Student Stories

What we brought back: Andrew Mines

Our "What we brought back" series will look at different students and the mementos they keep as reminders of the people, places, and experiences from their study abroad programs all over the world.

Name: Andrew Mines

Class of: 2018

Major: Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations

Location: Rabat, Morocco

Program: Middle Eastern Civilizations

Best part of your trip in five words: Exploring every weekend with friends

To buy something from a street market in Morocco isn’t as simple as looking at a price tag and handing over your money. You’re expected to bargain. “It’s very much a game,” Mines explained.

The merchant will set the price, and the buyer will then offer a counter-price. While the seller tries to make you pay more, you try to make him sell the item for less. Eventually, the two of you will come to a compromise and will both leave satisfied. It’s a lot of work, especially if you’re playing the bargain game in a language you don’t even know! “Though exhausting, [it] was quite the fun experience….and my language skills improved just from repeatedly arguing prices in the market,” said Mines.

What he brought back

A traditional Moroccan tea set complete with a large silver pot and bright colorful tea glasses.

Mines knew for sure that the one thing he had to bring back to remember his time in Morocco was a tea set. “Tea is an essential part of Moroccan culture…We had it with breakfast and dinner, and oftentimes at different points in the day,” he said. “The concept of sitting down with friends and/or family for tea provides a much-needed pause in the day.”

So he set off into the medina, the word for an old part of a town or city. The area is usually walled in and so narrow that there isn’t even enough space for a car. Mines wanted a tea set (not just the tea) as he was particularly struck by the intricate details and artwork on many of the glasses and pots he had used throughout his trip. After he found the perfect set, Mines recalls that “in typical Moroccan fashion, [the vendor] offered to have me over to his place to serve me tea (out of the very set I was buying).”

Now that Mines is back at UChicago for spring quarter, he still tries to make time a few afternoons a week to continue the habit he picked up while abroad—taking that “much-needed pause” and drinking tea. Although making time has proven difficult, Mines says that it is also necessary for him.                                                                   

A beautiful henna lamp from the popular city of Marrakech. The town is one of the most vibrant cities in Morocco, filled with palaces, mosques, gardens, and marketplaces. The colorful market square, Djemaa el-Fna, is usually packed with storytellers, musicians, and merchants. It’s also where Mines picked up his next item, a traditional Moroccan henna lamp.

The lamps are made usually of sheep or goat skin that is stretched around a wrought iron frame and then dyed. Henna artists will use a needle to meticulously draw intricate patterns and motifs directly on the lamp shade. This technique has been passed down for generations and the lamps are a traditional artwork in Moroccan culture. Mines chose the lamp that most reminded him of the colors of Djemaa el-Fna lit up at night.