Staff Spotlight: Younes Benomar

ISA Service-Learning in Meknes, Morocco

Younes, tell us about yourself.

I joined the ISA team as the Service-Learning Coordinator in 2017 with the goal of helping students to integrate, take initiative and assist them in taking the first steps towards having a rewarding experience in Morocco. I was born and raised in Meknes. Besides my native Darija and Standard Arabic, I am fluent in English and French and have some knowledge in Tamazight.

What is your favorite travel memory?

In 2016, I decided to travel throughout Morocco for 15 days with just 50Dh (5 US Dollars). Many people thought it sounded like a crazy idea. There were so many unanswered questions like "where do I sleep?" or "what can I afford to eat ?" and most importantly, "how do I travel the country on just 5 US dollars!?".

As a Moroccan, I know that our culture encourages people to host a wayfarer for three days and provide her/him food and place to sleep. I wanted to examine that through traveling and see to what extent people will help me throughout this crazy trip. Of course, I made it and I truly enjoyed every single second of it.

This trip helped me understand more about my culture, taught me that the way people interact with one another is an eye-opening experience that can only be done in person, and I should stop living life through others’ lens. Get out there and see it by myself!

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I do not know where to start, nor can I even begin putting into words the way that working for ISA has made me grow. Working for ISA has changed me in both dramatic and subtle ways that impact my daily existence.

Being able to step away from my desk and experience what it is like to manage and nurture students while they are abroad has made me more empathetic. It has made me feel more deeply for other people and has put into perspective the highs and lows that individuals face in this world. I love more deeply, and my life is filled with more joy and happiness.

I view the world with more positivity and excitement. It is the unending challenges, the discovery of solutions, and the people I’ve been able to meet, that make my job as a service-learning coordinator fulfilling.

In short, my students have changed my life!

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

There is nothing more rewarding than witnessing major transformation in a student’s behavior, work, and personal life. Seeing students become more socially confident, watching them overcome their fears and witnessing them become more adaptable and adventurous, are just a few things I treasure about my job.

That being said, I have the pleasure of working with wonderful people who dedicate time and energy to help the students gain the skills needed to have a rewarding experience.

My colleagues are always genuinely interested in hearing the students’ stories and helping them to make the right decisions. When they share their own knowledge, watching it have a real impact on the lives of students is just amazing. We are a big family!

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

The relationship between the staff and students is what makes for a successful company. It is this relationship that transforms a student into a family member. The amount of care and concern that our team pours into each and every student is the thing that differentiates us from other study abroad programs.

Building lasting relationships with students not only allows them to feel safe and comfortable while abroad, it creates an international network that will last them a lifetime. Although goodbyes are more difficult because of the strong attachments we build with our students, the memories and friendships made are always worth it.