About six months from now our students who studied abroad in Southern Africa will be boarding their planes to return home. Most of you will likely be doing so begrudgingly, kicking and screaming along the way, grabbing onto anything possible in order to stay put longer. Upon your return home there will be some culture shock, and you will likely be subjected to questions such as, ‘Were there elephants outside your door?’ ‘What was it like on Robben Island?’ ‘Did you hike to the top of Table Mountain?’
Anyone who has done their research on what to see in Southern Africa would ask these questions – but there is much more to explore in this beautiful region. This is why I have constructed a Southern Africa “Bucket List” for places to check out along the road less traveled. Following this list will fully immerse you into this great region. Just click on each item to read more. Be sure to do your own research too – there is still so much more to see beyond this list!
Enjoy a full-moon hike at Lion’s Head Mountain
Catch a concert at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
Spend a night (or three) in Coffee Bay
Six months ago I could barely tell you where Botswana was on a map, and now I am about to spend the next six months living in the Kalahari Desert, with heat I can not yet imagine, while studying at the University of Botswana. The African desert will be quite a change from my coastal California upbringing and the snowy winters I get while at school, the University of Denver.
Each time I answer the question, “Where will you be studying abroad?” I get a wide range of reactions: a blank stare from someone who has not a clue where Botswana is or a loud obnoxious gasp followed by the assumption that I will be tracking big game or “hanging out with Simba” from the Lion King (not opposed!. When deciding where I wanted to study abroad I knew I wanted an experience completely unlike anything I had ever had done before but also one that allowed me to connect and build relationships with local students. I hope to come back feeling a real connection with Botswana and having a new kind of confidence in myself that can only be gained by traveling and living for an extended amount of time in a completely foreign region where I don’t know anyone in the country, let alone on the entire continent! Read more
I can’t believe that my time in Botswana has come to a close and that I am back home in the United States. Every day I think about the time I had there and all those who I met. Settling back into the lifestyle here has been somewhat difficult in that so much is completely different. The classroom culture, for example, is nothing like it is at my home school. At the University of Botswana, the due dates are not clear, tardiness is not a problem (most of the time the professors were even late), and sometimes the students would go off on a tangent speaking Setswana.
The transportation, as well, is nothing like home. Taking combis and calling cabs was the only way to get anywhere other than walking unless you knew a friend with a car, and often times us students would walk very long distances. There was something pleasant about that though and about the insecurities of taking public transportation, as silly as that may seem. And wow, although I loved my time in Botswana and consider it one of the greatest experiences of my life, it is definitely good to come home to the food that I am used to. But even though there isn’t much variety or choice in what you are eating in Botswana, I still find myself craving foods like pop and the paphatas.
After being in Botswana for the last three months, there is definitely a lot to miss about the U.S. There is a huge difference in the pace of the two countries literally and metaphorically speaking. Lines are longer here and there isn’t the same kind of service as in the U.S. Also, the technology is definitely far behind that of the U.S. Many times, this week included, there is no internet where it is supposed to be on campus so I go to internet cafes or the few places with internet on campus.
But what stands out more than the things that are appreciated in the U.S. are the things that are appreciated in Botswana that I will miss when I go home. In the U.S. there is a heavy emphasis on the work that needs to be done. Here in Botswana, it is the people that matter more. For example, sometimes I will have professors show up ten minutes late to class because they stopped to talk with an old colleague along the way, and this is routine and normal. It can be inconveniencing at times, but it really is pleasant when you adjust to it. That mentality is something I wish I could bring back to the U.S. and I probably will on a personal level.
It has been about a month since I first arrived in Botswana, but wow, this place already feels like home. There is so much to say about this colorful culture and its vibrant people but I think what is most eye opening is the inviting nature of so many of the people here. In the short time I’ve been here I feel like I have already seen so much; so many people are more than happy to take you around to experience the night life, tell you about their village, have you and your friends over for dinner… and everyday is something new.
Of the places I’ve been so far, the one that sticks out most is Kgale hill. It is a giant, green hill with hiking trails and giant rocks to climb. While hiking you can see baboons, exotic birds, incredible trees, etc. A few friends and I hiked to the top not too long ago and were able to get a fantastic view of the city of Gaborone, and some of rural Botswana and South Africa. There were some notable local attractions too, like the Mokolodi reserve where we saw a cheetah, a giraffe, and some other animals. It’s hard to think about how much more of this country there is left to explore!
I can honestly say that I haven’t anticipated anything in the past as enthusiastically as I’m anticipating studying in Botswana, Africa next semester at the University of Botswana with Interstudy. At this point I can’t be completely sure what to expect, other than the unexpected. It is this aspect of next semester that I hope will change my life and bring a new perspective.
I hope that by studying in Botswana I can open my eyes and my mind to a new culture in such a way that it can broaden my perspective and the way I view the world. Living in the United States is great, but the media and other social constructs are largely responsible for the way I think about people and my environment. I am hoping that all of that will change after I assimilate into a new culture and I can see my life and values from a new lens.
My study abroad experience has been the most amazing experience of my life. I cannot believe that almost 5 months has passed and I’m already back home. It seems like I just left a few weeks ago, but when I look back at everything I got to see and do I feel like it was an entire chapter of my life. It is wonderful to be home and see all my friends and family, but I miss everything about Africa. As much as I hated on the food, I miss papatas! I miss taking combis to the Station, Main mall, and S.O.S. Orphanage. I miss going on adventures to cities outside of Gabs and Countries outside of Botswana: South Africa, Mozambique, and my favorite… Zimbabwe! I miss having the chance to do crazy things I will never do again.. bungee jumping at Victoria Falls off of the highest bridge in the world, night swims in the jellyfish infested waters of the beautiful Indian ocean in Ponta de Ouro, and climbing the -way harder than it looks- Table Mountain in Cape Town. I miss the feeling of being somewhere new and exciting and different full of different people, culture, foods, and environment. I miss the children at Tshwaragano Primary School in Old Naledi and at S.O.S. Orphanage. I miss hearing Liquideep and all the other fun house music beats at Bull and Bush, and dancing like crazy! Read more
The best part about studying abroad in Botswana, is being able to travel to some amazing nearby places. For semester break I traveled with three other international students to Ponta de Ouro, Mozambique: a county that is said to have the most beautiful beaches in all of Africa. Just getting there, was an adventure within itself as we began our trip by not being let through the South African border, therefor missing our bus we had already paid for. Instead, we ended up hitchhiking to Johannesburg, then catching our next bus to Moputo, taking a ferry to Contembe, and then being driven by a jeep for the last three hours, until we finally reached our backpackers hostel. I four-wheeled up the coast, bought food from the local market, negotiated for local crafts, and spent my days laying on the beautiful beaches and trying to avoid the blue jellyfish as I swam in the warm ocean. It was a wonderful vacation filled with relaxation, adventure, and culture. Read more
This is “grandma’s brother” at a cultural excursion to a village that teaches people about traditions of villages in Botswana.
Dumela! I have already been in Botswana for almost two months now and I am so excited for the next few months to come. Although I feel like I will never be able to fully understand everything about the culture and Motswana people, I have learned such a great deal so far. The first most basic and obvious cultural difference is the food. I was hoping to come and and have the best food of my life and want to bring back different spices so I could make the food at home.. that is not happening at all. Most of the food here I do not like, especially at the refractory (Mogul) which is where I have my meal plan. They serve the same thing every day for lunch and dinner. Usually it is something like: pap (a traditional porridge like stable made from maize) or rice, then you choose chicken or beef (prepared the same way every day) and then carrots or a beat salad. Sometimes they have a couple different things, like some people eat fish from the special diet section but I dont like fish, or sometimes they have dumplings instead of pap which is a boiled bread, that I love. The other international students and I love going out to eat when we can afford to, there are so many placed to eat that serve delicious food from all different cultures, including a lot of American food. Read more
I’ve lost count of the number of times I have been asked, “Why Botswana?” over the last few months. Although it is difficult to explain to others my exact reason of why I want to travel to Africa as an education major, I have no doubt that I made the right decision. With that decision comes excitement and hope for adventure as well as worries, anxiety, and fear of the unknown. As I lay in bed at night I like to imagine what some of my adventures might look like during my time in Botswana. The opportunities to meet new people from different countries and experience a unique culture full of foods I have never tasted, music I have never heard, and other things that are too new to me that I cannot even begin to imagine them. I daydream about the days when I will be volunteering in the schools, and truly making a difference. The excitement about the endless amount of possibilities I will have to learn and explore overwhelms my worries (although they still exist).
I worry about little things like what clothes I am going to take, and will I bring too much stuff, or not enough? I worry about the fact that I am a picky eater that is going to be living in a new country with new food that I have never tried. I worry about the issues of safety and having to be more cautious while in Botswana than I have to be here at home. But if there were not things that were worrisome and there was not the fear of the unknown, then this adventure would lack excitement! I know I will grow as a person from the challenges that I face during my time abroad, and what a great outcome that would be.