Expat Interview with Eleanor, US Expat TEFL in Morocco

Published: 22 Oct at 2 PM
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Filed: Interviews,Morocco
Eleanor is a teacher in Casablanca, Morocco who is finding her way through what you might call her freshman year of life. She just graduated from college in the US, and is now living in Morocco for the second time, after having spent six months there as an exchange student. When she is not teaching English to children, she enjoys exploring Morocco, learning about other cultures, and trying to cook new kinds of vegetables. She will be in Morocco for at least the next two years, and documents any interesting discoveries on her blog, We'll Always have Casablanca (see listing here)

Meet Eleanor - US expat TEFL in Morocco
Meet Eleanor - US expat TEFL in Morocco

Here's the interview with Eleanor...

Where are you originally from?

In which country and city are you living now?
Casablanca, Morocco

How long have you lived in Morocco and how long are you planning to stay?
I've been in Morocco for a total of eight months, though not consecutively. I lived in Rabat for two months when I was studying at an Arabic school and in Ifrane for four months when I enrolled at Al Akhawayn University as an exchange student. I then went back to Chicago for about eight months while I finished my final semester of college, and now I've been in Casablanca for two months, where I am a teacher. My contract is for two years, so I'll be here for at least that long...and after that, who knows!

Why did you move to Morocco and what do you do?
The first time I went to Morocco it was for Arabic and to have the experience of enrolling at a foreign university instead of traveling with a group of Americans. The second time I came here was because I loved it so much, I couldn't imagine myself living anywhere else!

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
It was a whole lot harder the first time around. It took a long time to find close friends and settle in. Last year, I was really interested in learning about Moroccan culture and Islam and in traveling around the country as a tourist, but now I'm more focused on work and on feeling at home here. It's certainly been difficult to adjust to being in a room of sixteen young children every day, but that's true anywhere in the world! In terms of daily life, it's possible to find pretty much anything in Casablanca, from my usual cosmetics to several varieties of chocolate chips, so it hasn't been too difficult to adjust in that regard.

Mint tea is a staple of the Moroccan diet
Mint tea is a staple of the Moroccan diet
Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I'm lucky to have some friends from Al Akhawayn University in addition to my circle of friends from my job. I spend time with work friends on weekdays, and travel to another city to spend time with my best friend on weekends. It's great to have a break from talking about teaching!

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
My favorite thing to do is shop for vegetables, but perhaps that doesn't appeal to everyone! I love cooking, so I like to explore new kinds of produce and new brands of foods. The beach is also nice, and there's a lot of it. Shopping is pretty good, because you can go to outdoor markets and get cheap, low quality goods, or go to the mall where there are lots of designer stores...although that's more for window shopping! There are also a lot of religious traditions to discover, such as church services of many kinds, Sufi ceremonies, and the biggest mosque in Africa.

What do you enjoy most about living in Morocco?
That's a hard question. I wrote a blog entry about this (it's called Why I Like Living in Morocco), so I guess that sums up all of my favorite things (friendly people, many languages, and history and culture), so I'm not sure I could narrow it down. There are a lot of things I like about Morocco as a country, but right now I think I'm happiest about the relationships I have here. And maybe also about the vegetable seller on my street that occasionally gives me free mystery vegetables.

The Hassan II mosque in Casablanca is the biggest mosque in Africa
The Hassan II mosque in Casablanca is the biggest mosque in Africa
How does the cost of living in Morocco compare to the USA?
It's definitely cheaper. My rent, utilities, groceries, and travel costs are all lower.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
It's kind of hard to walk around in Casa because it's dusty and dirty, the sidewalks are broken, and motorbikes whiz by way too quickly. I still walk pretty much, but I do wish it were a little more pleasant!

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Be open to Moroccan culture and don't be afraid to plunge in! For the most part, people will be willing to talk to you, especially if you can speak some Arabic or French. Remember that as in any place, there are really wonderful aspects of the culture and the city, but there are also problems you'll have to deal with. And to really get an idea of what it is like, I highly recommend reading my blog ;)

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
The first time I came here it was really hard to find a group of friends at the beginning. This time around, it's been challenging to adjust to my job. This is my first year in the "real world," since I just graduated from college, so it's a bit of a shock to be at work for eight hours every day, especially since I'm new to teaching.

This would be a good place to buy a chicken
This would be a good place to buy a chicken
When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
That's way too far in the future for me to consider! I hope to go to grad school after working here, so chances are I won't really move home then anyway (sorry, Mom!).

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Learn the language! This is really the only way to feel like you really live somewhere instead of just visiting.
  2. Keep doing the things you loved to do at home. If you had hobbies, exercise routines, or a religious community, seek that out in your new home. It will help you feel like you are still yourself even though you're in a new place, and you might meet people with similar interests.
  3. Be open to learning new things, but don't forget your own values. You'll be exposed to many new ideas and ways of life, but you don't have to agree with all of them.
  4. Remember that it's hard for everyone to adjust to expat life. Sometimes little setbacks build up, so it's important to stay calm and remember that it will get better with time.
  5. Be patient. I mean this both on a grand scale (understanding that it takes time to build relationships and feel at home), but also on a small scale...if your train is supposed to leave at 6:15, there's a pretty good chance that it won't start moving until around 7:45 if you live in Morocco.

The Casablanca tramway is generally more efficient than going by camel
The Casablanca tramway is generally more efficient than going by camel
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I write posts every time I learn something new or observe something interesting relating to culture, language, or religion. For quite a while it seemed that the only reader I was going to have would be my mother, but each entry is hopefully interesting to other people too! Some of the topics I write about are teaching English as a foreign language, interfaith dialogue, and cultural differences, which are all fascinating topics to explore in this country.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Leave me a comment on my blog. I'd love to hear from you!

About the author

Expat Blog ListingEleanor is an American expat living in Morocco. Blog description: I am a teacher at an American school in Casablanca, Morocco, where I teach English to young children. I studied at a university in Morocco last year, and am happy to be back here and to learn more about language, culture, and religion.
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