Yasmine Svistakova, Fatima Zahra Bidnaben, Salma El Omari and Maha Aherdan Homman-Ludiye – four Moroccan girls in Valencia. All of them are studying Pharmacy at University CEU Cardenal Herrera. The students let us delve into their home country and let us try the taste of Morocco: they organized a presentation about Moroccan food and its culture.
It is high time, to get to know the girls: Yasmine, Fatima, Salma and Maha gave us some impressions about their Moroccan home, about their life in Valencia and, of course, their traditional food.
Bonjour les filles. Your Spanish sounds pretty authentic – for how long have you been here in Valencia?
Fatima: Oh, thank you. Well, Yasmine and me have been here for four years now, Salma has been here for three years and Maha for two years. Before we came here, we had not known any Spanish, however. So when we arrived here it was quite hard for us to follow the classes – as for students of Pharmacy – all the classes we have are in Spanish. But our professors and the other students have always helped and supported us. When we have had any question or doubt, the professors have always offered us explaining something we have not understood. Now, we have a lot of Spanish friends and our Spanish has improved a lot.
A brave decision you took – coming to a country whose language you had not known before. Did Valencia’s beach and climate convince you to study here?
Yasmine: Valencia, of course, is not a bad place to study at. You must know, that most of the Moroccan students study abroad. Our universities at home are not very accessible and it is quite difficult to study, for example, pharmacy there. So I was told by a friend about the University CEU Cardenal Herrera in Valencia. As Moroccan people usually spend their holidays in Spain, it has always been a country for us which we associated with holidays. But we have soon experienced that it is a country which has much more to offer. High academic standards were, of course, also important for us. The University CEU Cardenal Herrera fulfills all the expectations we had. It is accessible, you receive a lot of support and help and the academic standards are also very high.
Maha: Salma and I had studied at other universities before we came here. I studied in Brussels, but although I did not have any linguistical problems, the studies there were quite hard there. My friend Yasmine told me about her university in Valencia and about how much she liked studying there, so I decided to come here. I can really see the difference here now and I like studying here so much better. The quality of classes is higher, the professors are very competent and explain everything in a very detailed way. I also really like the people here who are much more friendly, open and helpful.
Salma: I studied in a big university in France – in the beginning of the studies we were 3000 students in only one course. There was a lot of competition and nobody who to really help and support you. I am also very happy to be here now – in academic and also daily-life terms. Valencia is such a nice place to stay.
Morocco is a country of culture, good climate and food – just like Spain. Does it make you feel home or do you still notice any cultural differences?
Fatima: In fact, we have quite some things in common – like the weather, our passion for good food, being open and hospitable. And Valencia really has become a place where we feel home now. But still, there are some cultural differences between our countries, of course. And even though Valencia is a perfect place and we really love it here, all of us want to go back to Morocco after studying here.
Yasmine: We really love Valencia – the beach, cultural diversity, friendly people. It is the perfect place to study at. Maha and I live in the city center, which we really like – Fatima and Salma live here in Moncada. So if they want to stay in Valencia, they can always stay at our flat and if we want to spend our lunch breaks in Moncada, we can stay at their flats. That is quite convenient.
What do you think could be done on the part of the university in order to attract even more Moroccan students?
Salma: To be honest, I think, if our friends, who had also studied here before, had not told us about the university and recommended it to us, we would not have known anything about the University CEU Cardenal Herrera. It is a great university and the diploma, which we will receive, is very valued in our home country. The university should probably focus more on advertising also abroad, for example, in our high schools.
Maha: That is true. We also have the feeling that – at least in our faculty – there could be done more for international students. Although it is great that we are perfectly integrated here and are around Spanish friends and fellow students, it would be nice to experience the international exchange with other cultures a little more. Some international events where we can meet people who are also from other places in the world.
Salma and Maha, you have experienced university life also in Belgium and France – do you find the University CEU Cardenal Herrera more accessible, do you find more facilities here?
Salma: The University CEU Cardenal Herrera is definitely much more accessible in comparison to the university I studied before. We could come here to get an impression of the university before we started studying here and received support and help right from the beginning.
Maha: The University CEU Cardenal Herrera really does its best to make the start of the university career as easy as possible. That is an aspect which really distinguishes the CEU from other universities.
On Friday, the pleasant smell of oriental spices filled our university – can you reveal any secret about the delicious Moroccan food for those who missed the opportunity to try it?
Yasmine: Of course, we cannot reveal too much – you will just have to try it out on the next occasion. Spices are certainly totally typical for our cuisine. On Friday, we chose some of the most typical Moroccan dishes and explained to you, which kinds of ingredients they contain and how they are prepared.
It was excellent! Do you think cooking and eating together encourages the integration of different cultures?
Fatima: Definitely! For us, food in general and having lunch or dinner together is an important part of our culture. In Morocco, our families all come together every Friday to have “Couscous”- lunch together – uncles, aunts, cousins, our parents, grandparents and siblings all gathered around our round tables. It is a nice tradition, I think.
Last but not least – do you have any recommendations for our future generation of international students?
Yasmine: In general, we can definitely recommend the University CEU Cardenal Herrera to students who are interested in studying abroad. It is important to spend some time with Spanish people, to watch Spanish TV – that really helps to improve your language skills.
Fatima: Do not hesitate in asking someone if you have any doubts or questions. You can also contact us – we are always happy to give you some tips.
Thank you very much, Salma, Maha, Yasime and Fatima!