GETTING TO KNOW ATLAS MOUNTAINS HIGH SCHOOL VOLUNTEERS
Located in the Atlas Mountains, Azrou is located almost 4,000 feet above sea level and is named for its large, volcanic rocks at the center of town. As the center of regional trade and social life, Azrou is an amazing location to observe daily life in bustling markets and to immerse yourself in mountain Berber life. Between the warmth of its people and the beauty of the land, you will be amazed at how much Morocco has to offer.
Learn About Morocco
Like many of the countries in the region, Morocco was once a French colony. After gaining independence in 1956, Morocco quickly stabilized and has remained one of the most peaceful nations in Northern Africa. Morocco is a constitutional monarchy, with both a king and a parliament. If you’re a history buff, check out everything you’ll need to know about Morocco’s ancient & modern-day history.
A country not much bigger than California, Morocco maintains one of the most democratic political systems in the Middle East. During the Arab Spring (the revolution that took North Africa and the Middle East by storm in 2011), Morocco responded quickly to the concerns of its people and worked hard to rectify them. The country is still struggling to overcome policies set down by previous monarchs, but great strides have been made since the current king, Mohamed IV, assumed power in 1999.
Tourism is one of the top three sectors of Moroccan economy and this is evident throughout the country. Whether bustling around Fes (which boasts the largest medina in the world) or gazing out in awe at the vast Saharan desert, the appeal of Morocco attracts adventure-seekers worldwide. In fact, the Washington Post reports that Morocco is also among the top three most welcoming countries for foreigners in the world!
The Atlas Mountains is THE place to be - a vibrant Berber community filled with markets and glimpses of daily mountain life. You can spend hours meandering around the medina (trust us!), but don’t let those walls stop you from exploring further! You'll be surrounded by incredible cliff faces and beautiful volcanic rock in your mountain paradise, and getting to know the community is just the beginning,
In the mountain town of Azrou, you’ll be immersed in traditional Berber life among the incredible cliff faces that surround the city. With slanted roofs, green glazed tiles, and local medinas filled with fruits, grains, and vegetables, the Atlas Mountains will capture your heart and your imagination.
Cultural Do’s and Don’ts
Entering a new culture is an exciting and challenging experience. And just as you bring your own culture to share, it’s important to be open and respectful to the culture of those you’ll meet during your travels. You’ll often find that you have a much more positive experience if you are aware of and take into account cultural norms when meeting new people and getting to know your new community.
Picture this: You’re living in a country far from home. You can’t understand the language, and you’re trying to order food, but everything seems to be moving so slowly! Why can’t it just be like in your home country: fast and efficient?
Sometimes, these and other frustrations can build up, and you may even become angry or annoyed at with this new and unfamiliar place, its cultural norms, and its people. If this happens to you, you might be experiencing culture shock.
Culture shock can be a normal part of traveling to a new country, but it might surprise you that you can also encounter reverse culture shock when you return home. While everyone experiences some degree of culture shock, the impact that it has on your experience depends on how well prepared you are to handle its different phases. Here are some tips and tricks to get you assimilated (and re-assimilated once you’re back home) so you can enjoy every moment of your journey.
- Have a sense humor.
Try to see something of value in every new experience you have. While it can be challenging in the moment, try to keep it all in perspective. The ability to laugh and go with the flow are two key tools to coping with initial culture shock.
- Expect differences.
In any new culture, there will be some differences. If you’re prepared for there to be challenges and differences before you arrive in-country, it can make a world of difference in how you adjust.
- ...but look for what’s the same.
You will likely encounter differences in cultures, but you might not immediately realize the similarities. Take a moment to appreciate those attributes that make us more alike than different.
- Keep learning.
Immersing yourself in a new culture is a constant education. So continue making an effort to learn and understand what you’re experiencing.
Living and working within your new community is a great way to learn the local language. Whether you’re an advanced speaker or just learning a few key phrases, you’ll enjoy CCS-organized language lessons during your time in-country to help you through your journey. Here are a few important phrases to learn before you depart for your volunteer program. Even if your pronunciation isn’t perfect (yet), give it a try! Your attempts to connect with new friends in the local language will always be appreciated.
As with learning any new language, reading phrases is helpful. But listening is one of the best ways to grasp sounds and vocabulary. Click below to hear Country Director Mohamed Mhmmoudi begin your first Arabic & French language lessons.
Ready for the next level? Practice your Moroccan Arabic with these online sites:
Recommended Reading and Films
We believe that travel and firsthand encounters are the BEST education. But there are also plenty of resources to help you learn more about the history, travel opportunities, culture, stories, and language of Morocco so you can begin to immerse yourself even before you arrive. Here are just a few of our favorites to get you started:
Moroccan Arabic »
CCS Blog: Morocco »
Book: The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca »
Activities & Excursions
Between volunteering, cultural activities, navigating a new language, and immersing yourself in a brand-new culture, you’ll still have plenty of time to explore the local area and even the country during evenings and weekends with the CCS in-country staff. Our activities & excursions are an important part of your experience for exploration and self-reflection, and our in-country staff will always be there to guide you through getting to know the culture and country.
Here are a few of our favorite activities that might be included on your schedule.
If you’re ready to start learning more, review your online Training Sessions below (these are required – so make sure you allocate enough time to review each of these trainings, each under 30-minutes). About two weeks before your program begins, you’ll join your final pre-departure call with your group. We can’t wait for you to join us, meet your fellow volunteers, and explore all that CCS has to offer.
Training Call 1:
How to be a Successful Volunteer »
Training Call 2:
Savvy Street Smarts »
Training Call 3:
Volunteer Work Assignments »