Peace Corps FAQ

I receive a lot of e-mails from prospective/future Peace Corps Volunteers and I am so humbled that you read my words and reach out for advice!! Unfortunately I’m not able to respond to each message individually, so I have compiled a list of frequently asked questions here.

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Why did you select Morocco? Do you recommend Morocco for those interested in Peace Corps?
I applied to Peace Corps in December 2012, through the old application system. During that time we weren’t allowed to select our country of service (I just begged for a country that wasn’t very cold). When I received my invitation e-mail I was initially disappointed that I was placed in Morocco — I ideally wanted to be placed in Mozambique or Rwanda. But Peace Corps knows what they’re doing and Morocco ended up being the PERFECT place for me. I ended up serving for 3.5 years!! I had a life-changing experience in Morocco and highly recommend it to all applicants.

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Did you speak Arabic prior to service, and how much language studying did you do prior to training?
No, I didn’t speak any Arabic before going to Morocco and did very minimal language prep beforehand. Despite that, I was able to achieve a really advanced level of Darija that allowed me to speak fluently in almost any situation — including doctor’s visits, facilitating workshops, and meetings with government officials.
There are some people who will suggest that you study Darija or Fusha beforehand but I don’t think it’s necessary. The language training program that Peace Corps offers is the best out there. You’ll learn more in a day during pre-service training than you could in a week of self-study. Plus, Darija is widely considered one of the most difficult Arabic dialects out there.
(Here’s a post about a typical day during training & a reflection at the end of training)
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What was your living situation like?
For the first three months, during Pre-Service Training (PST), each trainee lives with a host family while undergoing language and cultural training. Once you arrive at your site you will live with another host family in your community for about a month. This is to help you adjust to your new site, learn your way around, and form relationships. My host family in site is absolutely incredible and I still speak to them often.
After your first month in site you’re allowed to move out and live on your own! I lived in a centrally-located apartment for the first year of my service (see this post) and then I spent the next two years living in a house in a village on the outskirts of town.
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Was it a difficult transition for you as a woman living in Morocco?
Living and working as a single woman in Morocco was definitely a challenge. There were absolutely situations that frustrated the hell out of me and men (who work for the ministry/other official capacities) who wrote me off because of my gender. I think the main thing I had to figure out was how to best assert myself in the culture and advocate for myself/my students. Moroccan culture can be indirect, so I was constantly learning how best to advocate for myself in both an assertive and indirect way so that I could get what I wanted without disrupting (too much) the way people think things should be done. I will say that as an American woman, I was granted access to things that would not be accessible to Moroccan women. Sometimes I found that as an American woman I was more easily able to cross gender boundaries because I could attend all-women gatherings but was also invited to meetings where I was the only woman present. It’s an interesting dynamic.
I faced a lot of harassment throughout my service but I will say the vast, vast majority of harassment that I received came when I was out of site and traveling in big cities. For me I found that the more touristy a place is, the more harassment that I got. Thankfully in my site I almost never experienced harassment and even when I did it was pretty benign. However, each volunteer’s experience is different and I know plenty of female volunteers who faced daily harassment in site.
(You can read more about my feelings on this here).
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What did your role look like day to day? What was your assigned role?
Currently, Peace Corps Morocco has a partnership with the Moroccan Ministry of Youth and Sports. All Volunteers serve in the Youth Development sector and are assigned to work at a youth center (Dar Chebab), women’s center (Nadi Neswi), or sports center (Qaa Moghatat) associated with the ministry.
I served in a town bursting with work opportunities and students of all ages eager to learn. Each of the three years of my service looked pretty different but I always had consistent work and a very busy workload during the school year (this unfortunately isn’t true for all PCVs). I generally had regularly scheduled classes throughout the week and then several larger projects that I would work on for several months at a time. Most classes were taught in tandem with a local counterpart, who I worked to train to take over the classes after I left (with varying success).
Some of the classes included:
  • After-school classes at the Youth Center 5 days a week. I had a wide range of classes based on who my students were and their needs/wants. These included: English classes (all levels), book club, art club, girls sports club, girls empowerment club, etc.
  • Women’s fitness and health classes three times a week at the sports center
  • Life Skills & Leadership class (a USAID program) at the local dormitories for high school students
  • Art, English, and sports classes at the local girls dormitory
  • Inclusive art and sports clubs at the local association for people with disabilities

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If I haven’t addressed your question here please feel free to reach out! I will try my best to respond in a timely manner xx

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