University of Botswana
I am studying abroad in Gaborone, Botswana. Gaborone is a city with a population of 200,000 residents; it is a modern city with amenities you can find back in western countries.
No, there are not elephants outside my dorm room. I have running water for the most part. There are cars driving on the road.
No, I do not have Ebola and neither does anybody else in this area.
Yes, this city is in Botswana, a country in Sub-Saharan Africa, but I am not by any means studying abroad in “Africa” in the sense that some perceive the whole continent as one thing.
There is poverty, there are huts without electricity and there is conflict, but there are also new businesses, healthcare, inventors and thinkers alike. For every negative there are at least two positives here in Botswana.
To paint the whole continent with one color and one idea of wild animals, disease, conflict and poverty is an ignorant worldview that westerners have adopted.
Traveling here with an open mind and being ready to be challenged has helped me gain the most from this entire journey.
I have been studying at the University of Botswana this semester.
I’m taking a good amount of classes as well as participating in an internship position at a game reserve outside of the city.
The education system is quite different and I would describe my experience at school as being the hardest easy semester yet.
I have made friends with people all over the world, from Germany to Japan and from England to Zimbabwe.
This has been the most diverse group of people I have ever been around my whole life and I love every minute of it.
Being a white male from the USA has given me a slight boost in my place in society here.
It is assumed that I am rich, that I have met celebrities and that I live in Los Angeles.
This perception of me works to my advantage sometimes but also makes me a target to begging and theft, which I personally have not yet encountered. (Knock on wood.)
I get sick of explaining my story to loads of people everyday that have this perception of who I must be because I am white and from America.
I think about the race issues going on back in the USA with the Ferguson protests, many black Americans must be totally fed up with stating their case about who they are to police and breaking some prejudices within our society.
Standing out and being a minority here is something to consider very carefully before attempting studying here.
The culture is different here and some of the harassment females may encounter can be attributed to the firm belief that females enjoy this courtship method.
As a female planning to study aboard here, be prepared to have catcalls and stares accompany you everywhere you go.
Take a deep breath and remember that you are different.
You are interesting to people here. Try to take some positives from this and be thankful for your day-to-day life back home.
If you are a black American, be prepared to fit into the majority of the population. You may be assumed to be a Motswana (person of Botswana) and people will treat you as such, sometimes people will speak to you in the very quick Setswana language and expect you to understand it word for word.
Race and gender issues aside, this is a very peaceful country in an optimal location for travel.
I have visited many places in Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, and I plan on reaching Zimbabwe and Zambia in the next few weeks.
Do not be afraid to travel.
Use common sense and look for hostels, campsites, public transport and friends to knock down travel costs.
I have learned a lot during my travels around southern Africa and cannot express them all in words.
Keep true to yourself but be prepared to have a changed perception, and be trustworthy to others but be cautious around some.
Balance is the flavor of life and you must be able to accomplish this in all areas of your life.
Peace and love from Botswana.