What I Learned Teaching
During a recent, inspiring volunteer abroad experience with Cross-Cultural Solutions, I had the privilege of teaching advanced English to adults in Rabat, Morocco. I decided to take the mission of cultural exchange literally by ending my class 10 minutes early on most days so that my students could ask me questions. "Is justice real in America?" and "Can you criticize your government?" and "Did you have a bad impression of Islam before you arrived here?" were among the questions that I fielded proudly. I realized on my first day in the classroom that I was representing way more than just me.
As a communications and marketing executive, I had never taught anyone before this volunteer experience, with one exception—drilling table manners, somewhat successfully, into the minds of my two kids. So, I knew this experience was pushing boundaries for me. Big boundaries.
Morocco was, for me, a fascinating conundrum. A country of great contrasts and contradictions. A nation of awesome Roman ruins and omnipresent satellite dishes. A nation with great beauty set against poverty and a low literacy rate. A country where the wealthy live behind locked gates; where students strive hard for limited jobs; and where everyone you meet is welcoming and proud of the amazing geography, well-spiced cuisine, and moderate Muslim mindset.
My CCS experience turned out to be exactly what I was looking for—shoving me out of my comfort zone, allowing me to give back while getting more, stretching my brain with lectures of Arabic and Islam, using my conversational French, and meeting like-minded volunteers at the Home-Base. And that's not to mention the attentive pre-trip assistance and the incredibly personal care and brilliant guidance provided by the CCS Morocco staff.
Now that I'm home, my memories mingle with a deep sense of gratitude. For having the chance to teach the difference between the vowel in "kit" versus the one in "kite," for learning to appreciate the 5 AM morning call to prayer (before falling back asleep), and for recognizing the incredible advantages of being born into such a wealthy (albeit spoiled) society. I loved learning about a world that's different from my own. I gained new perspectives on modesty, true hospitality and serious study from 20 somethings who don't drink, smoke, or curse.
Would I recommend volunteering in Morocco with CCS? Absolutely. But only if your mind is open and you are ready to represent way more than just yourself.