Staff Spotlight : Younes Benomar, ISA Meknes Service-Learning Coordinator

Man sitting in front of Meknes tile wall

Born and raised in Meknes, Morocco, Younes joined the ISA Meknes Team in 2017 as the Service-Learning Coordinator. Passionate about photography, video editing and his work at ISA, he’s also quite the polyglot! Besides his native Darija and Standard Arabic, he is fluent in English and French, and also has some knowledge in Tamazight.  We recently checked in with Younes to reflect on the past, present and future of study abroad in Meknes.

How have you been coping during the pandemic?

Let’s be honest, so much related to coronavirus (COVID-19) is outside of our control. Not just the pandemic itself, but all the other aspects of life that were impacted by it, from work life to socializing.  Living through this pandemic is tough. We never experienced this before and we are just making things up as we go along. I personally felt a bit lost, confused, anxious and worried about everything.

Screenshot of facebook post about video

And just like everyone, I needed to come up with a plan to get through these hard times. Accepting the uncertainty of the future, while at the same time identifying things in my life I can control, was a good place to start. I tried to take the opportunity to carefully consider what I really want to add back into my life and recognize that dealing with this challenge can make us stronger. One of the things I want to share that helped me during the pandemic is to take initiatives to help in this pandemic. I created a video to showcase how germs spread as well as a proof to anyone who doubts the science behind social distancing. The reaction to the video was very positive as it reached over 70k people in Morocco!

As the coronavirus continues to remain a threat to the health of my community, I try to remind myself to stay strong, stay focused and take the necessary steps to ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone around me.

Check out Younes’ video below! Please note that because it was created for a Moroccan audience, it is in Arabic.

What do you like best about being an ISA Service-Learning Coordinator?

The relationships created between the ISA staff and students is definitely my favorite part of being an ISA Service-Learning coordinator. It is this relationship that transforms a student into a family member. The amount of care and concern that our Meknes team pours into every student are the things that I value the most. In addition to this, there is nothing more rewarding than being part of a major transformation in students’ self-awareness, confidence, and personal growth.

Group photo of Younes and students

What is your favorite Moroccan dish?

Not giving a second thought, Seafood Bastilla is my absolute favorite Moroccan dish. It is where sweet meets savory. This dish is one of the more flavorful, unique Moroccan foods. This sweet and savory thin pastry is stuffed with seafood (although chicken or pigeon meat is another option), and is spiced with cinnamon. A dusting of powdered sugar covers the top, making this meal as beautiful as it is tasty.

Tell us something interesting about Meknes that people may not know.

It wasn’t long ago that if you wanted to eat out with friends at a local restaurant, you had to buy and bring your own ingredients! For example, if we wanted Tajine for dinner, we’d go to a butcher to buy meat, then stop by the market to get all our favorite veggies, and then go to the bakery to buy bread. From there, we’d take everything to a public oven where they would prepare and cook our meal. Then they would deliver it to the local restaurant where we planned to hang out. It was a full journey just to have dinner and super cheap compared to now. We only paid a tip and it wasn’t uncommon to ask the person who prepared your food to join you. Unfortunately, there is only one area inside the Meknes medina where you can still experience such tradition.

What does service-learning in Meknes mean?

There is no argument that service-learning is becoming one of the main pillars of Meknes. Service-Learning in Meknes gives individuals the opportunity to not only discover their hidden talents, but also the possibility to refine it through working with local NGOs and institutions. We have the ability to discuss and see firsthand social, cultural and educational issues in Morocco. Service-Learning in Meknes provides a safe space for individuals to enhance their interpersonal skills as well as gaining important experience working with diverse members of the Meknes community.

What excites you most about students returning to Meknes?

I cannot even put into words how excited I am about students returning to Meknes. Working for ISA has changed me in both dramatic and subtle ways that impact my daily existence. I do miss so much the unending challenges, the discovery of solutions, and the people I’ve been able to meet. Being able to interact with students again and experience what it is like to supervise and nurture them while they are abroad is what makes my job fulfilling and rewarding. There is nothing more rewarding than witnessing major transformation in a student’s behavior, work, and personal life. Seeing students become more adaptable and adventurous are things I am really excited about.

Want to learn more about Meknes? Request more information below!

Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.

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