If you are reading this you are probably thinking of one day visiting Morocco or maybe interning at Connect Institute or any other place within Morocco. For the past two months, I have had the privilege of living and working in Morocco, thanks to the Connect Institute for affording me the opportunity to intern with them. My internship was based in the City of Agadir but I also had the pleasure of visiting other cities such as the famous Marrakesh. In this piece, I take you through an honest reflection of my experience living in Moroccan society and what were my key takeaways from it.
I joined Connect institute on the 12th of July 2022. Leaving Mauritius, my port of origin, I was so elated, first by the prospect of visiting a new country (something I always wanted) and secondly, by what lay ahead for me–I was looking forward to a wholesome experience full of vibe, color, and everything. Even more appealing was that I wanted a new cultural immersion, away from my Kenyan and Mauritian culture. I am not a big fan of culture but coming to Mauritius from Kenya for my undergraduate degree taught me that a people’s culture determines how your experience will be at the place. Therefore, I have become increasingly cautious about culture and subsequent differences. I knew I had to prepare for it; thus, I was doing my research even before I left Mauritius. I knew that I needed to learn French, at least at a conversational level, and maybe, Darija (Darija is the local Arabic language spoken in Morocco). Satisfied that I had all it took to be in Morocco (including my “un peu Francais”), I came to Morocco.
I received a warm welcome at the Connect Institute, where I met two other interns from my school, Africa Leadership University (ALU), and the other from Colby college. I felt at home. Immediately, I would immerse myself in Moroccan culture. My weekdays were spent at the Connect premises, and on weekends, out and about exploring the city. Connect is located in the beautiful city of Agadir, a little-known (and I would say often underrated) city in the South-West of Morocco. Agadir is a touristic city that boasts of one of the longest, most vast, and most beautiful beaches in Morocco (You can almost bet on where I spent my time when I was not in the institute); It also has a moderate climate: not hot but also not very cold though it gets extremely cold at night. During the night, the city is a bee-hive of activities: from families going out with their kin; to random gymnast doing his street gymnastics; others selling tea (oh my, after Kenyan tea, Moroccan is my favorite); some gambling and others just going on with their businesses unbothered by their immediate surroundings. I found life in the Moroccan people. They were so kind, and just by seeing them, they radiated kindness on their faces. Many people I met and talked with were delighted to see me. They would be like, “are you from Senegal?” Unlike Mauritius, where all black people came from South Africa, here, they came from Senegal. I didn’t blame them because they probably have interacted with many people from Senegal who have often crossed over and are now living and working in Morocco. Many, though, and I loved this, didn’t bother where I came from because they just wanted to talk to me.
In our conversations with the locals, they perceived me differently when I said I was here for an internship and work as opposed to the tourists they are used to, and I guess this gave me more legibility. However, this doesn’t mean that I didn’t bump into some people who thought that, as naive as I was, maybe they should take advantage of my lack of knowledge of how things work. I am lucky to have had my fellow interns who spoke both French and Darija, which made it easier for me to negotiate and find my way around. I am glad that by the time they left, leaving me behind because I stayed a little longer, I had already understood the ropes of the systems and would maneuver around easily, thanks to my little french and the fact that many Moroccans speak English nowadays. Don’t be surprised, though, if you are charged more for a taxi or bought something at an exorbitantly high price than standard prices. I am told this happens to many foreigners; thus, anyone coming to Morocco should do due diligence and be careful while moving around. That was Agadir for me. In hindsight, I loved Moroccan food; the Tagines, couscous, Harira, and Zaalouk, are just some notable foods that I found palpable—not forgetting the snails (you should try this).
My work at Connect was a very chilling and relaxing experience. I loved it because it provided the necessary catharsis to break away from my busier Mauritian and ALU life. I came in at a period when most of the participants had already left and preparations were being made for the next cohort. My tasks, therefore, were primarily administrative. I first worked on a project the institute was implementing to seek more funding from one of its partners. Then I looked at the various ways the institute can project itself beyond the walls of Agadir and even Morocco. This was when an idea was mooted to establish a partnership with our school, the Africa Leadership University (ALU) so that more students can come here for cultural and work experience and subsequently explore opportunities for the participants to learn from our school. That was amazing as we did an information session with ALU students and a dozen more students expressed interest in the internship process. I have also worked on other projects, such as establishing the Wikipedia page for the school and exploring social media channel optimization methods.
I am grateful for this beautiful experience because it taught me a lot about myself. I have learned that I can quickly adapt to new environments. Despite the apparent language barrier and sometimes cultural differences, I found it easier to live among the people, move around and adjust to their foods. Secondly, I learned that I could survive on my own in a new environment. I always thought you needed to be around people you are familiar with to make worthwhile moments, but I was wrong. This experience forced me to get out of my comfort zone and do as much as possible to get to know others and make new friends. It also tested my communication skills as I had to find convincing ways to get reasonable prices for everything. Thirdly, it taught me how much the world is changing so fast and the beauty of embracing technology to make life easier. Thanks to my google maps (which I learned to effectively utilize here to find the best restaurants and routes) and another app, In-Driver, that enabled me to catch a taxi every time without needing to explain directions of where I am going to the driver as often as I would in the normal taxis. Lastly, I have learned the importance of having clear directions in everything we do. This I got inspiration from a quote I read from a course that I pursued while interning here from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, where a cat, called Cheshire-puss, while disappearing on a tree, Alice asks him, “Cheshire-puss, would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” The cat tells him that that depends much more on where she wants to go. Alice says,” Well, I don’t care much where,” and the cat replies,” well, then it doesn’t matter which way you go.” Ponder about that as we move on. Otherwise, I look forward to more interesting professional adventures like this in the future.