier for me to learn,” she said.

“I hope by furthering my Arabic and Islamic studies I will be able to pursue a career in counter-terrorism. I want to be able to protect the U.S. and world from future terrorist attacks so we no longer have to live in fear.”

During the six-week program, she learned to speak Arabic. That included learning a whole new alphabet, one that sometimes uses different formations for the same letters.

“Arabic is so in-depth,” she said.

Not only has she grasped the alphabet, but she also knows how to make casual conversations. Her language and culture classes took place at Moulay Ismail University in Meknes.

Not all her time was spent in the classroom in Morocco. She toured Roman ruins in Volubilis, visited an orphanage in Meknes, rode camels in the Sahara Desert and went to the third largest mosque in the world, Hassan II in Casablanca.
Zipay also learned to belly dance. She was surprised of the ages of people taking the class, ranging from 11 to around 50 years old.

Also during her trip, she trekked the Middle Atlas Mountains. At first she figured the hike was going to be short. Her group members only told her to eat plenty before the journey.

Along the way, she heard musicians playing banjos, and monkeys also scurried around the area. She fed a few monkeys and gave them some water.
But the rigorous trek was “totally worth it,” she said. Reaching the top of the mountain “was just amazing.” She now uses the experience to tackle other challenges.

In returning to America, Zipay also has a deeper appreciation for family. People are always on the go in the United States, she said. In Morocco, family members carve out time for each other and eat every meal with one another.
“In Morocco, everything is centered on family,” she said.

By putting herself in another culture, Zipay discovered some popular food and drinks, including mint and green teas loaded with sugar and couscous, which looks like small rice. She also had to make coffee by hand.

For dinner one night, unknown to her, she ate pigeon. She said she did not care to know most of what she ate.

She does admit the food “was all good. “ Zipay said, “I have a problem with American food now.”

With everything Zipay has learned in the study abroad program, she is ready for what lies ahead, said Dr. Tony Gaskew, assistant professor of criminal justice at Pitt-Bradford.

“Rebecca is quickly becoming one of the top criminal justice students in the program,” he said. “Her study abroad experience in Morocco provided her with a unique opportunity to gain a broader understanding of the diverse political and social movements shaping the future of North Africa. This is exactly the type of experience that prepares a student interested in a career with the U.S. Department of State."

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