The University of Iowa

Spring break adventures through southern Africa

April 2nd, 2014

By Haley Church

Haley Church sits on a rock looking out into the cliffs
Taking in some sun at Camps Beach in Cape Town

Over the past couple of weeks I had the privilege of spending some time in a few different countries in Southern Africa. It is amazing to see the diversity that exists within such a small region. I visited South Africa and Namibia during my spring break and noticed some major differences between the three countries in which I have spent time.

The majority of my time is spent in Gaborone, Botswana, the capital city of Botswana. The city has a population of about 400,000 residents and for the most part has been unimpressive to me. The architecture is bland and the desert landscape does not do a lot for the eyes. Public trash disposal doesn’t seem to be a priority. I rarely see trash cans around, so rubbish is simply thrown onto the side of street. The people are the redeeming factor for Gaborone, however; they are always welcoming, helpful and warm.

After a 20 hour bus ride, I arrived in Cape Town, South Africa. This was by far the most beautiful city I have ever seen. The ocean was a clear, light blue and Table Mountain loomed high over the city. The weather was mild but still warm and the people had a chill, laid-back style and confidence that I could definitely get used to.

Haley Church and friends begin hiking up a mountain with the city and mountains in the distance
The beginning of our 4-hour hike up Table Mountain

Both South African cities are home to more than 3 million people and have a much more diverse population than Gaborone. Being of European descent in Botswana attracts stares and prompts photos but my blonde hair and pale skin fit right in Cape Town and Johannesburg. It was crazy to see how different the cities were and the influences of colonization even after independence was gained. The buildings, languages, and demeanor of the people all held hints of the strong European influences in the region.

Finally, I traveled to Swakopmund, Namibia. This was a much more quaint city compared to the rest. With only around 40,000 people, the city felt much more like a city I could find in Iowa- minus the beautiful beach of course. The city had a vibrant downtown area with local cafes and shops. The buildings were built with intricate peaks and painted bright colors. It was a nice contrast to the concrete buildings of Gaborone. The people were similar to those in Cape Town, a diverse mix of races.

Traveling was a wonderful experience! It opened my eyes to the vast differences in southern Africa. The region has so much to offer and I am grateful to be able to experience some of its amazing cities. 

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. To see more photos of Haley's adventures, visit here.

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