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07/23/2014

Our Summer Abroad

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Post by Katrina Boi from the University of Illinois at Chicago

As we look back at this past summer, it is almost as if there are not enough adequate words in the dictionary to describe the amazing adventure we all have taken together. From the first moments at the airport to the last tearful goodbye, we all go our separate ways this week while memories of each other will always live in our hearts.

For one last hooray, for our summer in Africa, a few of us went on a weekend trip up to Chobe and Victoria falls (A must see). Apparently it is one of the only places where you are guaranteed to see an elephant while on safari. They were not lying! I couldn’t even begin to count how many we saw; we even watched them swim!

2014-07-16 12.47.05In addition to the hundreds of elephants we saw hippos, crocodiles, giraffes, lions, various other animals as well as a beautiful sunset and sunrise over the gorgeous Chobe River. We all also were lucky enough to be visiting during a full moon. When there is a full moon and high enough water levels it creates a phenomenon where during the night at Victoria Falls you can see a moonlight rainbow. It was enchanting and incomparable to anything I have ever witnessed before.

20140712_143600It was coming back from Zambia when I realized the bond that I formed with Botswana. As soon as we crossed the border and got that passport stamp it was as if we were coming home. I wasn’t too surprised by the level of attachment that we had formed to Botswana living here for the summer. As I thought about how the relationship with this country blossomed, I had to go back to the beginning when we first landed and had to navigate our new surroundings. I think I speak for everyone when I say we never were sure we would reach this level of comfort.

At the beginning none of us thought we would be able to navigate or be completely comfortable in Gaborone. When we finally realized how much we had learned about living in a different country, we had already been independently traveling the city for a long time.

20140711_165134I then started thinking about all the other fears that had formulated in our imagination and minds during the first week abroad. I know I was afraid I would have never make true friends and that all summer we would spend the days together awkwardly making conversation and pretending to enjoy each other’s company. I could not have been more off! The individuals I met here in Botswana permanently are imprinted into my journey and my life. They were not surface acquaintances but rather impactful and deep relationships. These relationships were not only made with other students but with homestays, student volunteers, and other friends we met along the way. The lifelong bonds that we have formed are just the tip of all the things that we all are bringing home with us and things that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. Every fear that we had, I think, was diminished and disappeared as the summer went on.

20140709_204732I believe that Botswana has had an enormous impact on every one of our lives as we navigated this summer together. My only hope is that we all carry the knowledge and experiences with us throughout the rest of our lives. Letting these experiences, good or bad, help determine and guide us through the other journeys that we inevitably will encounter.

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