February 01, 2019
Yorman De La Rosa '16
Dawn. Midday. Late afternoon. After sunset. And before midnight.
The five daily calls to Muslim prayer were foreign to Peace Corps volunteer Yorman De La Rosa ’16 when he first arrived in Morocco. But now, he hardly seems to notice them.
These days, the sounds that most readily come to his ears are the voices of some of the youngest members of the local community – middle and high school students who seek him at his post – the youth community center. There he teaches both English and Spanish, and periodically life skills, to the country’s Arabic speakers.
De La Rosa, a never-before-world traveler, arrived in Morocco in September 2017. His home far away from home is the mountain village of Tameslouht, which is situated 30 minutes south of Marrakesh, the country’s fourth-largest city and major economic center.
Morocco by Way of Kutztown
How exactly does a kid from Allentown, Pa., one day find himself living and volunteering across the ocean, in a foreign land, on a different continent?
Ask De La Rosa, who holds a dual bachelor’s degree in political science and Spanish, and he will tell you that he made it to Morocco by way of Kutztown University, after a semester-long stop in our nation’s capital.
“During my junior year, I found out about an internship opportunity with The Washington Center (TWC), based in Washington, D.C.,” said De La Rosa.
“With the help and support of my academic advisor, Dr. Karen Rauch, and Spanish professor, Dr. Carolina Moctezuma, I applied.”
At TWC, De La Rosa pursued a track specific to international affairs. “This really pushed me to identify my passions. I discovered that my interest in Latin America and the Caribbean could be
turned into a career in international development.”
During his internship, De La Rosa connected with a returned Peace Corps volunteer who convinced him that he would be a good candidate for service.
“Kutztown has been the source of some of the most enriching experiences of my life. My time at KU shaped the trajectory I’ve been on for the past four years. Had it not been for the faculty I was fortunate to encounter, I probably would not have ended up in D.C., or certainly Morocco. The Spanish faculty, in particular, played and continues to play an important role in my professional development.”
De La Rosa is among a select group of United States citizens, 18 and older, who have given service in Morocco. Since 1963, 5,165 volunteers like the KU grad have served, 271 of them this year alone.
Each day is different for De La Rosa, who never knows the numbers, names or faces who will appear in his classes.
“Unpredictability is the norm, but that is precisely what makes the role interesting!” said De La Rosa. “This has led me to master the art of improvisation and thinking on my feet.”
De La Rosa’s mastery, however, does not yet extend to his new language, at least not in his mind.
“Allow me to introduce you to my kryptonite: Moroccan Arabic. Learning the language has for sure been the hardest challenge.”
Peace Corps Reflections and the Lasting Difference
“When I arrived, some members of my community were a little taken aback by the brown man with a Spanish sounding last name who claimed to be the new American volunteer. To them, Americans were white, blonde, and we’re not named ‘Yorman De La Rosa.’ Today, a lot of them understand that America is a country of immigrants and that Americans can be Black, Latino, White, Asian, Arab, Christian, Jewish, and or Muslim.” said De La Rosa. “I believe that I have helped dismantle the belief that to be American is to be White.”
From Allentown to Kutztown to D.C. to Morocco, De La Rosa is officially smitten with wanderlust, eager to have more of the world at his feet.
“Prior to the Peace Corps, I had very little interest in traveling, but now that I’ve seen a little bit of the world, I want to see the rest.”
By Megan Sciarrino for the Summer 2019 Tower magazine.