(By Yousra Nakkach (YES 2012-2013, Morocco, placed by AFS in Chicago, IL)
When I think about the person I was before the YES program, I find it difficult to remember because I feel like a different version of myself. The YES program helped me become a motivated young woman who hopes to lead and support her community. Most importantly, I hope to learn and teach acceptance.
In 2016, I joined the Amideast team in Rabat as an intern. I worked closely with the Study Abroad Program Manager to prepare orientations for the new YES students and assist the American students who were studying Arabic in Morocco. I participated in numerous volunteering activities and organized events for language partners and American students. Additionally, I led a study on Moroccan alumni career choices and the potential impact that the YES program had on their professional trajectories. This internship taught me a lot about project management and how international exchange is vital to create lasting peace between different communities. At every event we organized between American and Moroccan students, I observed how acceptance, joy, and tolerance formed new friendships and understanding. After YES, I pursued other goals that are dear to my heart.
Growing up in a house where science was cherished, I was surrounded by siblings who are all engineers. I was also determined that I would pursue a future career in engineering — more precisely, food and agricultural engineering. I strongly believe in the importance of helping the community, so I worked as an intern at the Agri-Business Department at the United Nations Industrial Development Organization. Introduced to an international team of experts, I had the opportunity to participate in the implementation of many development projects that tackled agricultural issues. My role as an engineering intern involved working with targeted rural cooperatives that were struggling to reach an acceptable production rate due to climate change. I helped create guides to good hygiene and production practices, traceability tools, and quality tests. This experience was not my first when it comes to supporting rural cooperatives.
In August 2018, I volunteered at a female-led organization in my hometown called the Chefchaouen Plants Association. My work focused on improving the quality of their products and guaranteed a continuous follow up on their production line and packaging improvements. To highlight this issue, I wrote an article in English called “Rural women: The Desirable Struggle” to address the neglect these women face despite their hard work. This article was published in the Food Forum in Rabat. Being raised in a small town in northern Morocco gave me the chance to observe rural life, and I realized that women in my region lack support, whether it was about their rights to education, work, or equality. As a human being and a part of my community, I felt the need to act and help these women who struggle daily to make a living.
After I successfully obtained my degree in August 2020, I decided to continue my education in Montpellier, France with a full-ride scholarship. I am currently working at Danone, a multinational food company, as an intern in the Supply Chain Department. Thanks to the YES program, my mind was opened to new possibilities and gave the motivation to serve my community through interests and talents.