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9 posts categorized "Student"


Easter break in Nambia

100_0752Post by Rachel Mitchener from George Washington University

For Easter break, a few girls from CIEE and I decided to visit neighboring Namibia- where massive sand dunes meet the Atlantic Ocean.  We flew into Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, and were greeted by cold and rain.  This was something we didn’t expect and were certainly not prepared for because of the rainless, 90 degree Gaborone weather- but being in the cold weather was a bit of a relief. DSCN0661Despite the rain, we were able to take in the beautiful sights of the Namibian countryside that led us into Windhoek.  Windhoek is a city much like Gabs- sprawling with very few tall buildings. The main difference between these cities is that Windhoek is built on hills like Johannesburg, and Gabs is flat. In Windhoek, they also speak different languages than the ones in Gabs- Afrikaans, German, English, and clicking languages that I did not recognize.  We were under the impression that German would be the most spoken of the languages here, but Namibia is more like a piece of South Africa and most people speak Afrikaans. That night we went to Joe's, an outdoor restaurant much like Gabs’ very own Bull and Bush Restaurant, and had a great dinner (thankfully shielded from the pouring rain by straw umbrellas) before getting a good night's rest before our trip to Swakopmund in the morning. 

IMG_1776The five hour trip to Swakopmund was definitely worth the travel.  Swakopmund is a mishmash of the cuter part of the Jersey Shore mixed with German and Dutch architecture, with the slightest hint of Africa.  If you were blindfolded and released there, I'm almost certain you would have no idea where you were (reality television show about being blindfolded and released at an undisclosed area is in the works with my fellow CIEE students). Since Swakopmund has so many cute cafes we decided to get coffee at one resembling Starbucks and held off for dinner later that night with the rest of the CIEE students that also went to Swakopmund.  DSCN0710

The next day was Easter, and we decided to celebrate in an extremely unconventional way- quad biking and sand boarding on the belt of sand dunes that stretch from Swakopmund to the neighboring port city of Walvis Bay. 

DSCN0690The scenery was breathtaking as we rode over dune after dune.  Eventually, we stopped at the tallest of the dunes where we went sand boarding and on the ride back we stopped by Walvis Bay, where the dunes meet the ocean, for a great photo opportunity. IMG_1801  That night we ended our trip with Easter dinner in a restaurant made out of half of a ship, and watched yet another unforgettable African sunset. IMG_1808

When we arrived back in Gabrone, I couldn’t help but to think for the first time that I was home.  Although it took three months, I realize I have finally accepted Gaborone as my temporary home and in that instant I knew that I would miss Gabs when I return to New Jersey.


Traveling tips!

Meinzim (1)Post by Alice Lee from The University of Southern California  -  CLAS

Despite how weird this may sound, one of my favorite things about being in Southern Africa is traveling.  Not the being-in-a-different-country part of traveling (although this is obviously quite wonderful as well), but the actual state of being in transit part of traveling.

DSCF3320 Inside of a combi.  My friend and I were squished in the back row between 3 big men which meant she and I took turns leaning back/leaning forward the entire trip.

The bus always breaks down, you are always squished and forced to smell incredibly strong body odor for far too long, and everyone just looks at you and laughs because foreigners typically do not take this kind of public transportation.

DSCF3319Leg room on the same combi as pictured below (3320).  Big backpacks are the best type of luggage for these trips!

If you study abroad in Botswana, you will definitely be traveling often, so here are a few things I’ve learned from my past two trips going to Manzini, Swaziland and Harare, Zimbabwe.

  • Do you know someone who lives where you want to go?  Does someone know someone?  A friend of a friend of a friend?  Don’t be afraid to reach out!  Foreigners are usually quite happy to meet fellow foreigners.  In addition, living in a home rather than a hostel typically provides a much more authentic experience, AND you get automatic tour guides.  In both Swaziland and Zimbabwe, I stayed with expats whom I’d never met before, but knew through a friend of a friend and had a wonderful experience.
  • Calculate the travel time prior to departure.  Then add at least 2 hours to that time.  Again, the bus ALWAYS breaks down.  Maybe I am just cursed.  I always just give a whole day to traveling, since it usually takes about that long to get anywhere anyway.  You always want more time rather than less!  Also, make sure you know what you are doing once you arrive at your location.  Are you taking a taxi, connecting to another bus, or is someone picking you up?  Taking one of the taxis hawking at you around the bus door would be my absolute last option, especially when you’re traveling alone.  When I came back from Harare alone, I was arrive in the Gaborone bus rank at 2:30am and forgot to make transport arrangements back to UB.  Thank God for really a kind cab driver friend who woke up at 2am to pick me up!!
  •  Be friendly and open to fellow passengers.  (But not too open…creeps are still everywhere.)  Don’t be afraid to ask questions!  I’ve met so many cool people on buses.  Most people are very kind and helpful.  I traveled to Harare alone and by the time I arrived in Harare, I had people making sure I knew where I was getting off and had someone picking me up.  They translated the Shona for me without me even asking.  I truly doubt I would have made it to Harare as smoothly had I not made friends on the bus ride along the way!
  • Travel light!  For obvious reasons.  No one cares if you re-wear a shirt once.  Or even twice.  When the bus broke down on the way to Harare, I was able to get on another bus within the hour because I only had a carry-on sized backpack!

DSCF3843Combi at the bus rank in Manzini.

My travel buddy, Elle.  Early wake up calls (get to the combi early because combis don't leave until they're full!) equal coffee.  But only if you won't have to pee because then everyone would just hate you.

Be open to letting anything happen and you will learn to love traveling days just as much as the exploring days!  One last tip: If you have access to facial wipes, bring them along.  It is ridiculous how dirty these combis and buses are and no one wants their face breaking out for pictures!!


Spring Break - Cape Town Edition

Image001Post by Elizabeth Litke from The University of Evansville

We were all ready for a break from Gaborone! So a group of students headed to Cape Town to spend a marvelous week under the sun. Out of all the things we could do there, a group of eight of us girls decided we had to experience shark cage diving with Great Whites. Image007

On Monday morning we piled into a van and headed to Gansbaii, a smaller fishing town about two hours outside of Cape Town. After eating a little breakfast, it was time to sign our lives away and head to the boat. It was a short ride out to Shark Alley before the crew starting throwing chum into the water. Within minutes the first Great White arrived and people starting putting on wetsuits. The water was about 59 degrees, so without the wetsuits we would have been freezing. Our group of eight was the second group to jump into the cage and be amazed by the sharks swimming around us. In order to see the sharks under water they gave us goggles but no air tanks or anything else. Image005

Using dead fish heads and a fake seal named Gloria, the Captain would bring the sharks around the cage. Whenever one was close enough to see under, someone would shout at us to go under and what direction to look at when we got under. At first I didn’t think holding my breath for a long was going to happen, but once I got under and saw the sharks I never wanted to come up. Every time we went under it was a thrill. No matter how many times the sharks passed us by it never got old. Even when we got out of the water my adrenaline was still pumping. Image003

After our time was up we had to attempt to warm up and eat a little food. It was even crazier seeing other people in the cage after we had gone and thinking “Wow, we just jumped in the ocean with great white sharks!”

The experience in Cape Town is one that will never be beaten. When coming to Africa I never would have thought that I would be one of the people to go shark cage diving, but with an amazing group of girls by my side I did it! It was an experience that I will remember for the rest of my lifetime. Image009


Teaching at Happy Home

DSC00183Post by Rachel Spera from Clark University

Hi, my name is Rachel Spera and I am from Los Angeles, California.

During my time here, not only am I going to school, travelling to as many countries I can, and interning, but I am also teaching English! I am teaching 8-12 year olds in Old Naledi (one of the poorest areas in Gaborone) at an afterschool program called Happy Home.  IMG_1192

Before I began working at Happy Home, I decided to go and visit with the aim of determining if I would be a good fit to the program. The moment I stepped out of the car, a little boy came sprinting towards me with a giant smile on his face and hugged my legs. When I looked down at his face; he was smiling back up at me.  I decided then and there that this is definitely where I would be volunteering. IMG_1194

The program director explained that they needed an English teacher.  Here in Botswana, Setswana is spoken at home and English is the language used in schools.  If these kids are to have a chance of getting out of poverty, they need to know English.  During my conversation with the director, she said, “I have been praying for you. We need you here!” I was in the right place, at the right time!

Having taught there for about 4 weeks, I have really grown to love these kids. Interestingly enough, while I am teaching them English, they are teaching me Setswana.  Sometimes I throw in “Go siame!” meaning “Good.”  They laugh every time I try to speak their language. IMG_1193

Every now and then, odd things happen during class, well, odd to me! A chicken once walked through my class.  Yes, a chicken.  The children did not even flinch at the sight of it, but that is definitely not common where I come from.

One of the kids, Kgomotso (kgomo means cow) came to class today without shoes and with a hole in his shirt.  This little boy is the most adorable child I have ever seen.  He is 10 years old and only comes up to my hip.  He always comes into class with a smile and is very eager to come up to the white board and answers questions.  Sometimes I don’t see him because he is so small and he will tug on my shorts with his left hand, right hand still in the air while leaning forward in his plastic chair, “Rachel! Pick me.”  So sweet! I want to keep this little boy! IMG_1195

Teaching at Happy Home is one of the many things I have been doing while in Botswana.  I have been given so many unbelievable opportunities in just the short two months that I have been here. 

Like I said earlier, I am definitely in the right place at the right time! IMG_1196

The Little Things

HeadshotPost by Meredith Henning from The University of Southern California  -  CLAS 

With spring break being only a week away, it is no surprise this week will have been one of the longest yet. On top of the agonizing anticipation of jetting off to Cape Town, midterms are in full swing. The thought of getting through a few midterms and a Setswana final is enough to make anyone want to crawl into bed and not come out of Vegas until Friday.

However,  in Gabs all you need are a few pick me ups to make a world of difference.  Here, each week sometimes the little things are the only way to make it through a particularly frustrating week.  In the beginning of the week, we went out to dinner to celebrate a fellow CIEE member, Rachel's birthday. Despite the place not having chicken... or beef, it didn't seem to matter in the end. All that mattered was being with the awesome people I feel so fortunate to have met, as well as meeting new friends and celebrating a birthday in a way you only can in Bots.

Picture 1Rachel blowing out her makeshift candle

The rest of the week carried on the same, my mood perking up when meeting the group for a CIEE meeting and being surprised with pizza (yay free food and good company!).

Picture 2Our group during the meeting mid bite of pizza

Or just hanging out with the girls and going to get dinner.  

Picture 3Shannon enjoying news café

No matter how unbearable a week may seem the little things truly make the experience worth having. And here now at the end I can take a sigh of relief knowing tests are done (for now), and that in a few hours I will be unwinding in a gorgeous city right by the beach.

Picture 4


Making new memories in Joburg

IMG_0340Post by Beata Fogarasi from Georgetown University

Studying abroad is all about new experiences, and travelling is, I think, the best way to make new memories.

Leaving Gabs isn’t that hard, and going on a quick weekend trip to Johannesburg was just a question of making reservations. We left at dawn on Friday, arriving in Joburg in the early afternoon. Seeing the “real” city after a few weeks of Gabs was surprising and so exciting- Joburg has a little New York-y vibe, with tall buildings and busy streets, but it’s thoroughly its own city. The history of the country and the city itself seeps into everything you see and do- even the hills are man made remnants of the mining industry that put Joburg on the map.

IMG_0373 IMG_0367We stayed in a wonderful, homey hostel almost too good to leave, but we took advantage of their touring service and spent Saturday in Soweto, a giant section of Joburg. I’ve never done sightseeing with a private guide before, but it was a great arrangement, we asked Chris all the questions we wanted and he took us to the tallest building in Africa as well as sights around Soweto.

IMG_0408We even visited an informal settlement named Motsoaledi, where a guide took us around to see a really poor neighborhood. It felt pretty awkward, a group of tourists gawking at poverty, but I think it was an important balance to all the amazing things we saw that day. I think problems in the US are often hidden away- looking at my neighborhood in DC, you’d never dream of the ‘worse’ areas of the city, just a few miles away. You don’t go there: it’s dangerous, it’s not good. That separation exists here too, but in Soweto, for example, rich and poor neighborhoods are just a fence apart.

IMG_0395Case in point: five minutes down the road we drove by Desmond Tutu’s house and visited Nelson Mandela’s former home, currently a museum. As if that wasn’t interesting enough, we happened to be there just as George Bizos, Mandela’s attorney during the Rivonia trial that began his long imprisonment, was there filming an interview. We tried to stay out of the shot (lies), but it was really cool to see a man of historical significance in person. IMG_0432It really hit home just how recently apartheid and the struggle against it took place. It’s hard to imagine Botswana has been independent for less than fifty years too! Traveling here is really just moving through living history. Our weekend in Joburg was terrific, and a beautiful sunset escorted us home- home!- to Gabs at the end of our adventure.

Ke Rata Botswana Thata

Brooke Pics (2)Post by Brooke Segerberg from University of Colorado Boulder

It was the beginning of my sixth week here in Gaborone, Botswana and I found myself out in the middle of the African bush with the sun on my back and sweat running down my neck while hacking away at a nasty little shrub commonly know as Devil’s Thorn (its name couldn’t be more appropriate.)  It has curved fish hook-like thorns that burry themselves into your skin, making it nearly impossible to get out.  Your only option is to take a deep breath and rip; blood and loss of skin is inevitable.  So there I was, hot, tired, thirsty, scratched up, bloody, and wouldn’t you know, it was the happiest I had been since I arrived in Botswana.

I will admit, even with a fair bit of traveling and living abroad, the last five weeks in Gaborone had been difficult and frustrating: the slow pace of life, the inconsistency of things, the power outages, and the heat.  For example, with no schedule or timetable for the local transportation here, you may find yourself waiting for a combi anywhere from five minutes to two hours.  As a homestayer, I live far from campus, so I have to wake up at 5 a.m. each morning to wait for a combi by 5:30.  Sometimes I arrive to school by 6:00 while other times I am late to my 8 a.m. class.  Needless to say, the adjustment had been arduous and more than a little bit discouraging.

However, I am lucky to have the opportunity to intern on a wild game reserve while I am here, it has become the highlight of my weeks.  Having grown up in the mountains of Colorado, I am a nature girl at heart, so working on the reserve has become my chance to escape the traffic jams, city air, and the nonstop beeping of combi horns.  I enjoy it so much that I find myself going there to work even on my days off.  And this day happened to be one of those days.  Our task: clear about 5K of park fence from any unwanted overgrown trees and foliage.

Brooke Pics (4)The park staff and I hiked uphill along the fence line slashing away with machetes (locally known as pangas) sending thorns and branches flying everywhere.  At this point, my legs and arms resembled something of an etch-a-sketch creation that a four-year-old might come up with.  But I can’t forget reaching the top of that last hill, looking down at the rolling hills, and realizing how worthwhile all the blood, sweat, and tears had been.  The freshly cleared fence line rose and fell with the undulating hills below us and I couldn’t help but feel proud of the work we had done. 

Brooke Pics (1)As though it had been planned, right when we turned around to start heading back a white and brown head, level with the trees, bobbed about 30 feet away from us.  A giraffe!  It stood there casually munching on tree leaves with its tail swishing lazily back and forth.  We watched it for about a minute without saying a word.  Slowly it came through the trees, revealing its speckled body and the full extent of its elegant neck before it continued past us disappearing in the trees from whence it came.

It was that moment that the realization hit me.  I was in Africa.  How many people can say they have worked in a place where they take a break from where they are working only to look up and see a giraffe casually walking by?  And since then, I have had similar moments with zebra, wildebeest, ostrich, baboons and rhinos (to name a few.)  It blows my mind every time.   And even though I still get frustrated with certain aspects of my time studying abroad, I will always think back to that day to remind myself how lucky I am to be here in Botswana.  It’s been an experience of a lifetime.  And I’m only six weeks in!

Brooke Pics (3)I stood there at the top of the hill, a panga in my hand and a saw thrown over my shoulder like a bow, droplets of sweat dripped into my eyes.  I smiled.  This, I thought, is why I came to Africa!



Image001Post by Daniel Furente from University of Pittsburgh

Coming to Botswana can bring along with it many stresses: How do I sign up for classes? How do I catch a taxi or combi? Will people in my program like me? When I first arrived, I realized that I needed a way to cope with these stresses or else I would probably implode. Thankfully, I found some really good outlets. There are always the basic methods such as listening to music or going for walks but I found that the University of Botswana (UB) as well as Gaborone has some very useful facilities for stress relief.

For starters, I found that learning a new sport was not only fun but a wonderful coping mechanism. I started learning tennis the other day and found that I really enjoyed it. What’s even better is the courts are really nice. There are 5 tennis courts, 2 handball courts, 2 volleyball courts and a basketball court. There is also a tennis club where students, ranging from novice to experienced, can partake in competitive fun. Furthermore, UB has a large assortment of clubs that any student can join, as well as a gym and an Olympic sized pool complete with an Olympic diving structure.

Image004Another way I have learned to reduce stress is to hike through nature. Hills that possess numerous hiking trails surround Gaborone.

Image005So far, my favorite hiking trail has been Kgale Hill. Hiking this trail was amazing for multiple reasons. For starters, the views were breath taking. From one side of the hill, I was able to see an impeccable overlook of Gaborone. From the other side of the hill, I could see the rolling landscape as well as a quarry. Complementing these views was the diverse wildlife, ranging from butterflies to baboons, all along the trail to contribute to the relaxing atmosphere.

DanFoodPictureMy final stress relief came in the form of food. I have found trying a new restaurant each week with my girlfriend and friends has really helped ease the aches of life. There is something relaxing in trying different types of food from different places with people who just want to unwind as well and enjoy a good meal. Image008

Before, the daily stresses that I had would block me from my ultimate goal of learning something about myself as well as enjoying Botswana with my girlfriend, but by using these stress reducers and coping techniques, I found that I can feel at home here, and I can really focus on learning something new each day be it about Africa, Botswana, or myself.


Keeping my cool!

Image001Post by Lauren Kecskes from Claremont McKenna College


That is the theme for this week.  Whenever you travel to a foreign country, you expect to be frustrated at least once during your stay, and it’s safe to stay we have all had our fill of frustration during our first few weeks in Gabs.  It has been difficult for me at least to stay positive, however with a little bit of humor and some awesome meals at the local restaurants, I’ve begun to feel more comfortable over these past few days.  So here is a list of some things I have learned over the past few weeks that have helped me keep things in perspective:        

  1. BE PATIENT – Everything happens in its own time.  Everything, from small stuff like ordering a phaphata (traditional biscuits) to internships and ID cards.  Good thing is that you’re an international student so not having an ID is perfectly fine!
  2. Fashionably late is not a trend, it’s the norm – expect professors to be at least 15 minutes late, or not show up at all.  But don’t worry, that means you won’t have class. 
  3. Umbrellas are not just for rain – portable shade.
  4. Everyone wears jeans! – Sounds counter intuitive because it’s so hot and few places have air conditioning.  But long pants protect your skin from picking up other people’s sweat and prevent sunburns or horrible shorts tans.                          

    Image002The everyday "look"

  5. Speaking of air conditioning, CIEE Office is the new hangout – hands down the coldest place on campus and great company too.

    Image003                                   Kyle loves pictures! Not pictured - the other 10 people in the room.

  6. Gaborone Sun is the place to tan – this hotel has great drinks and a pool that doesn’t require a swim cap.  And I’ve heard through the grape vine their fitness center is quite nice. 

    Image004                                              Some of the CIEE girls at the Gaborone Sun.

  7. National Stadium gym – where I go to burn off some frustration.  Really what’s kept me sane and as an added bonus, you can occasionally work out with the national soccer team. 

    Image005                                          The National Stadium gym                                           

  8. Take advantage of CIEE – they are there for you, so use them.  If they booked a bus to Phakalane (where the clubs are), go to Phakalane.  On your own it would be at least P100.
  9. Food is really cheap – 10 pula (less than $2) can go a long way. 

    Image006             Mmm....Mmopane worms are an excellent source of protein. Delicious nutty flavor!

  10. Speak in Setswana – not only are people more willing to help you, speaking in Setswana is also a great icebreaker.  Combis (mini-buses that serve as public transport) are a great place to practice. 

Above all else, we have only been here for three weeks!  Pretty soon, we will be taking more trips, get more involved with classes and start internships and volunteering.  So despite all of the initial frustration, I am still excited to be here because face it, we’re studying abroad in Africa.  How many people can say that?    


Mama and baby zebra, one of the highlights of our stay so far