By: Evan, NSLI-Y Morocco, Academic Year 2013 - 2014

This past week [March 30-April 2, 2014], I participated in the USA-Maghreb Youth Debates, a four day event in which university students from the U.S. and the countries of the Maghreb region [Tunis, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Mauritania] came together in teams of four to debate current political and societal issues. The issues were both international in breadth and specific to the Maghreb region, and took place in three languages: English, French, and Arabic. The topics ranged from the theoretical, such as “Freedom is more important than prosperity,” to the practical, like “There would be significant economic benefits to both countries from re-opening the border between Algeria and Morocco.”

The participants knew the 15 possible topics beforehand; however, they didn’t know which would be picked or which side they would be assigned to until the debate started. The first two days at the Ecole Nationale de Commerce et Gestation in Casablanca consisted of random team match-ups. The semifinals started on the third day at the Ecole Nationale de Architecture in Rabat, and were based on teams’ records from the previous days. The finals were held on the fourth day at the National Library in Rabat. Though my team didn’t make it to the finals, I immensely enjoyed the debates. Although I wasn’t able to participate in Arabic (I joined the U.S. team as a last minute substitute for a debater in the English division who had dropped out), I found that researching and having to debate using opinions which weren’t my own gave me far greater insight around those issues, and even changed my point of view in some cases. In addition to that, this debate competition surrounded me with many Moroccans with whom I shared interests, some of whom have now become the best friends that I have in Morocco.

Watch Evan's interview in the video above; Evan appears at min. 2:08.