The University of Iowa

Six early lessons from life in Botswana

February 26th, 2014

 By Haley Church

After spending over one month is Botswana, I have collected some valuable information:

Haley Church and her friends hike to a campsite
Camping with friends in Botswana

1)     Africa is hot. Not hot in the way Iowa City is on move-in weekend every year. Not even hot in the way Iowa is in July. The African sun is unrelenting, scorching, and completely amazing. My skin has gone from translucent to red to pink and finally to a nice shade of brown. The sunshine everyday brightens my mood in a way that a pile of dirty snow just cannot.

2)     Efficiency and Botswana will never be found in the same sentence. Things here take at least twice as long as they do at home. And twice as long is something to celebrate. Laundry, for example, is either done by hand or in one of 4 working washing machines for a campus of about 15,000 students.

3)     People are inherently kind. I have been in countless situations where I have needed to rely on a complete stranger to help me. People here are always willing to help my fellow study abroad students and I. From not knowing which bus to take to finding our classes, there has always been a local around ready to lend me a hand when I’m struggling.

4)     Camping is the best way to travel. There is nothing that will bring you closer to people than spending a weekend in a leaky tent together. There is just something special about not showering, carrying human sized backpacks, and cooking your own food in the African bush that will forever bind people together. Maybe it’s that fact that you sleep inches from each other or maybe it’s the collective wishing that a rhino doesn’t decided to trample you in the middle of the night that really laces up that friendship boot.

5)     Personal space does not exist here. It’s 100 degrees most days and air conditioning is a serious luxury. I will let you determine how much you would value a little breathing room.

6)     The other international students are gems. These 40 other students would do anything for each other. Staying safe isn’t an issue when you know someone is right behind you to back you up or question your iffy decision. And we share everything; whether it is clothing, food, or personal information, it’s not just mine anymore.

Being here in Botswana has truly been the experience of a lifetime. I am changing in ways I didn’t know were possible and experiencing things that were formerly reserved for the Discovery Channel. 

Study Abroad blogger Haley Church is a sophomore majoring in Interdepartmental Sciences and Pre-Medicine. She is currently studying abroad for a semester in Gaborone, Botswana through ISEP.


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