Tunisian student Hathamee Bensalem grew up surrounded by Maghrebi friends and family, but that tightly-knit community somewhat disappeared when she came to campus. Struggling to find other Maghrebi students, Bensalem felt isolated.
As time went on, Bensalem made more North African friends and eventually expanded her circle to a group chat that grew as she met other Maghrebi students.
“I realized the individuals were there, we just weren’t a connected community yet,” Bensalem said in an email.
And so the African Maghreb Student Union, or AMSU, was born.
AMSU was proposed by Bensalem’s friend, Yasmine Tani, who is from Algeria and the president of the club.
“I felt very distant from my culture and longed to connect with other students with a similar background,” Tani said in an email. “I reached out to one of the few other Maghrebi students I knew at the time, my close friend Hathamee, who felt similarly and we decided to create an organization to unify these students on campus.”
Tani and Bensalem, along with board members Yasmeen BenMohamed, Yasmine Kaki, Rahma Rouabah and Jude Abughalia, started the club fall 2023 to fill a void and establish a meaningful community for Maghrebi students on campus, according to Kaki.
Making up the northernmost parts of Africa, the African Maghreb region contains Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania and West Sahara. Kaki noted that this is a “distinct … entity from the Middle East.”
Bensalem added that the AMSU is the “only” club on campus that “uniquely” represents these cultural, geographic and historical communities.
The AMSU board members hope to remedy the loneliness and disconnect they felt when they first arrived on campus and foster a space where North Africans can feel represented.
“Finding each other was mostly left up to random chance because while we are a small group on campus we also didn’t have any formal pathways to meet,” Kaki said in an email. “It was clear how starved we were for connection by how quickly a group chat morphed into the AMSU (less than a semester).”
The club plans to create a community space through cultural events and celebrations.
At the moment, the AMSU’s primary initiatives also include fundraising events to aid individuals in Morocco and Libya affected by recent earthquakes and flooding, Rouabah said.
“We want AMSU to be the start of this community for students here so they have the same support and sense of identity as they did at home,” Bensalem said. “We want everyone to feel connected and like they belong and can relate to one another like we might have back home.”