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The minor “Culture and Society in Morocco” in the time of Corona,

Lara is a student of International Studies in Leiden. This autumn, she followed the minor “Culture and Society in Morocco”, in Leiden. She shares some of her experiences with us in this testimonial.

Telling about this minor seems even more compelling in the circumstances of a global pandemic, as everything seems to be cancelled, or at least adapted. That is the case. Our minor at NIMAR could not take place in Morocco, we had to stay in the Netherlands instead.

Despite the limitations, this minor offered me new experiences, knowledge, and growth, on an academic but also personal level (are those ever independent from one another anyways?).

I could talk about the alternative ways the teachers have found to ‘convert’ the curriculum from the previous years to this new format, or about the experience of learning Darija, or all the knowledge acquired about Morocco, but each one of these would require its own paragraph.

Therefore, after making a selection, I decided I will focus on my experience with the field research, and I hope to walk you through the key points that made it the unique and precious experience it has been.

Quite early in the semester, we were asked to select a topic we wanted to research and write about. The choice is so broad, as anything can be researched, which gives so much freedom to explore topics we are interested in whilst staying into the field of academic research! Eventually, I decided to partner up with a fellow student and research the environmental awareness and behavior of residents in the Netherlands with a Moroccan background. Being our research population in the Netherlands, we were able to physically meet up with some of our interviewees in diverse settings such as their houses, schools, community centers, and markets. Nevertheless, we also experienced what it is like to carry out online interviews and focus groups.

The research looked a big and intimidating project at first, but thanks to the lectures and seminars we had since the beginning of the semester, I believe we were guided step by step into it and provided the tools necessary to carry out the research. We met and spoke to so many interesting people thanks to our project, which provided us with a lot of useful data, but also offered us so much insight into new topics, challenged our beliefs, and taught us various new things. I cannot express how exciting, challenging and rewarding it has been to get into the flow of doing qualitative research. On this note, I want to specify that there is no prior research experience needed to join this minor! Within the group of students that joined this year, we are all so different with different ethnic and study backgrounds, which range from International Studies to Computer Science Engineering. This makes the minor so interesting as all of us have different perspectives and skills to bring to the table.

To conclude, I hope this testimony has been anyhow useful for students interested in joining the minor! If you are interested, I highly encourage you to reach out to NIMAR for any further questions or explanations!