Dear Wellesley: Malak AlSayyad ’19 Drops Us a Line about Her Summer Internship in Morocco
In the first installment of our 2017 Summer Postcard Series, Malak AlSayyad ’19 writes from Rabat, Morocco, where she’s participating in a Global Citizenship Internship through Wellesley’s Career Education. Her internship is supported by the Susan Saltzbart Kilsby ’80 South Africa Internship Gift.
Morocco has been so good to me. It has given my senses so much beauty to take in, from the familiar smell of cumin in the marketplace in Rabat, the country’s capital, to the vibrant colors of the walls in Marrakesh. This place has warmed my heart with the sounds of laughter and the love that fills the air when friends and families come together for holidays. And after New England deprived me of my favorite source of energy—the sun—Morocco has generously allowed me to soak in as much of its rays as I want. It has even given me a flip-flop tan line that will probably stick around for the whole summer. But that’s OK!
I find it hard to believe, but I am now more than halfway through my internship at the Center for Cross Cultural Learning (CCCL) and my time here in Rabat. The CCCL provides educational and cultural opportunities that teach people of all ages about Morocco’s rich heritage. It hosts a variety of study abroad programs that come to Morocco and offers language courses, lectures, art exhibits, and musical performances for visiting international students and local Moroccans. CCCL’s main office is housed in a stunning traditional Moroccan building in the beautiful Medina (old city) of Rabat. The CCCL’s Wilfrid Rollman Library, named after a former Wellesley professor and old friend of the center, is only a short walk from there. I live with my caring host family just five minutes away, still within the Medina, which was built in the 17th century and is surrounded by walls that hold within them a bustling marketplace and some of Morocco’s most beautiful people, traditions, and homes, and unbelievably delicious foods.
Early each morning, I walk through the narrow paths of the labyrinthine Medina. I’ve learned the way so well by now that I no longer need to count my turns or pull out Google Maps. I like that streets in the Medina are referred to as zanka (زنقة) in Moroccan Arabic—standard Arabic, too—because in my native Egyptian dialect, we more commonly use this word to say tight or crowded, both of which are very fitting to the Medina once everyone is up and about.
I split my work day between the CCCL’s library in the morning and the main building, where I help with designing, proofreading, and preparing info packs and brochures in the afternoon. At the library, I mostly organize the CCCL’s diverse collection of books and reward myself after each section by reading a page out of a book that caught my eye, everything from the writings of Moroccan feminist Fatema Mernissi to instructional books on the art of Arabic calligraphy. Working at thfe library has taught me a lot about organizational work and has challenged me to find innovative ways to keep the library space interesting, organized, and accessible. I also assist my supervisor, Rajae, who works in library services and IT maintenance, in running the CCCL’s social media pages, which has given me a chance to practice my professional social media skills in both Arabic and English. One of the greatest experiences I’ve had working here was attending and documenting an evening of madih, an Islamic musical and vocal performance of Sufi origin. The performance started off calmly, but had everyone on their feet by the end of the night.
I really enjoy the work I do at the center and I’m grateful for the very supportive staff, but my time here would not have been the same without the amazing friends that I have made. I was lucky: On my first day in Rabat, I stayed at an Airbnb whose host was kind enough to introduce me to his friends, a diverse, open-minded group of people who have welcomed me into their homes over the past few weeks and have become very dear to my heart. I love spending my free time with them, whether we’re breaking the Ramadan fast on the beach, comparing Egyptian and Moroccan dialects, or eating home-cooked Italian food while talking in the seven different languages spoken within our group.
And last but definitely not least, I am forever grateful to have spent my time in Morocco with my one and only Wellesley sib and fellow intern at CCCL, Adeline du Crest ’19, who has been my work and weekend travel buddy, from the Gnaoua Festival in Essouira to the port of Tangier—and many cities in between!
I can’t wait to make more unforgettable memories in this beautifully diverse country!
See you later, Swelles.
Malak AlSayyad is a cinema and media studies major. She will be taking over Wellesley’s Snapchat account Monday 7/17–Friday 7/21 and sharing details about her daily life and internship in Morocco. Add Wellesley on Snapchat to follow along.