Rabat- After visiting over 20 different countries I have learned that the country and culture a person is raised in plays a strong role in the development of their identity. Growing up in Canada, has shaped my identity. I have had access to education, healthcare, and I have enjoyed freedom of speech and security.
Many people in the world cannot say this. I know how lucky I am. This gratitude has deepened as a result of my experiences traveling, and meeting people from all over the world. But mostly, this can be credited to my parents.
I grew up in Halifax Nova Scotia. I am a child of blue collar, working class parents. I can’t describe them as rich, but I had everything I wanted as a child. My parents worked extremely hard to give my sister (2 years younger than me) and I a wonderful childhood. They succeeded. This is a credit to their hard work and also the fact that Canada is a country where social mobility is possible.
My maternal grandmother is from Cape Breton, a rural part of Eastern Canada. She only completed school until grade five. But this was no reflection on her intelligence. She always found ways to contribute to her household economically, and what I will always respect about her is her impeccable practicality and sense.
My mother was one of the top students in her high school class. She got a full scholarship to one of the most prestigious universities in Canada. Her father’s response to this was “why bother going to University, you are just going to get married and stay home anyway.”
And so my mother packed her bags, moved to the city and made a life for herself independently. Got a degree and a job. My mother enjoys her job, but it is below her level of intelligence. In terms of education, she did not reach her full potential, and she made it one of the goals of her life to make sure that my sister and I reach ours.
My parents encouraged my curiosity, and always wanted me to be interested in other countries and cultures. And so my many travels and my undergraduate degree in Religious Studies were not a surprise to my parents. And they were quite happy to see me exploring the world, and learning about different cultures, religions and societies. Actually, what I have found interesting after leaving the positive environment provided by my parents, is that many people did not have an upbringing like mine, and were not taught openness and acceptance.
Of the many countries I have been fortunate enough to visit, Morocco is the one where I have spent the most time. There are many things about Morocco that I have enjoyed. I have learned a lot about Morocco, and also about myself.
As a scholar, my time in Morocco has enhanced my understanding of Islam as well as life in the overall MENA region. This is related to the focus of my academic research in my Master of Dispute Resolution. Although this is not my first visit to the MENA region, the three months I have stayed in Morocco have been very useful to enhancing my understanding of life and culture here.
This has also renewed my interest in my academic studies. Sometimes it is difficult to stay motivated when all of your learning comes from books. Actually going somewhere makes things more real.
When I decided I wanted to do an international internship, I didn’t have Morocco in my mind as the place I would go. I have an insatiable wanderlust, so I was simply interested in going somewhere different. When I found an internship in Morocco, I was happy to go somewhere else and experience something different. I wanted to test and improve myself, make a positive difference and also hopefully gain a better understanding of the world around me.
Morocco is not a place I gave that much thought to before I realized I was going to go. I had some impressions, and did a little bit of research. Mostly, I learned a lot about the Amazigh culture and movement, through interning at the Voice of the Amazigh Woman. The Amazigh culture is something I was ignorant of before I arrived. I realized that there are a lot of things I don’t know about. There is still so much to explore and learn. My time in Morocco has made me aware of the limitations of my own knowledge.
My time in Morocco has shaped my identity in that it has enhanced my self-awareness. I didn’t learn something new about myself so much as I became more aware of things I already knew. It made me more aware of the fact that I still have much to learn about the world. It has also made me more grateful of the opportunities I have had. Especially the opportunity to travel and to learn things from new people.
I have found myself genuinely touched by the hospitality and the generosity of people here. Despite what the media always depicts, the world is not such a bad place, and there is goodness everywhere. Especially in a culture as individualistic as North America, it can be easy to forget these things.
I have some relatives who never left Cape Breton Island. But because of my grandmother’s hard work, and my mother’s relentless determination I have traveled the globe and I will soon have Master’s degree. Although I am from the East coast of Canada, I now live and study on the West Coast. Even this is further than many of my relatives have ever traveled.
I remember a visit I made to Timoulay. Many of the girls I met there, despite their hard work will never have the opportunity to have a different life than their mothers. I am sure that the 47% of Moroccans who are illiterate, or the Moroccans who are Amazigh and know no other language will have similar limitations in their social mobility.
Indeed, many of the inhabitants of the world will have little opportunity for obtaining the life they want, even despite their best efforts. If I was born in many parts of the world, I would have little chance of a different life than my grandmother had.
So mostly I have learned that there is still a lot to learn. There is also still a tremendous amount of work to be done to promote equality and fairness. Hopefully, when I have finished school my work can contribute to that in some small way.