From staffing a music festival in the Sahara to walking across the Morocco-Spain border by foot, this gap year program provided me with many unique, enriching, and unforgettable experiences.
Specifically, this 12-week trip consisted of well-balanced visits to natural, rural, suburban, and urban communities. Most of the time, we were either living with a homestay family in an urban city while attending language classes, volunteering with a community-oriented NGO in a suburb, relaxing and sightseeing in tourist-heavy areas, or exploring the natural wonders of Spain and Morocco (including the Spanish countryside, the Camino de Santiago, the Atlas Mountains, and the Sahara Desert).
This blend of experiences in a wide range of communities helped us gain an educated and well-rounded understanding of the communities in which we were immersed. Nevertheless, because we visited so many places in a short period of time (roughly 25 cities in 90 days), my overall experience was very fast-paced, which sometimes made it difficult to keep energy and motivation levels high.
Please note that-- despite the constant travel and unfamiliarity of new places-- I never felt unsafe at any point during the trip. The security measures taken by Carpe Diem and the relatively safe atmospheres of Spain and Morocco made for a safe adventure.
To me, this trip was especially unique because of the diversity of experiences that we had. Through classroom lessons, NGO volunteer work, outdoor adventures, sightseeing, and meeting new friends and (host) family, we learned about a plethora of topics, including immigration, environmental sustainability, the relationship between rural and urban communities, foreign language (Darija Arabic and Spanish), permaculture, religion, history, cuisine, and women’s empowerment. Yes, we really did focus on ALL of those topics.
This broad exposure gave us the opportunity to explore a variety of fields before having to specialize in our educations and careers. However, for this same reason, I would warn potential applicants that they can’t expect to become an expert on religion or learn to speak Arabic fluently; instead, you will dip your toes into each of these topics and get a well-rounded understanding of Moroccan and Spanish cultures.
Indeed, what I found especially impactful about this trip is that we learned about all of these topics through the lens of both Spain and Morocco. We never simply learned about the politics, language, or economy of one culture. Rather, we took a more holistic approach to these topics by considering the complex relationship between North Africa and Europe and how this interconnectedness influences these topics on a global scale.
Overall, despite the sometimes fast-paced and varied nature of this trip, I would highly recommend it to anyone interested.