Andrew Knight in the Sahara Desert.

A surfer and outdoor enthusiast, Andrew Knight sought adventure as he planned his study abroad experience. The senior from Richmond, Virginia, “wanted to go somewhere that wasn’t a traditional study abroad location.”

Planning the experience, “it was exciting for me to look at the map on the website and see all the places I could go.” He chose an exchange program to Morocco.

Last spring semester, he studied at Al Akhawayn University, an option available through Virginia Tech’s membership in the International Student Exchange Program.

“I really wanted to do some sort of an exchange program, to get out there and be the only Virginia Tech student,” Knight said. More than 60 percent of Virginia Tech students who study abroad choose European countries.

Knight, majoring in public relations in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, took relevant courses in  global communication, media, and technology while in Morocco. He also took a beginner’s Arabic class, which turned out to be his favorite.

“I was known for being the guy who practiced Arabic all the time but was still just really bad,” he said with a laugh. He even needed help from classmates to complete everyday tasks, such as ordering food at a dining hall.

Knight chose Morocco for the surfing scene, but he quickly realized the country had much more to offer. “I had this expectation that I would hike and surf every single weekend. And then I didn’t. I ended up doing other things that I learned I loved even more,” he said.

Cultural experiences included spending an afternoon at a mosque and riding camels in the Sahara. “The culture, people, language, and religion moved me so much. I’m so glad it was so different from what I was used to.”

Despite being an American among Moroccans, Knight felt a part of the community. He lived in a dormitory and joined the student soccer team. “The students in Morocco were so helpful – it was such a small campus that they knew who the international students were. It makes me want to help all the international students at Virginia Tech.”

Back in Blacksburg this year, Knight serves as a peer mentor for a first-year experience class designed for University Studies majors. Students come to him to discuss issues or concerns that commonly arise during the first year of college. Knight also speaks on time management and the benefits of studying abroad.

“One of my students is from Morocco, and before (the study abroad experience), I don’t know if I would have made an effort to meet him,” Knight said. “The experience made me grow.”

The Virginia Tech partnership with the International Student Exchange Program offers study abroad programs at more than 150 institutions around the world. Students interested in applying should contact the Global Education Office, part of Outreach and International Affairs.

Written by Rebecca Poutasse, a senior majoring in multimedia journalism.