How an ambition to bridge the gap has led to 14 years of exchange to the Arab world

 

Back in 2007, a group of AIESECers from Groningen decided to set up the Nour Project. 14 years later, the Nour Project still exists. The Nour Project is a product powered by AIESEC that aims to bridge the gap between European and Arab cultures. Participants of the Nour Project go on exchange to the Middle East and North Africa for 6 weeks where they immerse themselves in a new culture. When they come back from exchange, they share their new-found insights about the MENA region in a creative way. Often through things like a cookbook or a short story. This is how the Nour Project aims to foster cross-cultural understanding between European and Arab cultures to stop discrimination.

Exchange to the arab world

The origins of the Nour Project

Let’s go back in time to when the Nour Project was set up. These were the years after 9/11 and the death of Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh. The founders of the Nour Project noticed that tensions between the Western and Arab world were growing.


A group of AIESECers from Groningen felt empowered to do something about this issue. For one of the co-founders of the Nour Project, this period was especially intense because he was confronted with negative stereotypes against Arabs due to his Moroccan last name. It became not just his personal mission to stop discrimination against Arab cultures. These AIESECers started facilitating exchange between Dutch students and students from the MENA region. All with the aim to boost cross- cultural understanding. It was a big hit! The first year that the Nour Project was set up, 100 students applied even though there were only 15 spots.

 

workshop about exchange to the arab world and how to bridge the gap

Bridge the gap 14 years later

Fast forward to 2021, 14 years after the founding of the Nour Project. This year I contacted one of the co-founders of the Nour Project, because I wanted to know more about the history of the product that I am managing. He told me that he had never expected the Nour Project to exist for such a long time.


“When I got in touch with AIESEC again after some years I noticed that the Nour Project had gotten big. I immediately called my team members of the original Nour team to let them know”. We agreed that even though the looks and shape of the Nour Project might have changed over the years, the essence remains the same. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 14 different Nour teams who have managed the project over the years, and changes to what the product entails, the Nour Project still aims to bridge the gap between European and Arab cultures.


As long as there are Dutch students who are passionate about learning more about the MENA region and boosting cross-cultural understanding, the legacy of these founders will live on.

 

aiesec exchange to help stop bridge the gap

 


I am Tessa Koorevaar, 21 years old and I am currently the head of the Nour Project. But I am also a huge Nour nerd. I went on a Nour Project myself, this is my second year in the Nour Team and I am super interested in the Middle East and North Africa. This blogpost is an excuse for me to be my nerdy self and dig into the Nour history. I hope that this blogpost will ignite some passion about Nour within you as well!

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