We've come to the end of our Spring semester and its pretty insane how quickly the last five months have flown by. It wasn't too long ago we were at the airport anticipating arrivals, now we are get ready to say goodbye to dear friends. Despite the fast approaching fairwells, it is impossible to close this chapter without reminiscing on the wonderful times had with our Spring 2016 program. Here's a recap of the semester:
Our Spring Program consisted of 14 vibrant students from numerous universities throughout America. They arrived at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport in Gaborone and were greeted by our lovely volunteers and home stay families. The first night in our small city of Gabs was quite and allowed everyone to recoup from the long trips they just endured.
The next morning was the beginning of our Orientation Week. Orientation is the most important period of our semester, not only do the students engage personally with the Resident Director and Program Assistant, they enjoy first hand information about the country, the city and culture and University. The essence of Orientation is to ensure adequate cross-cultural integration for our new guests, which includes lifestyles, traditions, language, safety, food and music. The students are also have an opportunity to view the city, they took part in an Amazing Race : Combi Safari led by our student volunteers; this is an activity whereby the students use public transport throughout the city of Gaborone in small groups, whilst taking picture and enjoy the beauty of Gaborone just as the locals do.
After a long week of Orientation, CIEE Gaborone staff, volunteers and students enjoyed a relaxing welcome dinner at Avani Hotel's Savuti Grill. This was an evening filled with many smiles, laughter and good food. A perfect end to the week and beginning of the semester.
Botswana is more than the hustle and bustle of Gabs city life! In addition to taking classes and regular college life, CIEE Gaborone has several planned excursions to get the students out of the comfortable city bubble. In addition to the Community Public Health site visits to clinics in and around greater Gabs, the students spend a week long home stay visit to a neighboring village, Kanye. This is an important part of the program as students are fully and truly immersed in Batswana culture by staying with a local family.
The first excursion was to the Bahurutse Cultural Village. The weekend was filled with native dances around the fire, food made in true Tswana fashion and camping under the stars. The students got take part in a hike that led them to a wonderful gorge and fun-filled times.
The students also took a trip to a nearby private nature reserve, Mokolodi Nature Reserve, which provides game drives and rhino tracking in order to sustain its conservation efforts. The students enjoyed a relaxing and educative game drive and a scrumptious lunch!
Our Spring program was a lucky bunch as they came just in time for the 10 year anniversary of the Son of the Soil Festival. This festival celebrates Tswana culture and cuisine and achievements over the past 50 years. The students and staff, decked out in traditional attire, as they attended the event to celebrate Botswana, its people, and everlasting tradition!
Spring 2016 ladies having fun under the sun !
The students traveled further up north of Botswana to the Orapa Diamond Mine to view the countries most lucrative asset. They also took a trip to Serowe, a large village that houses the famous Khama III Memorial Museum and Khama Rhino Sanctuary to view the countries thriving rhino population.
The end of semester trip is honestly one of the most amazing experiences for our students and staff. The 5 days are spent up north in Kasane, and one day at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The trip also included two nights in the Chobe Nature Reserve, which allows for a true view of nature at its best. The numerous game drives allowed everyone to view a plethora of animals, and we were lucky to see the entire big 5, not to mention a group of lions on a hunt! The experience was breathtaking and something to eternally cherish.
As much as the semester is jam packed with lessons, clinics, internships and excursions, CIEE Gaborone makes it a point to take time to give back to those less fortunate in our community. The students, with a little help from the program staff, organized a student led initiative or volunteer day, to assist a local community based organisation of their choice.
This semester, they chose Batlang Support Group; Batlang was founded in 2003 in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic that was affecting the residents of Mogoditshane, a village on the outskirts of Gaborone. Batlang’s mission is to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS by educating their community in Mogoditshane about abstinence and proper use of protection. In addition to spreading awareness about the disease, Batlang Support Group serves as a daycare center for orphaned and vulnerable children. They have kids that range in age from 0 to 6.
Our students felt the best way to assist the organization was to revamp the premises, this included class rooms, and the playground! They did a spectacular job and ended the day with food and fun games with the kids and staff!
As we bring the semester to a close, wrapping up classes and moving out of home stays and dorms often brings a dark cloud over the good times we have had during the last couple of months. In order to keep the spirits up, we had a home stay farewell braii and a Great Gatsby themed Farewell Dinner. These turned out to be the most meaningful times we spent together as we not only had a good time with one another, but we were able to reminisce about the times that were, good, bad and those that grew us.
As each student flies back to their respective home towns and universities, we here at CIEE Gaborone keep our doors constantly open to each and every individual; that being said, its never goodbye, just see you later. We hope to see you all back in Botswana in the near future. Till next time, Sala Sentle (Stay Well)!