Our lectures in Rabat were held in the heart of the Medina, at the Center for Cross-Cultural Learning (CCCL). Over our five day stay, the lecture I enjoyed the most was by Professor Abdelhay Moudden of Mohammed V who spoke to us about the recently formed Council for Moroccans Abroad. The council was commissioned in 2004 and 2005 to interview Moroccan citizens around the world to assess their needs in order for them to be able to give back to their country as expatriates.
The reason this lecture spoke to me is because I am an expatriate myself. Twelve years of my life were spent growing up in Mexico City, Mexico. Before this mosaic, I never thought of myself as an “immigrant,” rather, I was a “foreigner.” The discussion between these two words was brought up by several of the professors we met on our trip. “Immigrant” carries a negative connotation, reserved for those who “steal jobs” and are accused of being illegal, while “foreigner” is used for those that are more similar to the citizens of their host country. To give an example, in France, a Moroccan is an “immigrant” but a European citizen of another country is a “foreigner.”
But I am an immigrant, I am a foreigner. I have lived in Mexico for 12 years but that will never make me Mexican. I could easily relate with the problems of integration that Moroccans faced while abroad.
As he spoke about all the Moroccans who move abroad in order to find work because of the lack of opportunity for employment in Morocco, I began to wonder if there are Moroccans that make a deliberate choice to live abroad or that are employed in jobs that require moving. In fact, the professor answered yes by giving the example of his sister who lives in Canada because of her husband’s job. However, the family’s elevated social status is what allows them this type of mobility. Now they are trying to balance the struggles of raising children in a non-Muslim country. When this is the case, the family faces the problem of how much to integrate; how do you continue to incorporate customs and culture from your country of origin while adopting new traditions in your host country?
I identified with all of these issues in one way or another. Since I moved to Mexico when I was so young, I automatically soaked up parts of the culture that have now become a part of me. However, since I grew up with American parents and continued to visit the United States while growing up, I never felt like too much of an outsider in my own country.
I enjoy being able to have this perspective when listening to others’ stories of migration. It has made me realize that my story is a story worth telling too.