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.
As spring break rolled around, I finally had the chance to do some real traveling. 5 friends and I had planned for weeks, laying out a trip that would take us up through Zambia and Zimbabwe. While they had planned on spending two weeks traveling, I had decided to return after only one in order to not miss school, so I would have to find my way back to Gaborone on my own.
Our bags packed, computers stashed in a friend’s apartment, and minds steeled against the rigors of bus travel, we stood on a warm Monday evening waiting for the bus to arrive. The Gaborone-Livingstone Express would take us up through Francistown and Maun, cross the border into Zambia at Kazungula, and deposit us in Livingstone, Zambia, a journey of some 15 hours. We boarded at 7 pm, and hoped to arrive in Livingstone at 10 the next morning.
When we arrived at the border at last, we were all relieved to spill out into the cold morning air to get our exit stamps. As we walked down the road that crossed the no-man’s-land at the edge of Botswana, we were unprepared for the sight that greeted us. The border, we discovered, is the Zambezi river, and the only way to cross is by ferry! We gladly boarded the ferry, and crossed over into Zambia for the first time. The ride to Livingstone after we had gotten our visas was mercifully short, and we arrived at around 9:30 in the morning. Read more
Two months in, there are still new experiences around every corner.
Two weeks ago, after much deliberation, the lecturers at UB finally elected to strike. Starting on a Tuesday, we suddenly had a whole week without class! Fortunately, we used our time well. Throwing my lot in with a few other international students, we embarked on a journey to visit the famous salt pans, the giant remains of dried-up Lake Makgadikgadi that stretch across the savanna to the north.
From Gaborone, we got up at four in the morning to catch a bus heading to Francistown. After a 5-hour journey, we switched buses and got on a bus to Maun. We knew that the village we were looking for, Gweta, was somewhere on the way but we didn’t know where. All we knew was to look for a giant anteater on the side of the road. Read more
Spring Break has (already) come and gone at UCT, and I must say that I earned every minute of my incredible get away. The week before we left, I shut down the library nearly every night working on not one, not two, but three research papers for my courses. Luckily, several of my friends were in the same boat, so we turned what we call “that week” into the most enjoyable experience possible, keeping each other laughing throughout the all-nighters. I love how even the most painful experiences can become cherished memories. Despite the acquired inside jokes from that week, we’re already planning ahead so we NEVER have to go through that again—gotta embrace those learning experiences. Read more
One month in, and what a month it’s been! All the craziness is just beginning to die down, and as usual, there’s more just around the corner.
When classes began, the first week was stressful and confusing. I had to find all my classrooms, figure out whether the professors were coming, and settle into my life here in other ways (laundry, food, etc) all at the same time. I learned quickly that the first week of classes is when most of the professors prepare for the coming school year, and thus only about half the professors held class the first week. But by the time the second week rolled around things became much more regular.
My classes feel very similar to the ones back home. The professors are friendly and engaging, and one even invited me to visit his home village sometime. There are also some very interesting classes. In particular, my Botswana Politics class, which is lead by a man who also writes political columns in one of the local newspapers, is always engaging and educational. Because the professor is so up-to-date on current political situations, he always has new and relevant examples to highlight what we’re learning in the abstract, and he encourages enough class discussion that I learn more about Batswana opinions and political view every day! My Historical and Comparative Linguistics in Africa course is also fascinating, and it’s amazing to be able to look at the Setswana I’m learning and compare it to the earlier languages it came from. And for that matter, Setswana class is a blast as well! It’s definitely a struggle to learn a language so different from English, but there are plenty of laughs while we do. I have already made a fool of myself trying to get the difference between “t” and “th” in Setswana (the th sounds like the t in “time,” and the t is soft enough that to my ears it almost resembles a d), and practicing the tones. I discovered at the dining hall how different “mabElE” and “mabEle” sound to a native speaker (the first one means “sorghum,” one of the staple grains of Botswana food, and the second means “breast”). Despite the fact that I’ve never been a math person, I’m even enjoying my Statistics class, thanks to the funny professor and lively class. Read more