Why you should volunteer. By Margo Harvey

Authored by:
Oumaima Farik


            Coming into the program, I wasn’t even expecting to do an internship. In pre-departure talks with Lynn, I’d been advised to volunteer instead of the internship, because the volunteering position was a lower time commitment, and according to her there were plenty of positions available that coincided with my interest in human rights and didn’t require me to put together a whole application. When I got to Rabat it was a different story. In initial meetings with Imami, it seemed like there were very few human rights NGO’s available at all, and even fewer that offered volunteering positions (or didn’t require French language skills, which I definitely don’t have). One of the major reasons I chose CIEE Rabat was the opportunity to work in the field of human rights, so I tentatively agreed to intern, even though it’s a much bigger time commitment. At the beginning I honestly was very overwhelmed. I didn’t think that any NGO would want me interning there over the other program participants (who’d had months to put together a cover letter and resume, as opposed to my three days), and I worried that the time commitment would impede me from being able to travel independently, make it much more difficult for friends or family to visit, and take away much needed time to unwind or explore. I seriously debated backing out, but told myself I’d at least go to the first meeting at the office before I made any final decisions.

            After some deliberation, I ended up deciding to stay in the internship. I figured that the experience I’d gain outweighed the concerns I had, the work was interesting, and my supervisor seemed like a very nice woman. Luckily, I haven’t really had to face any major challenges. I’ve been able to ask for clarification when I’m unclear about my tasks, and although there’s a slight language barrier, people at the office speak enough English (and I understand enough French and Darija) to communicate effectively. I don’t really have any experience writing grants (a major part of my tasks there), but I was able to talk to my dad (who writes a ton) to get some tips, and my coworkers are also willing to help. I haven’t noticed the challenging cultural differences some of my peers have in our office, and the work is interesting.

            I’m still a little concerned about the time commitment, especially as classes start to speed up and we start having major assignments due, but I know that there isn’t really much wiggle room there, and I know I’ll be able to make the schedule work for me somehow. My office is also very flexible about hours and as long as the work gets done, they’re understanding of our needs as students. I’m not sure how I’ll feel about this at the end of the semester, but for now at least I’m glad that I decided to stay with the internship, and I hope that I’ll continue to feel that way throughout the semester.

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