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4 posts from July 2017

07/31/2017

An Important Decision: Homestay or Dorm Life

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By Samantha Ernst

When I decided to come to Botswana, one of the biggest choices I was faced with was where I would live during my two-month stay. I picked between living in the dorms with other students in the program at the University of Botswana and living in a homestay with a Batswana family. When I was weighing my options, I knew in the back of my mind that I would also have the opportunity to experience living in a homestay when the group did a village homestay in Kanye for one week. Other factors I considered included the cultural immersion I would experience in a homestay as compared to in a dorm, the level of independence I would have, and the types of food that I would be eating. I was worried that if I chose to live in a dorm at UB with other American students, I would fail to get as full of an understanding of Botswana's rich culture as I would if I lived in a homestay. I was also relatively concerned that I would exist in an American bubble in the dorms and that was something I really wanted to avoid. However, I was a little nervous that if I were to live in a homestay that I would lose my sense of independence, which is something that is tremendously important to me. As a pretty introverted person, having my independence and time to recharge is critical.

Anyways, when it came time for me to fill out my housing form for CIEE, I probably spent a good thirty minutes just staring at the screen. I ended up deciding to live in the dorms at UB, instead of living in a homestay because I felt that I would be happier in my own environment and that I would get to experience a homestay while in Kanye. I am very thankful to have made this decision because living in the dorms has been an extraordinarily positive experience for me. I live with three other girls in the program and while we all have our own rooms, we share a living room and kitchen area. I have gotten very close to the girls I live with and we spend time together making meals, going to the gym, and relaxing after classes and clinics. Additionally, the dorm has become a home base for everyone in the program and we often retreat back there after class, before a night of going out, and on weekends. I still feel that I am experiencing true cultural immersion, while also maintaining my independence. I don't feel like I'm stuck in an American bubble because I interact with Batswana people daily, whether it is on a combi or taxi, in the clinics, or on campus.

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While living in the dorms was the best decision for me, while in a homestay for a week I learned substantial amounts about Setswana culture and myself. I lived with my host mom, my brother who was my age, and my four-year-old nephew. I ate traditional food, interacted more in Setswana, and learned more about the Botswana way of life. Furthermore, I overcame more than I expected to during the village homestay in Kanye. I took my first taxi all by myself, something I hadn't even done in Gaborone, and I successfully walked to a friend's house even though I wasn't fully sure of the way. With another girl in the program I cooked for, served, and cleaned for 13 incredible individuals and I tried foods I never expected to like. While I definitely think I made the right decision living in the dorms at University of Botswana, the village homestay taught me tremendous amounts about Setswana culture and I got to bond with a family whose path I wouldn't have crossed otherwise. It goes to show that leaving your comfort zone to the fullest extent and conquering your fears really does pay off.

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Botswana & Travels.

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By Meagan McAuliffe

This weekend, I had the pleasure of being able to go to Cape Town with seven of the new friends I have made during my time in Botswana. We knew we had a long weekend coming up; so several weeks ago we began planning this trip. Well, not this trip precisely. Initially, we were going to go to Durban, but that plan fell through. Then, the idea was to go to the Okavango Delta but, again, that didn’t end up happening. Finally, after several hours of planning various trips, someone asked about Cape Town. In less than an hour, the trip was planned. Tickets and an Airbnb were purchased shortly after and over the next couple days activities and restaurants were decided upon. And then we were on our way.Our trip to Cape Town was a long day. We got up at 4:30 AM and got to the bus pick up location before 5:30. We were on the bus and on our way by 6:00 AM. After a long bus ride and a rather short plane ride we made it to Cape Town, where we waited over an hour for our host to let us into the Airbnb but, we had a beautiful view to keep us company. It all worked out though, and we made it to our first restaurant, the wonderful Royale Eatery. All in all, it was a successful trip to our home for the weekend.

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The next day we went to a cute café called Honeybun. Their coffee was delicious and their French toast with nutella was even better. Afterwards, we went to Bo-Kaap, an area with lots of colorful houses and took pictures. After lunch, we went to the botanical gardens and saw some beautiful views. We ended the night going to nice Italian restaurant and then out to one of the bars on Long Street.

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Our Sunday started with coffee at Tribe Coffee, a cute coffee shop/restaurant with steampunk décor. Then we went to a winery and enjoyed a tasting of their red and rose wines. We spent our afternoon along the ocean, though it was far too cold to swim. We had a relaxed night in and an early night sleep.

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Our final day in Cape Town, after coffee at Tribe Coffee again, we took the cable car to the top of Table Mountain and experienced some of our coldest weather in Africa, but also some of the most amazing sights I have ever seen. After a rest at our Airbnb, we went to the waterfront to shop and sight see. While there, we road the Ferris wheel and had a beautiful view of the city as the sun got ready to set.

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Travelling home was a rough day with a lot of waiting at the airport, then a very long drive, followed by a ridiculously long wait at the border. The memories made this weekend though, are worth all the hassle of getting to and from Cape Town.

I highly recommend that everybody take advantage of their time in Botswana and go see as much of the world as possible. Cape Town was an amazing destination but I don’t think you can go wrong with any travels, as long as you are smart and stay safe. Find someone to travel with. Ask people for suggestion. Search the web. I guarantee you can find somewhere to visit that will steal your heart. Travelling may be difficult to plan and expensive to execute but it is worth it once you are there and coming home to Gaborone is such a pleasure. I still would love to see the Delta and Durban and all of the other places we started planning trips to, but that will have to wait until another time. For now, Cape Town is the place that stole my heart.

My End of Program Botswana List

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By Máire Nakada

We’ve come to the end of the summer 2017 program and through the two months that I’ve been here I’ve started thinking about all of the things I wish I knew before studying abroad in Gaborone. Some of the things on my list would have made life easier in general and other things are social norms that I had to get used to very quickly. I hope that at least one thing on this list will prepare you for what to expect in Botswana. So let’s jump right into it!

Batswana stare very freely, especially if you are white. Don’t think anything of it. Don’t be surprised if men ask you to take them back to America with you and marry them. My clinic partner often had marriage proposals from mothers with single sons. People like to ask you where you are from, what is your number, and my personal favorite, “what are your objectives for being here?”. Batswana are very straight forward and you should not be embarrassed to be straight forward back. If you have food in public people will ask you to share with them; it’s part of the culture. These experiences are shocking at first but eventually you will be comfortable with them.

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Secondly, when visiting clinics do not be surprised when the person in charge says they were not expecting you or they do not know who you are. Just go with the flow and respectfully tell them you are studying public health at UB. Our program director gave us a number to call in case there was a problem so you will probably get a similar help line. Most clinics do not have toilet paper or soap in the bathrooms so I recommend bringing some with you in your back pack. Paper towels or strong air dryers were rare so just get used to shaking your hands off after washing them. Clinics are what you make of them. I recommend visiting every part of the clinic to get the most patient observations. My personal favorites to take notes in were the dressing room and child welfare clinic.

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If you choose to do the homestay option like I did, you are going to eat a lot more Setswana foods than the students who choose to stay in the dorms. Personally I liked this a lot because I wanted to be fully immersed in the Setswana culture. Most families cook one big meal a day which is usually dinner. Breakfast was something simple like porridge or toast with tea or instant coffee. If you want more Americanized foods hit up Mugg & Bean at Riverwalk or Main Deck in Main Mall. SPAR and Pick n’ Pay at Riverwalk are good places to go grocery shopping. Bethel is the head CIEE driver and he can take you places for a small fee. Also, Bethel is awesome and will always help you.

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A few miscellaneous things: make sure you try a phaphatha (puhPAHta) from the street vendor or grab an egg and cheese phaphatha from the student center at least once. Make friends with the student volunteers because they are really chill and know a lot about Botswana. If you have the chance to visit Cape Town, South Africa – GO. Finally I recommend keeping a journal throughout the program. It’s been really entertaining to read over my thoughts these past 2 months and see where I started compared to where I am now. I hope you enjoyed this brief list and have a solid study abroad program!

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07/06/2017

Be prepared to eat…. A LOT!

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Jordan Wahl

During your stay in Botswana you will work up a hefty appetite! If your group is anything like ours you will find that you will spend most of your time here with food in your mouth more times than not. Whether you choose to do a homestay or to live in the dorms you will have plenty of opportunities to eat local food. 

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Now one thing to know about Botswana food is the portions are enormous - in a very good way. Portion control does not exist here, by the end of your stay you will get used to a full plate, and be able to finish it all without guilt.  Homestay kids, get used to your plate being prepared for you. Don’t be surprised when you can’t see the bottom of the plate because food fills the holes. A typical meal will always contain a big portion of meat followed by an even larger portion of a grain/carb (rice, pap, pasta, etc.) and some other sides to go along.

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Dorm kids, we didn’t forget about you. You guys will also have many chances to eat local dishes during orientation week, Kanye village stay, and weekend excursions. Also, when you are asked by a local if you want food and you say no ten times out of ten you will still end up with a plate. Locals love giving you food and in this culture, it is very common to give your guest food and is what to be expected. You will also have plenty of opportunities to go out to eat in which Gaborone has a lot to offer. Even at these places (Main Deck, Mug n’ Bean, and Europa just to name a few of our favorites), you find that you will be given a lot of food.

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My advice to people coming in is to encourage you to try everything you can. There are so many good foods that the locals have to offer and you will be surprised how much you will like. Even though there are some differences in the way things are they are still very good. The best food comes during excursions and during orientation, this is where you will be served the most local food and you find the things you really like. Once you find what you like you will always be hoping they will be served at the next excursion. The best part about the food during excursions is that it is buffet style and you can serve yourself everything you like. Be careful because by the end of this trip you will find that you will start to serve yourself the same size portions!

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