Raquel Gibson-Starks

Chandler, AZ | Child Development | 2018

Raquel Gibson-Starks is a junior from Chandler, Arizona. She is in Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development and will be graduating with a degree in child development in the Spring of 2018. This summer, Raquel will be serving in Rabat, Morocco alongside local organizations. Raquel is looking forward to attending pre-trip seminars that will help her learn about the community she will be living in and how to best serve them. She hopes to focus on empowering women and instilling a passion for learning in young students.

To read more about Raquel’s experiences in Morocco, please visit her page on the Morocco 2017 Cohort blog.

Blog Post One: 

Serving in other countries can be equally exciting and terrifying. When I found out that I would be teaching English I was worried. I was concerned about my skills, understanding cultural differences, and a potential language barrier. This week I began teaching English to a group of students ranging from 7 to 16 years of age with English experience ranging from 0 to 5 years . I tried to channel my inner language teacher this week and reflected back to the five years of French that I have taken between high school and college. I recalled teachers and professors who were always hopping around full of energy and who used games and songs to make learning a new language seem less daunting. It was humbling to realize that part of teaching, especially language classes, is opening yourself up to embarrassment and making mistakes so your students understand that mistakes are a part of learning. My students particularly enjoy when I attempt to say things that I have learned in Darija (Moroccan dialect of Arabic) and waste no time correcting me.

 

This short week of teaching has made me extremely appreciative of all of my former language teachers, especially my French teachers since I have mainly been using French to communicate to my class.

 

The other exciting part of this week was meeting my host family. I along with my two housemates Rita and Agatha,decided to partake in fasting for Ramadan for the past five days. Fasting has been a wonderful experience and has also been a spiritual experience for me. A part of my own faith is love and an important part of love is meeting other people where they are at and trying to understand how they experience life. Fasting and feeling the joy that comes with breaking fast (called Iftar) and staying up for dinner at midnight have all given me insight into the lives of my host family.

 

I am looking forward to the next five weeks in Morocco and anxious to see what else I will learn about Moroccan culture, teaching, and global citizenship.


Final Blog Post:

Living and learning and Morocco has challenged me to be flexible and adaptable in ways that I had not anticipated.

 

I enjoy the work I do with my NGO in Morocco, but my service partner (Austin) and I have experienced a constantly changing schedule and new students almost every week. We have had to learn how to quickly accommodate students who join our class in the middle of the week or sometimes in the middle of  a class. Being reflective has become even more important for the continued success of my students because it is crucial that I reflect equally on my successful and failed lessons. Assessing my students’ progress has been a unique challenge as well as I have no copy machine and have therefore had to hand write all assessments in a combination of English and French. I gladly accept the challenge of teaching because watching my students learn a new concept and then use it correctly a couple days later is such a satisfying feeling. I also enjoying having Austin as my teaching buddy because I have someone to create lesson plans with, to brainstorm different ways to engage our students, and we can laugh at our teaching fails together.

 

Being abroad has reminded me that adaptation to new environments does not happen all at once and that it is okay that I may adjust to certain aspects of Moroccan living sooner than others. One of the harder things for me to adapt to has been trying to view what initially felt like chaos and disorganization as a system that works effectively for Moroccans and for me once I accept it. One example of a system that I had  difficulty understanding is my daily commute to my service site. Monday thru Friday I leave my homestay around 8:50 and venture to Bab Chellah, a taxi hub in Rabat, and attempt to get myself into one of the taxis heading to Mini Park. The taxis at Bab Chellah seem to have no rhyme or reason for where they are parked, but at the same time every driver can point you to another driver who is heading to the place you need to go. Now that I have been in Morocco for more than three weeks I can say that the taxi situation seems less chaotic and that I can appreciate that I was the one who needed to adjust to this system that already works effectively for Moroccans.

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