Rich Moroccan Culture Awaits UVA Language-Learner

Hanna Davis headshot

Hanna Davis is studying Arabic in Morocco, thanks to funding from the U.S. Department of State. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

University of Virginia student Hanna Davis is taking the road to Morocco on a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship.

The U.S. Department of State’s Gilman Scholarship program enables students to study or intern abroad, thereby gaining skills critical to U.S. national security and economic prosperity.

Davis, of Charlottesville, a rising third-year public policy and global Middle Eastern studies major in the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and the College of Arts & Sciences, is immersing herself in the Moroccan culture for eight weeks while studying Arabic at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane.

“During the week, I will take Arabic classes at the university and stay in student housing with a Moroccan roommate,” Davis said before she left. “On the weekends, I will stay with local host families as well visit other Moroccan cities, including Merzouga, Fez, Marrakech and Meknes.”  

Davis said she chose Morocco because of the richness and diversity of its culture.

“With my major in global Middle Eastern studies, I don’t think that my education would be complete without significant experience in another country, especially one as rich and diverse as Morocco,” she said. “Living in Morocco for eight weeks, I will be able to apply the global theories I have learned and place my own culture within another context, experiencing an education that goes far beyond the pages of a textbook. I hope that in my study-abroad experience, I will be able to gain an experiential insight into the unique history and culture of Morocco.”

Suad A. Mohamed, who teaches in the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Culture and is one of Davis’ mentors, is currently in Morocco.

“I am watching Hanna studying and traveling,” Mohamed said. “She is committed and a pleasure to be around. Hanna is ambitious to obtain the most of this opportunity to thrive and advance in her learning. She is enjoying the experience and shows the willingness to embrace the culture and overcome all the challenges.”

Davis predicted that her experiences in Morocco will have a strong influence on her education.

“These classes will allow me to expand my knowledge of the Arabic language, which I hope to continue to study throughout the rest of my education at UVA and hope to use in my future career,” Davis said. “I am very happy and thankful to receive a Gilman Scholarship. I am excited to see how receiving this scholarship will impact my future education and career path and can’t wait to see what opportunities lie ahead.”

“We are so happy for Hanna and the reward for her hard work on the application,” said Andrus G. Ashoo, director of the Office of Citizen Scholar Development, the University’s fellowships office. “We hope that her receipt of the Gilman will inspire other UVA students to apply in the future. We know that there are many more eligible students out there who intend to study and intern abroad.”

Davis is a Madison House volunteer for Latin American Migrant Aid; a member of UN Women, a community service group to aid underprivileged and oppressed women; and a member of the UVA Student Council’s Service Committee. A graduate of Albemarle High School, Davis plans to work for a few years and then attend graduate school.

The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship is a congressionally funded program of the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, named after the late U.S. Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman of New York, who was instrumental in the passage of the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000. In 2002, Gilman retired after serving in the House of Representatives for 30 years and chairing the House Foreign Relations Committee.

Media Contact

Matt Kelly

Office of University Communications