Al Akhawayn University advertises a 40% international faculty. Personally, I have always understood that to mean trans-national…people from one country coming here to teach in this “other” country; or maybe that’s “cross” national and we have a different form of the identity-word to name people who have dual citizenship by virtue of being born to parents of different nationalities. But the meaning of “international” got more complex for me this week.
New colleagues and I began the university’s human resource process this week encountering national regulations for residency, legal regulations for banking, university regulations for work authorization, and medical approval for the health system. Papers continue to ask for my address — of origin? residence from which I arrived? residence where I live on campus? different from my local address? of permanence (and existentially what does that mean??). I can use the address of the U.S. house I own but do not occupy, the address of friends where my U.S. mail gets delivered, …my mother’s address because she has lived and continues to live at the same residence for more years than I have lived at an address? Until now, I have considered “international” to mean one person living in a different country than their country of origin, which I have always assumed to be the country from which they moved to the one in which they live now.
My German friends in the U.S. moved to the U.S. from Germany. My American friends who identify as being German have German heritage but were born in the U.S.
Now I meet an American woman who looks and sounds quite different from me — she’s Hawaiian, born in Egypt and now living in Morocco (and though she speaks Arabic, Hungarian, French, Spanish and English…she does not understand the local dialect of Moroccan Arabic yet). Or the woman who looks and sounds like me but is Danish, has lived in countries all over the world, and shares connection with me to West Africa more than our experiences of other places. Or the Serbian woman who moved to Morocco from Phoenix, has a thick eastern European accent, and pink hair accents that resemble what I’ve seen in London, New York or Paris (so interesting that she and I are the two who the Human Resources director confused for each other!).
Two Moroccan colleagues have different paperwork altogether, but they still needed to complete the City Hall process with the rest of us. Both completed their PhDs in Paris, then one moved to Montreal and the other to Shanghai.
Among us is an Italian colleague here from a fellowship in Sweden after years in Mexico, a Togolese colleague here from 12 years in Louisiana, and an American here from Ann Arbor…to teach Islamic Studies. The Columbian intern sounds more like she is from California than the person from California — who turned out is not American, just moving to Morocco from Los Angeles. And pronunciation misled me again when the Italian colleague with complex English and little accent became confused when I didn’t understand “let me invite you” (which is apparently a literary translation of the American colloquialism “My treat”); he speaks multiple languages but learned his English doing his dissertation — it’s a formal language for him, different he explains because he has never lived in the country in which English was the cultural language (this helps me understand that I could evolve into the converse image of that internationalism — I am picking up colloquialisms in Arabic or French but am never likely to master the language in a way that allows me to work in an institution where the institutional language is anything except English).
I’m delighted that a Filipino American friend is putting me in touch with some of his Moroccan friends….though I have no idea what national identities those friends might hold.
And so, the university Human Resource director took new colleagues and I to city hall in order for us to put original signatures in various registries, all towards an objective of securing various forms of Moroccan authorization. For future orientations, I will recommend calling us “multinational” faculty. I suppose this process is invisible to people of large corporations (multinational corporations!), and quite likely infinitely more challenging for “foreign” people without a business host navigating on their behalf.