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What to Wear During Study Abroad in Conservative Countries

Before studying abroad we check off a list of everything we’ll need. Passport … check! Travel adaptor … check! Clothes …umm.

In many study abroad destinations the only things you’ll have to worry about in regards to clothing is the weather. But if you’re going to a location where people are more conservative you may want to think twice about wearing those shorts or that crop top.

Before my semester study abroad program in Morocco I thought long and hard about what I should wear. I knew that as an Islamic country, modesty was expected especially of women. In Morocco, as with most North African and the Middle Eastern countries, women traditionally cover themselves from head to toe. Although societies are changing and seeing an increase in women who are uncovered or those who choose to dress in more Western styles, it’s still a good idea to be respectful and mindful of traditional cultural values.

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Shoppers in Moroccan Medina

In addition to being respectful to the culture you should also consider safety. Morocco is very hospitable and excited to meet visitors and I’ve heard the same goes for most Arab countries. That’s a major positive but it does come with it’s negatives. Being a foreigner, you will stand out like a sore thumb and if you are wearing revealing clothing you’ll bring even more unwanted attention to yourself. So please be very careful!

THE SOLUTION: LAYERS

Sweaters: Depending on the weather and the city you’re in you may find it useful to bring a sweater. When you’re in a traditional city and feel the need to cover up you can do that. Or, if you venture into the more modern and younger city centers you can feel free to lose that layer. I prefer oversized sweaters because number one, they look cool and two, I prefer to keep my bottom covered.

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Oversized Sweater (photo from pixgood.com)

Long tunics: I wear these everywhere I go. They’re versatile and figure-flattering without being revealing. While wearing these you can feel comfortable in your own clothes while also being able to blend in. Opt for lighter, breathable fabrics that you can layer to deal with fluctuations in weather.

tunic 1

Tunic and Leggings (photo from Pinterest.com)

T-Shirts and Tanks: Sometimes depending on where you study you may go on excursions, hikes, or participate in field work. At these times it may be appropriate if not necessary to wear things that allow you to more freedom of movement.

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Camel Ride in Morocco

Leggings: These are a staple in many college student’s wardrobes. They’re easy to where and you can match them with different tops. While abroad I wore them often with sweaters and tunics. I rarely wore them with a shirts that didn’t completely cover my bottom.

Note: If you do decide to wear them without a longer top please be sure that the fabric is thick enough and not see-through.

MEN

The same type of modestly expected of women does not necessarily apply to men. There however a few things guys should keep in mind too. Try to keep your shorts no higher than just above the knee and be careful when it comes to graphic tees. You don’t want to offend anyone with inappropriate images or words on your clothing.

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