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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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