I never realized the benefit of experiencing two countries for the price of one until I was in Morocco one day and Spain the next, simply by taking a quick ferry through the strait of Gibraltar. I participated in the Crime & Justice at International Crossroads program this past summer and out of the five education abroad programs I have experienced thus far, this one was my favorite.
Starting off the education abroad experience in Casablanca was a treat to say the least. Visiting the beaches, mosques, and eateries led me to believe that it wouldn’t get any better than my present location; however, each destination proved to be better than the last. I was excited to be nestled in Meknes; not only was I looking to see more of Morocco but I was equally invested in learning about the differences with the U.S. criminal justice system versus Morocco. We were instructed by our UK professor, Dr. Janet Stamatel (eh-hem…the absolute best, just so all y’all know), but also criminology professors and civil society leaders in Morocco. When we visited a juvenile detention center, I couldn’t help but compare how retributive and capitalist-driven the U.S. criminal justice system is (to both adults and juveniles) and how Moroccan juvenile detention centers are places of rehabilitation, in true efforts to reduce recidivism. When we weren’t in class, we were learning more about the culture through mosques, Moroccan traditions, and somehow got to sneak in a camel ride!
After our time in Morocco, we ventured off to Grenada, Spain. Spain was valuable for me because I had no choice but to improve my Spanish whether it was on the streets, with my host family, or at the discotechs. To explain the nightlife is another blogpost itself, but I will say, the Spanish nightlife is incomparable. Dancing until 7 in the morning is something I quickly (and painlessly) adjusted to and made new friends that I stay in touch with today! The coursework was valuable too because the Spanish criminal justice system operates differently than Morocco, but they still are both in most aspects adhering towards rehabilitative measures compared to the U.S. Even today, I still compare how other countries treat those who were offenders of the law versus the U.S.; especially after Kentucky elected a new governor who recently overturned an executive order from the former governor that enfranchised voting rights for those who have served a felony conviction.
Overall, I felt like I got the education abroad experience I paid for by experiencing two vastly different cultures in TWO continents — all in three weeks. Even after my experience, I felt confident traveling independently to Barcelona, Munich, Paris, and Amsterdam. This experience also encouraged me to analyze the intersection of the criminal justice system and Public Health issues hopefully through a Public Policy degree after my undergraduate experience. If you’re reading this, it’s not too late to consider an abroad experience of a lifetime! Just bring sunscreen.
Ryan McElhose participated on the UK Sponsored Crime & Justice at International Crossroads program Summer 2015.
Interested in going this year with Dr. Janet Stamatel? Learn more about the program here!