Brooke Helstrom from University of Southern California
Hello! My name is Brooke and I’m a homestay and an Arts & Sciences student on the Gabs CIEE Program. I was really nervous before coming to Botswana, and had no idea what to expect. After much deliberation and second guessing myself, I went with my instinct and applied as a homestay… and I can confidently say that I made the right decision. Here is a mediocre attempt to capture what my daily life is like here, with some mediocre advice sprinkled throughout.
Being domestic at home
6:15am- wake up after a night of dogs barking outside my window, it’s a good morning if I don’t wake up in a cold sweat due to the heat (your host family should provide you with a fan for your room, it will literally save your life).
7:15am- walk to the University of Botswana. I live in a flat (an apartment), a walking distance from campus. Most other homestays have longer commutes via combis (taxis). I love my walk to school (despite getting super sweaty), I pass two women vendors on the side of the road and always stop and chat with them. Depending on what I’m wearing (whoohooo patriarchy), I’ll get between 2-3 honks and marriage proposals on my walk in the morning. Ladies, be prepared for this. I find it best to just laugh it off, sometimes if I’m in a bad mood I’ll return the harassment with a very well-rehearsed death stare. Dressing like a potato, which I tend to do subconsciously, actually helps to reduce the hooting. As a general rule of thumb, men will yell out regardless of what you are wearing- the key is to be confident and approach it light heartedly.
8am- Class! As an Arts & Sciences student, I am taking 5 UB classes and one CIEE (Setswana) course. I am not doing an internship, which means I have a lot of class. The courses differ greatly here at UB depending on your field of study, so everyone’s experience is different. I am taking all upper level environmental science courses, and have a lot of assignments. I came to Gabs with that ‘study abroad mentality’, expecting to put half of an effort into everything and to have no “real” work. This proved a very naïve and ignorant attitude, and I would advise you to avoid the adoption of such a philosophy. While ‘Botswana time’ is certainly true (things move slowly, things never start on time), and there are obvious classroom etiquette differences, my classes here have been nothing short of ‘real’. I am here to LEARN!!! And I have been doing just that.
8am-5pm- Classes throughout the day with some breaks in between. During breaks all the CIEE kids hang on the fourth floor of one of the buildings in the main quad, right outside the CIEE offices. The main attraction of this bleak carpeted corner is the CIEE wifi (and of course, the CIEE admins whose faces literally embody the feeling of home). Sometimes, if I’m feeling a little crazy, I’ll go to the library and do homework during breaks. Most of the time is spent waiting for wifi to connect and having curious and friendly UB students approach me and subsequently distract me from my work. Then, I meet up with friends for lunch and we walk to one of the campus gates, where there are vendors selling some pretty dank food. I am a vegan and it’s been surprisingly easy finding proper nutrition. Lots of beets, beans, pasta, and cabbage. Tip: bring your own Tupperware to the gates to reduce your Styrofoam consumption #environmentalstudies.
Outside the University of Botswana Library
5:30pm- Field hockey practice! I joined the UB/ national field hockey team, and it is an absolute blast. There are roughly 20 boys and girls on the team, and we practice everyday. The team was very welcoming to me, and I look forward to practice at the end of every day J Tip: join something on campus!!!! You might be really busy with schoolwork like me (or you very well might not be busy at all), but regardless it is important to be involved with the local community. The field hockey team makes the university feel much smaller and friendly. You can also volunteer- I volunteer at Mokolodi Nature Reserve on Fridays.
8:00pm- Call Bethel, the trusty cab driver, and drive home.
8:30pm- Eat, take a much-needed shower, do as much homework as I can before I fall asleep. Or, depending on the day of the week, watch an intense crime show with my host mom.
Here’s a pic of some girls on the field hockey team. See if you can find me!