When I decided that I want to go for a volunteering project, I knew already that I would want to experience something totally different from Finland. I wanted to experience different, weather, a different religion, and different traditions. I started to look for opportunities, and Morocco came up. North Africa, a region which I barely had heard anything bad about, and it would fulfill all my personal criteria. My preferences for the project were, that I needed the project to be something people related. And I found it through AIESEC.
My Global Volunteer project was located in Casablanca, and I was happy. I started to create a rosy image of the warm weather and beautiful places that I saw pictures on Instagram. I was approved for the project in June 2017. Right after my approval, I suddenly started to hear the news and negative things about Morocco, and about Casablanca.
Here are few headlines, that came up.
- June 21nd: Brussels bomb suspect was Moroccan and ‘known to police’ – BBC News
- August 19: Moroccan Isis terrorists ‘pose a threat on Europe’s doorstep’ -The Guardian
- August 22nd: A woman was gang-raped on a public bus in Casablanca and no one tried to help. -Step feed
- August 22nd: Moroccan Man Admits Deadly Stabbing Attack in Finland – NYTIMES
You can only imagine what was going around in my head those times.
I started to google things and blogs about experiences in Morocco. Many sources were saying that especially if you are a blond woman, you should highly consider going to Morocco. I woke up in the middle of the nights just to read more stories about experiences in Morocco. There were some nice and bad experiences, but many of them were over 5 years old. Not so relevant anymore?
But it wasn’t only bad things that I investigated. When I started to see more local news, I also found headlines and news like:
- August 24. ‘We are not afraid’: Moroccans protest after ‘horrifying’ sexual assault video -The new Arab
- August 30: Why Is Europe Hit by Terrorism While Morocco Remains Untouched? – Moroccoworldnews
- October 14th: Moroccan Anti-Terror Bureau Arrests 11 Suspected of Planning Attacks Across Country – Moroccoworldnews
- October 25: 4 suspected of planning attacks arrested in Morocco – Fox News
I found out that people in Morocco wanted to make a change in their country and the world. I started to calm down, and think about what I will be safe there. I want to believe in good, and I want to create my own opinions. I started to be more excited about the possibility that the image is wrong and the people are good than afraid of what if the image I had based on the media was true, and I wouldn’t be safe.
I had already got my thoughts together when the passport controller in the airport on my way to Casablanca was terrified of me going alone to Morocco. He said, and I quote: “I would never go to Morocco with my wife. She is not even as blond as you, but we still would never go there”.
Now after 4 weeks in Casablanca, I have to say that it is their loss. I have walked alone in the streets after dark and lived 2 weeks in a suburb where was absolutely the only foreigner. I used public transportation in it’s all forms alone. The worst thing that has happened to me, was someone saying that they want to marry me, or asking if I could kiss them. My Global Volunteer experience in Casablanca has been a culture shock for me, but a good one and I wouldn’t change it for anything else.
Find the right volunteer project for you this coming summer here: aiesec.org