UD student spends summer working with children in Morocco
1:41 p.m., Sept. 18, 2013--University of Delaware students spent their summers in many different ways. Some had jobs, some had internships, and some just enjoyed the time off. Junior international relations major Madalyn Becker had a rather unique experience: She spent her summer in Morocco helping local children.
Becker interned with America’s Unofficial Ambassadors, an organization that “builds mutual understanding and enhances people-to-people partnerships between America and the Muslim world,” according to its website. Becker first found out about the group during one of her spring classes.
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“My professor knows the founder of AUA,” said Becker, who has a minor in Islamic studies. “He came in and talked to class about internship opportunities.”
At the time, AUA had internships in three countries: Zanzibar, Indonesia, and Morocco.
Becker thought Zanzibar sounded interesting, but coincidentally, she had also been hoping to travel to Morocco someday. Additionally, Becker had been studying French, one of the languages spoken in Morocco, through school since age 10.
She applied to intern in Morocco, which intrigued her with its cultural and political dynamics, as well as the potential to share her knowledge of French. The application process involved submitting a resume to a committee, explaining how such an experience would help her and how she would be able to benefit the community.
She was accepted to the program as one of eight volunteers in Morocco, and they left on June 27. The eight of them all worked at different tasks, with one creating a website and two others working in national parks while Becker herself spent time at a local school in the village of Tarmilaat teaching French to 25 students ranging in age from five to 22.
During her time in Morocco, Becker lived in a dorm at Al Akhawayn University, located in the city of Ifrane about 15 minutes from Tarmilaat. Though the town had no stores or restaurants, the city contained these things.
The village was located in the mountains, meaning the temperature often dipped quite a bit at night. Becker said it was not what she expected, given that the stereotypical image of Africa is deserts and heat.
While there, she took classes on Arabic, one of the official languages of Morocco, at Al Akhawayn University and lived with a Moroccan student studying there. That helped make the experience even more authentic for her.
When it came to working in the village, it was eye-opening, she said. Between 100 and 200 individuals live in the town, which consists of simply rock dwellings. The natives there are Berbers, a group Becker said is treated as second-class citizens by the Arabic government. The government did not allow them to build permanent structures, and so the residents had to simply stack rocks to create their houses.
“Some people would say there’s no real tensions, but working in the village I could really see how they didn’t have the same privileges as other people,” she said.
Becker said the children were a joy to work with.
“It was so different,” she said. “I’ve worked in summer camps. I’ve worked with a lot of kids. They were so excited to learn.”
She relayed a story of the children spending hours sitting on the steps of the one-room schoolhouse waiting for class even though it was summer time. The Moroccan students loved hearing about Becker and about the U.S., she said, and the children spent most of their free time playing soccer, even though they did not have a field to play on.
When Becker’s internship ended on Aug. 7, she was sad to leave the students, who she referred to as “my kids,” behind.
She said she learned a lot from the experience, such as being willing to take risks and being grateful for what she has, and is considering going back. She feels as though she was able to help, and she is proud of that.
“I think that for me it was amazing to see to work with the kids and see how they learn,” she said.
Article by Matthew Bittle