We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.
The following is a pre-departure post Unofficial Ambassador Amber Watson penned before heading to Morocco. For the last three weeks, Amber has been busy teaching English at the Azrou Center for Community Development. Look for more posts from Amber in the coming days.
Re-blogged at the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy!
For the second summer in a row I have decided to abandon my hometown: to pack up my bags and fly across the big pond to the Arab World. I’m sure by now my parents have caught on to this newfound passion of mine and that only makes them worry more, not necessarily because of where I’m going but solely because I AM going. Far far away. And I LOVE it.
But why do I love it? I hate to admit this, but if you had asked me 4 years ago what countries were in the Arab World I could have named 3 at most, despite the war in Iraq and all its catastrophes. Ever since my entry into college, it’s been a three-ring circus of Arabic exams and Islamic studies. Why I initially chose Arabic is not what is important; what kept me interested is the focus. The real attraction is about being able to understand the misunderstood. Slowly but surely by increasing awareness you can start to eliminate the toxic misconceptions that we carry everywhere, first with your own and then with the misconceptions of those around you.
This is what America’s Unofficial Ambassadors is about and this is why I applied. It’s about making connections, forming relationships, and defying stereotypes through service. I’m going to be spending the next six weeks (starting Thursday the 27th) in Ifrane, Morocco teaching English at the Azrou Center and I’m excited beyond words. I’m also extremely nervous. I spent 2 months last summer in Cairo, Egypt with another service program, but no two programs, no two trips, and no two places are ever the same. I’m nervous about having 16 students rely on me to further their education, I’m nervous about learning Darija (the Moroccan dialect), and I’m even nervous about whether my roommate will like me. For now though, I think I’ll focus on that feeling of excitement that’s bubbling up inside. Besides, that rush of anxiety is an essential part of stepping outside of your box into the unknown.