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Serving the U.S. in Morocco

U.S. Foreign Service Officers Debra Benavidez and Matthew Lussenhop educate students on careers in their field.
U.S. Foreign Service Officers, Debra Benavidez and Matthew Lussenhop, educate students on careers in their field.
Speaking on the political climate of Morocco, Deputy Chief of Mission Matthew Lussenhop gives students insight into the country's accolades and challenges.
Speaking on the political climate of Morocco, Deputy Chief of Mission Matthew Lussenhop gives students insight into the country’s accolades and challenges.

“A unique country that is essentially its own civilization,” a description of Morocco provided by the United States Deputy Chief of Mission Matthew Lussenhop of his current post. He joined to the ship to pique his own curiosity on the concept of international shipboard education and help set the Fall 2014 community’s expectations for a country he has come to know very well. Looking, feeling, and tasting different, Morocco was a nation unlike all others on the fall itinerary.

Located at the northern most part of Africa, Lussenhop provided a broad definition of a nation sitting at a crossroads of diversity. “Moroccans view themselves as Arabs but something different from Arabs. They are part of Africa but also very different from the rest of Africa. They are very close to the European world and view themselves as open to the European world. But overall (Morocco) views itself as an exceptional place,” said Lussenhop.

Even with a monarchy and a political climate very different from the United States, King Mohammed VI continues to push progressive ideals and supports women’s rights. The openness to gradual change in Morocco is one of the reasons he enjoys his post in the capital of Rabat. “Change has not come so fast that it has resulted in the kind of instability and insecurity that we see in the rest of the Arab world,” added Lussenhop.

Students ask the couple questions about their service in Rabat, Morocco as well as their time spent in the Middle East.
Students ask the couple questions about their service in Rabat, Morocco as well as their time spent in the Middle East.

For he and his wife, Debra Benavidez, working for the United States State Department as Foreign Service Officers is just as much about serving their home country as it is maintaining good relations abroad. “It’s rewarding helping out fellow Americans,” added Benavidez. For 25 and 12 years respectively their roles in the U.S. Foreign Service have exposed them to a variety of disciplines and cultures.

In the midst of eager internationally minded students, the pair met potential candidates looking to follow in their Foreign Service footsteps. They shared their insights into what is needed to succeed in this career. While an extensive knowledge of United States history is required, Benavidez stressed that a “desire to learn and an openness to change” was truly the driving force for the best candidates.

The United States Foreign Service has approximately 22,000 employees all over the world with a variety of specialties. For more information on careers in the US Foreign Service, please visit: careers.state.gov

Topics
  • Education
  • Service

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