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.
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.
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
As I write, well-fed and rested, I have finally experienced my first day at the University of Botswana. The journey was hectic to say the least!
I began my adventure on Friday morning, when my family drove the 7 hours to Chicago, in order to catch my first plane. We arrived in the middle of a massive storm, and by 4 the next morning (2 hours before my flight), there was flooding and high wind across the area. As we waited in line, I quickly tried to remove all liquids and sharp objects from what would have been my checked luggage, for we had come to the conclusion that because of the delays I would experience, and the short time I had to make my connection flight in New York, I should carry on all my luggage. Finally getting on the airplane, I sat in horror as the delay became 30 minutes, then an hour, then an hour and a half. When we finally did take off, I lapsed into an exhaustion-and-frustration-induced slumber. Read more