Photo Credit: Courtesy of Shanay Braxton
The Black Expat: 'I Have Always Felt A Sense Of Community Among Strangers In Morocco'
Cleveland native Shanay Braxton moved to Morocco in 2016 after signing a contract with the United States Peace Corps following grad school. In the three and a half years, she has lived in Meknes, Oulmes, and most recently, Marrakech. She even married the love of her life, a Senegalese man that she met while living in Morocco.
The desire to immerse herself in another culture, speak a new language, learn new customs, and simply create a new lifestyle, led her to the North African country.
“During my graduate program, I began to search for different opportunities to move out of the country,” Shanay told Travel Noire. “This time I was looking for paid opportunities and during my search, I learned about the United States Peace Corps. This opportunity seemed most appealing compared to the other international programs that I had come across since it encompassed everything on my international checklist.”
Shanay’s checklist included: a multi-year contract, monthly stipend plus a bonus at the completion of her contract, health insurance, in-country support and training, language classes, cultural immersion, as well as preparation of her work visa and travel documents.
Based on this list and what the U.S. Peace Corps offered, Morocco was her first choice. It was also a place that she could learn Arabic, which for her would be very marketable when she returned to the workforce.
She also credits the low cost of living as one of the main reasons she has remained in the country for so long.
“As a Peace Corps volunteer, I lived off of a monthly stipend of 3290 MAD, which roughly equates to $340,” she said. “This number was based on the average living wage in Moroccan households and my monthly expenses were not very much.”
Her monthly expenses were as follows: 800 MAD ($82) for a one-bedroom apartment in Oulmes with a balcony, two large living spaces, a large kitchen, and a bathroom. 70 MAD ($7) for electricity, 40 MAD ($4) for water, and 100 – 150 MAD ($10 – $15) for two weeks worth of food.
Once her contract ended in December 2018, she took a job with a boutique guest house in Marrakech where her salary increased to $1,300 and included a place to stay.
Prior to COVID-19 halting travel, Shanay picked up a second job working remotely as a transcriptionist. This new job was right on time because she ended up being laid off from the guest house job due to the COVID-19 shutdown.
“Once Coronavirus became a pandemic the hotel closed and I was laid off. Fortunately, I pivoted early so I was still earning an income as a transcriptionist.”
Once borders reopen, she and her husband will move back to Ohio where she has taken a high-level position with the company she currently transcribes for. The couple is also open to moving to another country in the future as well.
Shanay says she feels safer living in Morocco, and those wanting to move abroad should not let fear stop them.
“Living in Morocco I have always felt a sense of community among strangers,” she said. “When I was a Peace Corps volunteer, every other day I was invited over to a family’s home for tea and cookies.”