Paloma Hamlett from Johns Hopkins University
If you are skimming the blogs looking for some advice before your upcoming study abroad trip you’ve found the right post. A few months ago my search history was full of inquiries of weather, dress code, customs, and culture in Botswana. I hope this blog posts serves to provide some well-timed advice and relief for all your study abroad concerns.
Overall, CIEE, Basetsana (the director), the interns and volunteers, are phenomenal resources for transitioning into the culture and systems here. At orientation we were swiftly and smoothly introduced to Setswana language, greetings, food, transport, university, class registration, CIEE regulations, and areas in Gaborone via scavenger hunt.
The greatest advice I took is live with an open mind and heart. The pace in Botswana is more laid back and so many things will be new and different. There will be so many experiences to approach with appreciation and awareness. Your classes and credits will be sorted, your weekend trips will be organized, and you will make friends, so appreciate the moments as they come for their uniqueness and learning opportunities. You are about to embark on one of the most incredible and influential journey of your life! Have fun and stay goofy!
And with that, here are some things I wish I knew or am glad I was advised of before coming:
Bring rain gear! To be fair, I am here Jan-May, in the wet season, but umbrellas are used both rain and shine to ward off precipitation and heat. The say the dry season is best for viewing wildlife and nature. As a student in the wet season, I was able to see luscious landscapes and beautiful animals like the big 5 and stunning birds. It’s definitely crucial to have a rain fly for your tent. Also, it is extremely hot, so make sure you bring a water bottle–especially because they do not sell Nalgene bottles in Botswana. Also sunscreen is much much pricier here, so consider buying in bulk in the US. And while you may plan on bringing a lot of shorts, I found that flowy pants and breezy bottoms come in clutch.
Food and Travel
Within the first day in Botswana, I learned the main dietary staples and make up of meals, and within the first week, my favorite foods and places to eat on and off campus. As for travel you may have heard of combis, public transport white vans which cost p3.50 per ride (exchange rate is ~1USD=p10), so coins are coveted. Most transportation information is through word of mouth, but I found combi maps online! (https://www.facebook.com/bpsc2/posts/413711368793276 )
CIEE Extras and classes
We had the incredible opportunity to stay in Kanye, a large village near Gabs. We visited clinics daily, which provided a unique perspective on public health. In Gaborone we visit clinics once a week, and have two CIEE classes that are once a week, and Setswana three times a week. There are weekend outings to cultural villages, volunteering, hiking Kgale hill, rhino park, lion park. CIEE interns help with our visas, transport with our favorite taxi driver Bethel, international documents, setting up volunteering, guides to travel, and tips to managing culture shock and gender treatment differences.
Up Kgale hill