James Spencer - After School Sports in Morocco
Why I chose to volunteer in Morocco
I chose to travel abroad and volunteer in Morocco because I very much wanted to learn Arabic. Arabic is a very important language and I’m sure in the future its importance will continue to grow. I wanted to learn the language in an Arabic speaking country so I would be in the context where I could learn and practice my Arabic in different social situations. I also wanted to teach sport to young children, particularly soccer and learn more about Morocco’s culture and history.
My first impressions of Morocco
I was very impressed by Morocco! The people are very friendly and welcoming. My Projects Abroad Coordinator, Adil, picked me up from the airport. He tells you about your placement, what to expect, your home-stay with a Moroccan family and briefly where the other volunteers are from and what they are doing in Morocco.
Upon arriving in Rabat’s medina, it is very busy and the smell of steaming food is quick to greet you. I was very excited when I woke up the next day! I wanted to explore, learn Arabic, begin my sport project as well as meet the other volunteers and staff.
My teaching soccer placement in Sale
I taught soccer in Sale, a small city near Rabat every week day. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I taught soccer with my close family friend Haris who I traveled to Morocco with. Then when Haris had to go back to the UK for the start of college, I worked with a Canadian volunteer called Madison. We did various drills and exercises and then one big match to finish off, as the kids have lots of energy! It was very fun and teaching them new skills and playing with them was a very worthwhile experience.
My Arabic classes
Learning Arabic was one of the main reasons I went to Morocco! It is not an easy language as you have to learn to speak, read and write it. If you are up for the challenge like I was, I definitely recommend it. My teacher, Assia, was very kind and motivating and I think it always helps if your teacher is someone who can inspire you to learn.
The best way of learning was to think for social situations such as in an internet café or at the bank and what you would say. This helped greatly. My homework tasks also helped me to reinforce what I learnt. I now know all the Arabic numbers and I enjoyed it so much. I have even greater motivation that I want to continue learning Arabic.
Staying with my host family in Rabat – Friday is couscous day!
Staying with a traditional Moroccan family helped me to better understand the culture and the different way of life. The family was very kind and I got to try Moroccan food, such as couscous which is always on Fridays! I was also able to practice my Arabic with the family and test my memory from the phrases I had learnt. Importantly I was able to compare my life back home, when I was in Morocco and realize how lucky I am.
My weekends in Morocco
My weekends were really fun and it’s a nice break from learning Arabic and teaching sport. I spent time with the other volunteers and we had some fantastic days at the beach. We dived into the waves and played soccer on the beach. Some boys asked my friends and I if we wanted a game of soccer and so we won 4-2. I scored 3 goals which was nice!
I also went to the “Great Mosque”, Hassan II Mosque in Marrakesh which is remarkable and well worth seeing. While I also went to the beautiful coastal town of Assilah, with its beautifully colored blue and white medina. Assilah is also worth a weekend trip.
There is so much to see in Rabat! From the Souks in the Medina with their vast range of spices, local Moroccan’s frying food and to the sellers of clothes and soccer kits, there is something for everyone in the Medina. The experience is amazing, the souks may be busy but they are sometimes exciting and worth exploring.
Outside of the Medina, my friends and I very much enjoyed the Roman ruins of Chellah. Le Tour de Hassan and the Maussoleum of Mohammed V are fantastic sites and very interesting. I study History and Politics in London and learning about Morocco’s history and King Mohammed V and Mohammed VI is very interesting.
Every Wednesday in Rabat we had a meeting. It allows the coordinators to check everyone is okay, talk about our placements and to socialize. On my first meeting, we got to play pool and have a coke which was fun. On other weekly meetings, we went to a Lebanese restaurant with very nice food and after Ramadan we met at a homestay family and had dinner, and talked about why we were in Morocco and what we wanted to achieve. It is a very good way to get know each other and it helped me a lot.
Other placements and new friends
I learnt Arabic and taught soccer in Morocco, but I know my friends who did other placements very much enjoyed theirs, such as teaching English, working at the children’s center, learning French and helping disabled people with activities. In fact on my second day, we were invited to see the kids at the children’s center and we had fun playing with the kids, dancing and talking to them. My advice is to choose something that appeals to you. There are lots of good placements to choose from.
I very much enjoyed spending time with the other volunteers. Usually we would hang out at the Wifi internet café and have a drink, go to the gardens/park, have dinner together, go to the beach and play soccer, swim. I had so much fun in Morocco with everything I did and there’s always something to do. The weather was very warm in summer in August around 30 degrees which I like personally, so you can always go out if you wish.
Learning about Ramadan and Moroccan culture
I arrived in Morocco during the last week of Ramadan. My close family friend, Haris, arrived before me. One thing both of us felt was that it was a very religious and spiritual time in Morocco. It’s different to being in England, so observing Ramadan in a Muslim country taught me a lot about the different values and culture.
Going to Morocco was one of the best things I’ve ever done! I thoroughly enjoyed learning Arabic and coaching soccer to young Moroccan children. The support from Projects Abroad coordinators is second to none they always look out for you and help you. My Arabic teacher was very motivating as well and the soccer placement had teachers that were very friendly too.
The opportunity also made me learn about a different culture and way of life, especially during Ramadan a very spiritual event. I was able to enhance my team working skills and make some fantastic new friends with the other volunteers. I would absolutely recommend going to Morocco!!!