Imad, Maria and Fatine, three Moroccan students with different personal backgrounds and careers embody the successful partnership between the Erasmus+ programme and Morocco. It's thanks to the programme that they were able to spend time studying in European universities.
Erasmus, which became Erasmus+ in 2014, is an ambitious European Union programme dedicated to the fields of education, higher education, professional training, youth and sport. Its "higher education" and "youth" sections are open to countries outside Europe.
We would like to introduce you to the three students, and the programme that provided them with exciting personal experiences, full of memories and emotion.
When Imad, a 24-year-old student, entered Abdelmalek Saâdi University in Tangier in northern Morocco for the first time, the idea of getting an Erasmus+ scholarship had never crossed his mind. This student from Tetouan with a keen interest in IT and new technologies finished his university studies brilliantly, easily obtaining his engineering degree. Ambitious and sociable, Imad also has a great sense of humour. He combines social and technical skills with talent. It was no surprise that Imad obtained an "Erasmus Mundus Joint Master" excellence scholarship. Such excellence scholarships have been offered to the most deserving Moroccan students and PhD students since 2004.
The scholarship opened the doors to international success for him. The result: Imad studied for 10 months at the Collège des Sciences et Technologies in Bordeaux, France. He settled easily into his new world. "What has stayed with me the most, is my friendship with Mrs Danielle, a French septuagenarian. She was my landlady during my stay in Bordeaux," Imad told us, not without emotion.
He added: "It was a special relationship, like mother and son, with an intense emotional impact which became stronger despite the terrorist attacks of 13 November 2015 in Paris", which coincided with Imad's stay in France.
The young student had very interesting and constructive discussions with Mrs Danielle about Islam. "The exchange with Mrs Danielle was productive. We were very happy because the stereotypes and clichés broke down during our discussions," explained Imad, who left his landlady with tears in his eyes. They have stayed in touch since.
Imad returned to Morocco with unforgettable memories after successfully completing this course of studies. He registered at Abdelmalek Saâdi University again when he returned.
The Erasmus+ programme received a budget of more than €14 billion for the 2014-2020 period, a 40% increase over 2007-2013. It will enable over five million young people from Europe and partner countries to benefit from Erasmus+ activities. Morocco is one of those countries.
Here is another example of the successful partnership between the Erasmus+ programme and Morocco.
Twenty-six-year-old Maria, a computer science PhD student at Ibn Tofail University in Kenitra near Rabat, received a scholarship from a consortium of higher education establishments. The programme receives €2 million from the Delegation of the European Union to Morocco as part of the "Réussir le Statut avancé" programme.
It was an incredible opportunity for Maria. "It was a dream come true for me. I always wanted to discover other universities," acknowledged a very happy Maria before taking her flight to Normandy in France for a 10-month study programme at the Institut National des Sciences Appliquées in Rouen.
After receiving her Master’s in Information Technology from the University of Settat, Maria signed up for the PhD programme in the same field at Ibn Tofail University. The Erasmus+ scholarship gave her university studies a new boost.
"At the Institut National des Sciences Appliquées de Rouen, in France, I discovered a new world where the scientific and the human are compatible. They're in complete harmony," noted Maria, impressed by her new university experience.
The young student fit in easily. "I met many students, from many different backgrounds," added Maria, who really appreciated the standard of the facilities and the friendly atmosphere enhanced by the meals shared by students.
"This was all new to me. I didn't ignore the rule. I invited my friends to share a very different Moroccan dish. Stuffed pasta that combines cheese, seafood and chicken," explained Maria – a meal happily shared with her friends who congratulated her.
Over 900 Moroccan beneficiaries, accounting for 12.6% of the students from the Neighbourhood region, received Erasmus programme scholarships between 2007 and 2014. The numbers for Erasmus+ are even higher: 906 scholarships in 2015 to Moroccan students, PhD candidates and teachers, and probably as many in 2016. And this doesn't include the European students who spend time in Morocco: 282 scholarships in 2015 and 363 in 2016, which also contribute to enriching the Moroccan higher education system.
Fatine, a PhD student in biology from Ibn Tofail University in Kenitra is a product of the programme. She successfully defended her thesis on epidemiology and food poisoning and also had an extra asset: foreign language skills. "As a Spanish-speaker, I grabbed the opportunity offered by Erasmus+ to spend time at Santiago de Compostela University in Galicia. It's a region I'd heard about, but had never travelled to," noted Fatine joyfully.
Friendly and persevering, Fatine became friends with a Lithuanian student. "It was a very intense exchange which became a good friendship," she confided. Fatine also fully dedicated herself to research, making a scientific contribution to pain management published in a prestigious international science journal.
"My time at the University of Santiago de Compostela was a great opportunity to appreciate the richness of student life, the quality of the courses and module management," explained Fatine when she returned to Morocco, where she obtained a position as a part-time lecturer at the University of Casablanca.
Three different profiles, three different journeys: those of Moroccan students Imad, Maria and Fatine. Three experiences enriched thanks to the partnership between the Erasmus+ programme and Morocco, a programme which gave them a precious opportunity to travel, learn, exchange and experience university and student life elsewhere.
And in a world in greater need than ever of dialogue and understanding, it is a programme that stands out in its role as a bridge between different cultures and different horizons.
Text and photos: Safi Naciri
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