First blog entry
The journey begins…
6am, Saturday 8th of June, the alarm rings. I pack some last stuff in the suitcase and off we go. My father took me to Munich airport, but due to the floods in Central Europe a part of the motorway in Germany was closed, which we had not accounted for so we were quite stressed out about it first. Luckily, after 40 minutes off the motorway we could go back on it and we arrived at the airport on time. I had two planes to take: the first one was to Lisbon and the second one to Casablanca, my final destination.
I systematically chose a window seat from which I could see the city from above and I was so astonished that I could simply not close my mouth for a while. I had seen Barcelona from above, but compared to Casablanca it seems like a mediocre town. The dimensions were unbelievable. After landing at the airport I took the train to go to the city centre. The train ride was about 45 minutes long. I choose to solely focus on looking out the window and it was worth it. It gave me a first impression of Morocco. I saw farmers still making use of cows and horses to take care of their fields, beautiful desert-like landscapes sometimes interrupted by gorgeous flora and fauna, but also a lot of garbage alongside the railways. Recycling and waste separation does not exist, nor does a sense for the environment it seemed. Looking at the houses in the suburbs of Casablanca I quickly realised that Moroccan living standards were lower than in the UK.
Upon arriving at the train station Casa Voyageur and exiting the station, about 20 Moroccan taxi drivers stormed at me trying to convince me to come with them. I found a very helpful driver, but when I told him the address he said he did not know it, neither did anyone of his colleagues. I knew in which district my accommodation was located so I told him to drive me there and that I would find my way. The traffic on the way was horrible and as we arrived in the district and started asking around for the address we soon came to realise that nobody knew this place, so I decided to stay in a hotel for the first night as I could not get in touch with my flatmates either. The driver was incredibly nice. I think we asked roughly 20 people in total for the address, but it seemed as if it wouldn’t exist. I was in the top floor in the hotel and I had an amazing view on the Mosque Mohamed V.
I used Sunday to do some sightseeing and get an impression of the city. I saw the famous Mosque Mohammed V, the Cathedral Sacré Coeur and walked around town. My impression was that a majority of Casablanca is very poor, but the paradox thing for me was that the very rich people just live across the street of the poorest ones.
On Monday morning I got in touch with my supervisor, Redouane, to meet up and go to the office together. Luckily the hotel was only a two-minute walk away from the office, so we could meet up just outside and then go in together. In order to get inside the building one had to either have a chip-card or use a fingerprint reader – very futuristic. My first impression of the office was a very good one. On three floors around sixty employees are located, so Redouane showed me around and introduced me to most of them. Everyone was very nice and the fact that I spoke French seemed to be a very pleasing one for them. Then we proceeded to my work place.
I am sharing this huge desk with three other interns, all of them are very nice and we go for lunch together every day. Lunch is provided in the cafeteria which is situated on my floor (2nd). The first was only an introductory day though, so I left very early in order to sort out my accommodation. I am living with four international students who are also here for an internship, but through the organisation AIESEC, which I am also part of in Birmingham. I am staying in the room with the committee president, which is good to talk about AIESEC related issues as I am going to have a vice president position in AIESEC Birmingham next year.
The flat is situated in the city centre, in the district called Maarif and almost across the street there is a mosque. I still had to get used to being woken up at 4:30am because of the prayer. Five times a day the muezzin calls for the prayer, making use of giant speakers both in the minaret and in the street. Another thing I noticed was the price of food. For more European-style food prices are comparable to the UK, but for fruits or at places offering take-out food prices are very low. However that is maybe not the healthiest option to eat. The first night in the flat was good, I went for dinner with the flatmates, which are all very nice, and afterwards we just had some conversations in the living room.
The next day at work involved talks and meetings with Redouane and the Director Human Resources North Africa, Sanaa. I had to absorb some e-learning modules as part of my training, which were delivered very interestingly making use of video, audio, short assessments and presentation slides. I familiarised myself with the intranet and had my email account set up.
During the talks with Redouane and Sanaa it has been pointed out to me that my responsibilities had changed, which was a bit daunting at first. However when they told me that it was going to be all centred around internal communications I was relieved and very happy indeed, as it ties in perfectly fine with my course. Amongst the new responsibilities is creating an internal communications survey for the GSK North Africa region, then analysing the findings and coming up with an action plan whose implementation can be initiated before I finish this eight-week internship. Furthermore, it now also involves benchmarking GSK intranet community pages to gather best practices in order to launch a community page for the North Africa region. I cannot complain about this change in responsibilities, as it is still very exciting and demanding so it is still going to be a challenge.
All in all the first week at work was great and I received some very interesting assignments, amongst having conversations with line managers and brainstorming with my supervisor. Also, the cafeteria was serving traditional Moroccan on most days, which was a great way to taste some specialities. On Saturday I went to Rabat with my flatmates and some other AIESECers. I have already made some good friends. On Sunday we went to the beach where, despite having applied sunscreen twice in two hours, I caught rather bad sunburn.
Concluding I would like to say that, despite some starting difficulties and a minor culture shock, the first week in Casablanca has been simply amazing. I made good friends, enjoy living in the apartment and most importantly I really like the workplace.