John “Tanur” Badgley ’14 spent a semester in Morocco, taking part in Field Studies in Journalism and New Media. And that turned out to be a transformational choice for the Topeka, Kansas, native. “I went in not knowing much about journalism and left Morocco loving it,” he says.
The program, based in the capital city of Rabat, offers students a chance to improve their reporting skills under the supervision of veteran journalists. They’re also paired with a Moroccan journalism student fluent in English, which proved “very helpful in doing interviews,” Badgley says. Because his French was good, he took classes in Arabic while in Morocco, a move that helped him later in the semester when he conducted interviews with local people (many Moroccans speak Arabic or Berber).
Badgley spent the semester focused on gathering information for and crafting a major investigative feature story on the politics of the Moroccan oil industry—oil in this case made from the nut of the Argon tree rather than from underground wells. Like his 14 classmates, he was guided in his assignment by instructor Mary Stucky, a veteran broadcast journalist and foreign correspondent. She also helped them place their stories in various media outlets. Badgley, for example, was hoping to get his feature placed in USA Today; other students—some of whom produced radio, video, or photography projects rather than print ones—have had their stories run on National Public Radio, the New York Times, Outside magazine, and other well-known outlets.
While learning about journalism, Badgley and his fellow students were also absorbing the culture of Morocco and North Africa, both through lectures and through the families they lived with in Rabat. They spent the semester’s final few weeks outside Rabat doing their reporting: Badgley lived in the southern coastal city of Essaouira to research his argon piece while his classmates moved on to Tangier, Casablanca, and elsewhere to follow stories on topics such as natural medicine and female Moroccan rappers.
During the semester the students also lived for a week with farmers in a nearby village (“we picked onion and cucumbers and had donkeys carry us around”) and spent time in the Sahara Desert, where, as Badgley put it, “we looked at the stars, listened to traditional music, and danced around the fire.”
Back at Macalester, Badgley is pursuing his newfound interest in journalism by enrolling in an advanced new media class and his ongoing interest in French by helping St. Paul junior high kids learn the language. As for life after Mac, now that he’s had a taste of international travel, Badgley is hooked. “I want to find ways to keep going abroad,” he says, “and to experience unique things I’ve never known before.”