My American Dream, from Rabat to Washington DC — Sarah Boutata

Sarah Boutata
August 1, 2018

SARAHBOUTATAI’m a recent architecture graduate from the National School of Architecture in Rabat, Morocco. When I was in school, I was taught that architects were the perfect combination of builders and artists. Today, I am just an artist, and I’d like to speak of the reality of my world.

Two years ago, as I finished my undergraduate degree at the National School of Architecture in Rabat, I needed a job. I found it in an American company.

Two years ago, I also needed an education that goes along with my vision to be a great architect. America gave me access to one of its best universities.

Two years ago, I needed funding to complete my education. America offered me its most prestigious scholarship to achieve my goals.

While I was in Morocco and as I got closer to graduation, my childhood dream of being an architect started showing hindrances. The architecture, engineering and construction industry is a male-dominated field in Morocco. Moreover, architecture firms were not hiring, and when they were, wages were low and the professional practice conditions were poor, too poor for a 6-year program graduate like me. As far back as I can remember, all I wanted to do growing up was to sketch, design and build. However, the Moroccan job market was not an encouraging place for me.

Nonetheless, I started looking for any job that would sustain my life in order to keep my independence. I found an enlightening and needed counselling from the President of the Moroccan American Center and former US Ambassador in Morocco, Edward Gabriel. I shared my story with him. I needed a job to save for a desired US education.

He advised me to apply for Jacobs, a US-headquartered Engineering company that signed a joint-venture agreement with the OCP phosphates company in Casablanca, where working for a US company would enhance my chances for a US education.

Jacobs was one of the few companies hiring at the time and placing a premium on hiring women, as well as offering learning opportunities as part of the work experience. A few months later, after several interviews, Jacobs offered me a job that related to my aspiring architecture career.

Working for Jacobs strengthened my skills and following Ambassador Gabriel’s advice, I dedicated the remaining hours of my days fulfilling the application requirements for the Fulbright Scholarship, my only way to afford an education in the United States. The Moroccan American Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchanges (MACECE) provided a platform for this application and another American NGO, Amideast, supported me in understanding the application process I had to go through in order to go to school in the US.

Unbelievably, I was awarded a Fulbright scholarship; and immediately started applying to universities. Through its wonderful program officers, Amideast provided me with wise advice, encouraged me to follow my dream and patiently walked me through the year-long process. A few months later, I was holding my acceptance letter from Cornell University. It was the happiest day of my life.

My first year at Cornell was a great dive into the fascinating American culture. Many of my professors became mentors and made Ithaca feel like home. This American experience offered opportunities for women and was open to what I culturally brought as a Moroccan to the mosaic of cultures around me. I couldn’t hope for a better environment. And now I’m interning at Jacobs in the US, thanks to my prior experience in Morocco.

I am a living example of US exchange programs and the American dream. American business gave me the opportunity to afford my life in Morocco after graduation and an experience of the American business model. US government exchange programs assisted me through the application process, gave me a chance to find an American supported scholarship so I could afford a US university, and finally helped me find my way to Cornell University, one of the best universities in the world.

This time next year, I will be Fulbright Scholar, and graduate of Cornell University, and an environmentally aware architect, which firmly intends to build sustainable and livable cities. Thank you Morocco for my undergraduate experience and America for nurturing me through a process that created my dream come true.

Leave a Comment


Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join 57 other followers: