By Jacob Grimsley
Ole Miss junior Adam Koussih grew up grown up in Columbus, Mississippi, but his family comes from a very different part of the world–Morocco. While studying in the Croft institute, he has tried to learn more about himself and his family heritage while also working toward an education in International Studies & Arabic.
Koussih, who has been an international studies major throughout his years on campus, chose international studies for two reasons: It was something that interested him because of his family background, and because it was something different and potentially challenging.
Learning to speak Arabic has been the biggest part of Koussih’s education. Arabic is spoken in 25 countries and is also the language that makes up the scripture of the Islamic religion. During his time at school, Koussih has focused on learning the language and more about the culture surrounding it.
Koussih soon realized one way he wanted to further his education was through experiencing first-hand what the countries he had been learning about had to offer.
“I really wanted to do something out of the ordinary in terms of what students usually do for a summer. Staying two-three months abroad every summer was a way to get away from school while at the same time benefiting myself with new experiences and challenges.”
Because he was a freshman during the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic, Koussih was “not sure what to expect in terms of ability to travel abroad.” Luckily, the world began to recover enough for him to be afforded the opportunity to travel to Amman, Jordan, in the summer of 2021.
As one would expect, there was a learning curve to his first summer abroad.
“There was definitely some time I had to take for adjustment,” he said. “It helped that for my summer in Jordan I was in an apartment with a couple of other students in a suburb of Amman.”
Koussih was lucky enough to be able to call many of the students who traveled with him his friends.
“They gave me a very small sense of normalcy while being so far from my normal home environment and comforts.”
Despite being thrown into the deep end in this foreign country, Koussih learned a lot during his time away from home.
“Being immersed in a different culture forced me to adapt and apply what I had learned in my everyday life. It was slow at first, but I would say I picked up on life there pretty quickly.”
Koussih took classes during the week while he was in Jordan, and outside of the classroom, he was left to explore the area he was in. This allotted time to immerse himself in the area’s culture provided him the ability to meet locals and learn from them. He also experienced part of what everyday life looks like in Jordan.
Koussih grew closer to his friends in the Croft Institute during this trip to Jordan, largely because they were all experiencing the same struggle to adapt as well as creating many of the same positive memories together.
Koussih returned from his trip to Jordan after a month and began his sophomore year. He continued his education in International Studies and Arabic. During his sophomore year, Adam heard about an opportunity to study abroad in Morocco.
“I knew I could never pass that chance up,” he said, “so I put all of my focus towards learning as much as I could in the classroom to prepare, and that way I could focus strictly on the experience as much as possible.”
By the time summer rolled around, Koussih could not contain his excitement. He was getting to travel to his home country with many of the same friends he had made during the previous year.
While in Morocco, he stayed in Meknes, Morocco, and was learning from an assigned professor every day. This professor taught her students about the history of Morocco, as well as contextualizing much of the information he had been learning in class about Morocco.
“The classroom was great, but it was not the highlight of the trip,” he said. “My friends and I got to explore a country that I had previously only heard stories and small aspects of, and this immersion was one of the best experiences of all of my time with Croft thus far.”
Day-to-day life in Morocco was very different from Koussih’s normal life, but he welcomed the challenge and saw it as enriching in terms of not only his education but also just his life experience in general.
“In Meknes, I still stayed in the suburbs of the city, but this time we stayed with a host family from Meknes,” he said. “The family helped to further the amount that I was able to learn about the country by offering stories of their lives and answering any questions that came up during my stay.”
Koussih returned home to Oxford this fall, and he is ready to continue his education and is more excited than ever to see where his Croft experience will take him in the future.
“My time in Morocco was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said. “Honestly, trips like that make me more excited to get back in the classroom and prepare myself to be able to take full advantage of similar opportunities in the future. I never want to miss out on something like that, and I hope that continuing my education will lead me to a life full of these chances.”
Of the two study abroad trips, Morocco was his favorite. “The country as a whole,” he said “is so diverse and when you feel like you’re beginning to know about it, everything takes a turn in and it’s an entirely different experience.”
Freshman Luke Pierson of St. Louis is a less-experienced student involved in the Croft International Studies and Arabic program. He came to Ole Miss in pursuit of the education offered by the Croft Institute.
Pierson was introduced to Khoussih during his time taking summer classes preceding the beginning of his freshman year, and he hopes to take advantage of the opportunities that Khoussis has been able to.
“I’m hoping to be able to go into intelligence for the U.S. after graduation,” Pierson said, “so I feel like getting some real-world experience and immersion would help me out, given that the practical experience would more closely apply to my future work. Since I met Adam, he has talked highly of the value of studying abroad more than any other aspect of his education, and it makes me very excited to pursue that opportunity.”
He hopes to be able to get a thorough education that includes studying abroad in order to get what he considers to be the “full” education.
Pierson’s classes have been a learning experience thus far. He says they started relatively quickly, and he was forced to match the speed at which he was being taught.
Both Pierson and Koussih have seen many opportunities they would like to take advantage of during their time at UM. Koussih said his summers abroad have influenced his hopes for his future.
“I want traveling to be a core part of my life and career going forward,” he said.” I never want to stop being challenged and having new experiences similar to what this university has offered me already.”
“As an international studies and Arabic student,” Koussih said, “these experiences served as reasons for why I am studying what I am and the potential impact I can make in my career. As far as myself, those experiences really taught me to be at peace with myself and learn how to truly be independent in the sense of being alone in a place where it’s really up to you to take care of yourself.
“I have learned how I perform under pressure, as well as learning how I adapt to difficulties. Those learning experiences are something I never would have gotten had I just sat in a classroom for four years.”
Koussih has high praise for the value of studying abroad and hopes to continue learning more about the world.
“Learning to take care of myself has helped me with my studies almost more than anything. To me, college is about holding yourself accountable and being able to rely on yourself in a way. This type of thing is so much easier to learn when you’re forced into doing it, and that’s what these trips have been for me.”
Koussih even said that his traveling has helped to change his perspective on his own life and his future career.
“There is obvious value to learning done in a classroom, but my traveling has inspired me. My travels have encouraged me to actually learn in the classroom rather than just studying to pass a test, and I’m excited for life after college to use what I’ve learned to benefit myself and make some kind of impact on the world, even though I’m not sure exactly what that looks like yet.”
“I could never have imagined coming into college I would have the opportunity to find something I am so passionate about,” he said. “I hope everyone who is given the chance to travel in relation to their education sees the immense value in that and takes advantage of what their university has to offer in every way possible.”