My name is Julia Maxon, and over the summer I had the unique opportunity to intern abroad for a women’s empowerment organization in Rabat, Morocco.
When I first arrived in Rabat, I remember peeking through the faded curtains in my hotel room watching as the city moved fast below me. Blue petit taxis zoomed by trying to pick up their next rider, restless people were trying to squeeze onto the crumbling sidewalks just to shuffle past one another, and older men lined the crowded buildings below trying to take it all in just like me. It seemed as though this city stopped for no one, and I felt afraid to throw myself into the mix. As I peered out and looked at my surroundings, it all just felt overwhelmingly unreal. How could I be in Montana one day and Morocco the next? How could I be 5,250 miles from home? 5,250 miles from the ones I loved?
(Pictured: My first view of Morocco)
As weeks passed, I grew accustomed to the medina where I resided, which is the oldest portion of the city before the French colonized the region. The initial maze that was laid out before me felt increasingly more manageable each day. My loving host family was one of the main attributes that made me feel the most welcome throughout my entire experience. My host mom, Saana, especially always made sure I had enough food to fill my belly until I couldn’t eat anymore, and had a pot of mint tea always ready.
While in Morocco, I was also incredibly lucky to be able to experience Ramadan. Prior to my arrival, I had never fully experienced Ramadan or the traditions and culture associated with it. It was captivating to see how Ramadan took form in a predominantly Islamic nation. It was beautiful to see families like my host family preparing iftor, or the evening meal that breaks the daily fast, each night for people in the medina who didn’t have as much. It was moving to hear the evening prayer call echo throughout the streets of the medina, and to see so many people come together in an act of peace.
(Pictured: My host mom, Saana, leading the way home through the medina)
Morocco is a beautiful country filled with so much life and so much love, but like many other nations, it has its faults as well. As a GLI student, I was interested in looking at social inequality and human rights, or more specifically how the individual, community, organizations, and public policy come together to contribute to the inequalities women face in Morocco. The organization I interned with was a nonprofit specifically interested in the socio-economical development and empowerment of women in the Saharan region of Morocco. During my internship, I facilitated the NGO’s social media and social marketing department on various projects aimed at promoting and furthering the efforts of multiple couscous cooperatives throughout the Saharan region to improve its members’ quality of life.
By being able to have this experience, I was able to learn more about women’s rights in the Middle East, and create a proposed intervention plan based off of the needs that women in rural Morocco vocalized. I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world, as it helped give me a broader perspective on women’s rights and human rights in a global context.
A few days before I was to depart from Morocco, I returned to that little hotel on the corner where I watched the world move before me. However, this time, I sat below with my back against the cement wall, studying the street move idly by.
This experience gave me a sense of renewed confidence that I could take on whatever life throws at me. Whether that be venturing out into a world where I may not necessarily know anyone nor speak the common language, or hopping onto multiple trains traveling solo to destinations unknown. By escaping my comfort zone and throwing myself in, I was able to experience endless possibilities and pursue unexpected adventures that I will never forget. ~
(Pictured: Me ready for my next adventure!)