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Why I Chose Gabs!


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.

Pic 1With Keya, Lulu and Teni


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!

Pic 2Group selfie please..!!

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.

Pic 3Elephants in Nata


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! ( )

Pic 5

Kanye, Botswana


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.

Pic 6

Up Kgale hill



Paige headshotPaige Spata from Miami University


This past week was spent by the Community Public Health students in Kanye, and the Arts & Sciences students joined for the weekend. Kanye is a very large village with beautiful rolling hills about an hour and a half from UB. Each student was placed with a host family, and each host family differed in demographics. I stayed with a 72-year-old woman, whom I called “mom”, and her equally elderly cousin. The children and grandchildren of my mother as well as her siblings joined us for the weekend as my mom is the matriarch of her family. 

Pic 1.2

My host mom

Hannah stayed with her host mom, brother, niece, and nephew. Most of the host families did not have running water which was a situation most of us had never been exposed to. Many of the families expected us to participate as daughters by helping prepare dinner or washing dishes following meals.

Pic 1

Hannah and her siblings

For four days, the CPH students travelled to different clinics to observe healthcare in a village as compared to healthcare in the capital. To our surprise, the clinics in Kanye seemed to be more clean, organized, and equipped than the clinics in Gaborone. Many of the clinics even appeared to be making the transition from physical record keeping to electronic records kept on computers. However, many of the obstacles observed in Gaborone are also obstacles faced by Kanye clinics such as poor allocation of resources, lack of patient compliance, and a failure to follow sanitary protocol. After clinic each day, we regrouped at KFC or Debonaire’s for lunch and swapped clinic experiences. Afterwards, we either went to the education center for Setswana or went home to spend time with our families. The families asked many questions about life in America as compared to life in Botswana, and it became very obvious that most of the information Batswana receive about America, unsurprisingly, come from TV. For example, my host mom asked if there are old people in America since she never sees any on TV.


On Thursday, the CPH students went to the Kgotla in the morning. The Kgotla is more or less the court of the village in which weddings, criminal cases, and general meetings are held. To visit the Kgotla, a woman must wear a long skirt (past her knees), long sleeves, and a headwrap.

Pic 2

At Kanye Kgotla

During our trip to the Kgotla, there were four weddings officiated by the chief of marriage, and we heard that the family of one bride received 10 cows and a sheep for the marriage. I later asked my host mom more about marriages in Botswana, and she said the family of the bride is offered a minimum of eight cows as the bride price. Also, ceremonies typically occur on Thursdays while the parties occur on the weekend. For the parties, multiple cows are slaughtered to prepare food that lasts all day and night since the festivities last far into the night. She also said that the bride will change into multiple different white dresses that family members have bought for her. My mom then asked what the bride price is in America, and she was appalled to learn that the groom does not have to pay the bride’s family cows – or at all – to marry. On Saturday, all of the CIEE students went to Motse Lodge which is a cultural village, similar to Bahurutshe. At the lodge, we learned how to milk goats, make phaphatha (sort of like large English muffins), and prepare porridge.

Pic 3


Overall, this week gave me a firsthand understanding of the cultural and lifestyle differences between Batswana and Americans. It was wonderful to have a family just as interested in my life in America as I was in their lives. I hope that we impacted their lives even half as much as they impacted ours.



CIEE Volunteer day - Spring 2018


On a beautiful bright day, after so much blessings of rain that have occurred lately. We arrived at 9am to the children at the center having their breakfast and their volunteers helping them out. This Saturday was the schedule volunteer day hosted by CIEE at Gamodubu Child Trust Center, with the study abroad advisors as they visited our study center in Gaborone.

Group Site Visit

The group of study abroad advisors visits different universities and get to understand the CIEE center in those universities. The visit is an excellent way to promote our program and University of Botswana as a host institution to study abroad administrators and faculty at key CIEE sending institutions. These institutions include schools who currently send students here or those who are considering approving the Botswana program. The aim of the visit is to convince participants that they should be sending students to the Botswana program, we took the along on our volunteer day.


Gamodubu Child Trust Center

Gamodubu Child Care Trust is a centre for orphaned and vulnerable children who are mostly also living with HIV and Aids. The Centre offers an out of school program that includes, but is not limited to feeding and also ensuring the children take their medication and have access to regular check-ups. Gamodubu is a Childcare that looks after 200 orphaned children, most of them with HIV. The center was open in 2005 and it’s located in the small village of Gamodubu in Kweneng District.

 Shirley Madikwe is the founder of Gamodubu Child Care Trust, one beautiful soul as she is a mother to many children as well as a sister and daughter to Gamodubu. Madikwe has made a tremendous impact in the lives of many young people. The Child Care Trust began simply out of a realisation of the deep need in the village. Madikwe began feeding desperate children out of her own resources at her own home. Together with volunteers, Madikwe washes the children’s clothes and prepares their lunch so that when they return, they find food ready. After eating, she makes sure that all the children study and do their homework. The centre also takes care of babies and toddlers who need a lot of attention. The babies are bathed, fed and taken care of daily. The center gives those children accommodation, who have  to walk 12 kilometres to and from their villages to school daily. The center has a poultry and vegetable garden.

Past donations

  1. The BIHL Trust continues to support the Gamodubu Child Care Trust in its daily activities and its projects such as the construction of the Multi Purpose hall.
  2. Zion Christian Church donated food and toiletries to Gamodubu Child Care Trust.
  3. Letshego donated P71 000 with a  fun-filled day , football and food.


Introductions were exchanged and the owner explained more about the center, how many children it accommodates, their different ages and the type of help they get from now and then.


The center children gave us a performance before the activities started.


Activities of the day: (everyone was divided into different groups together with the center’s children and the staff)


The cleaning crew helped with picking up litter around the center and putting them into trash plastic bags. This activity had an educational twist to it and taught students how to recycle, how to store different types of trash and the importance of not littering. After collecting all the litter, the activity leader taught their group how to make Paper Mache with recycled paper.



The group did games such as the alphabet hunt: looking for hidden alphabets in the library and making words from them, book reading, crafting sentences using different letters the group leader provided, making a FIRST AID kit and memory game.


Reading circle



The kitchen had more fun than just cooking, while the group was waiting for food to cook, they had chats in between and the older kids telling us about their day to day life and our students sharing their experiences and leadership skills.



The crew painted the playground and the soon to be open day care center while making sure that the activity is more of educational aswell as fun. 


In between we had chats about what their favourite subjects at school, what they want to be when they grow up and what sports they like.



We helped to wash the uniforms of children at the center and discussing leaderships skills with the older kids who were helping out.


ACTIVE GAMES (outdoor)

Outside we had to groups playing variety of games, soccer and some local games that the kids at the center taught us.



The day was a success, a day full of fun games, educational activities, cooking, cleaning and motivational talks. At the end of the day we presented donations to the center.


Thank you Gamodubu Child Care Trust, till we meet again!


A culturally filled day in Bahurutshe and a game drive in Mokolodi


Our student volunteers and students met the OIEP students and staff at the UB maintenance to meet the driver and begin the weekend gate-away.  

Bahurutshe cultural village

As the crew arrived at Bahurutshe cultural village at 9 am and the festivities began. Bahurutshe always gives the best traditional food and always makes sure that our students really get how we eat when we are at our home villages.

Porridge is one of the staple food that majority of Batswana have for breakfast.  After breakfast and checking into the rooms, the students got ready for the day activities.


Manyana Rock paintings: first stop was Manyana Rock paintings, where we learnt about different ways how Basarwa communicated with each other, drew what they saw in the environment and also as a way of a leisure activity. This is now a tourist attraction for the Manyana village which is about 10 km from  Bahurutshe cultural village.


7 KM Walk to Kolobeng river, as a way of unwinding and seeing the some cattlepost of people the kolobeng. The walk might have been exhausting but the final destination of it was beautiful. On our way back to the bus we stopped by the Livingstone Memorial and learn a few about one of the first missionaries in Botswana. Where he lived, where he built his church and were he and his family were buried.


Night Activities


After a long but wonderful day we drove back to the cultural village, and upon our arrival we found beautiful older women waiting for us. The women surrounded the chief of the village, as soon as we sat down the owner of the cultural village welcomed us back and introduced those who accompanied her.


Mokolodi Nature Reserve


After breakfast at Bahurutshe, we are arrived at Mokolodi Nature Reserve at 10 am had the welcome remarks and welcome drinks and started our two hour game drive and later ad our bush braai. The two days get away was refreshing from the stressful school weeks  we been having.



My Bahurutshe Cultutal Experience


Nicole A. Silverstein from University of Vermont

This past week we went on our first excursion to the Bahurutshe Cultural Village. It was our first real journey outside of Gaborone, and it was exciting look out the window of the bus and see what life looks like outside of the city. Our first day at the village started by learning a little about the kgotle, or gathering place of the village. This is the area where the king, otherwise known as the kgosi would gather his people to give them information or ask them to do different tasks. After breakfast we left the village to go on a hike. It was hot out, but the scenery was beautiful. We walked along the river, and our guide explained to us that the people who lived in this area believed that there was a giant snake under the pond that feed the river, which kept a constant supply of water. Medicine men would also dip their medicines in the water to give it its healing powers.



In the afternoon we bused over to see 2,000 year old rock paintings. They were difficult to spot at first, but eventually we were able to make out the giraffes and impala illustrated on the rocks.


The best part of the trip was when we got back to the village. We all sat around a bon fire as a group of men and women performed traditional songs and dances. The acrobatic dancing was amazing to watch, and the “grandmothers” of the village even got up and showed us some moves. Half way through the performance the chief joined us. He dropped bones on the ground to ask the ancestors if we were allowed to stay in the village. Thankfully, (after three tries) the ancestors agreed to let us stay. One of the women then taught us about the importance of the grain sorghum in their daily life. A few students even learned how to grind and separate the grains.


The Chief of the village

The Next morning we headed out to Mokolodi Nature Reserve, which is only about forty minutes from Gaborone. On our game drive we saw cheetahs, giraffes, zebras, impalas, and kudus.


It was especially cool to see the giraffes so up close. Our guide was very knowledgeable and told us about Before heading back home we enjoyed a braii (barbeque) out in the bush.

Traveling to Bahurutshe was a great way to learn some history about the country we will be living in for the next four months, and to experience a little bit of what life was like in pre-colonial Botswana.


Welcome braai (spring 2018)


Saturday 3rd February 2018, preparations for the braai started at 12 noon when Lebo and I arrived to Mma Tibone at Diamond’s host home in phase 2. We arrived to her and her sister preparing food, chicken wings, beef stew and madombi (dumplings) to be exact, for the braai and the volunteers trickled in and it was time for preparations.



As soon as Bethel arrived with the tables, chairs and the braai stand, we had to make sure that the table were well prepared and just awaiting for the food to be placed and.......


...........the braai stand was ready for the meat.

The preparations sped up and the place started to look like a barbeque scene.



 The 2 hours flew by so fast and families slowly but surely started arriving while the different music requested were being were flying in to the djs of the day dj Lulu/Keya/Deji/Tima. We had music from all corners of the world, as we wanted everyone to have a good time and hopefully build good friendships and memories that will last a long time.

The company

About thirty people were in the Tibone residence and everyone filled with happiness, smiling from ear to ear the whole place was overflowing with joy. It was nice to see different homestay families and also welcoming the new families aswell. Looking around seemed like everyone was a having a good time.



The kids looked like there were having most of the fun.



DSC_0477Everyone had to bring a dish or dessert for the braai, and everyone got the memo. We also wanted to taste different recipes and we all know food makes everyone happy. Different cultural dishes were on the table looked delicious and we couldn’t wait to dig in.


The dance party


As the day went by, now we are full and ready to dance the day away. Dance battles took place between the kids and the students.


Clean up

As we were getting ready to leave, we had to leave the place the way we found it. So it was time to clean up! Overall the braai was fun, and the best part was the food!!! Thank you Mma Tibone and Diamond for hosting us.


Welcome Spring! - 2018



As we welcome the spring 2018 students, we begin their journey with the orientation week and get them ready for a spring semester. Even though they might be jet legged we have a long week of orientation to equip them with information that will help them navigate their new life for the next five months. 

DSC_1014Orientation Workshops: Workshop on being a UB student for the semester, and how they can benefit from this study abroad experience. During orientation week we go over being a homestay and dorm life, health and safety, community interactions and go shopping with the students to get some necessities. 

IMG_20180124_124234Lunch at Botswana craft



A mix of modern and traditional food


DSC_0034Botswana Culture and Dance workshop: The students learn more about the Botswana culture and our different dances. Dance and music are considered forms of communication and plays as functional role in the Setswana culture. The workshop also addresses  the evolution of dance and music in the Setswana culture.  Thabang  (the choreographer) also adds modern dance moves into the mix and show how batswana evolve with times, but still holding our setswana culture to heart.

DSC_0130Cultural activity: In one of the neighborhoods nearer to campus, we had lunch at one of the chill-spots  in Extension 12 and got  more of the cultural entertainment of storytelling through songs. After lunch we went on a city tour and got a chance to see the other side of Gaborone, the not so fancy side of the city. We went into the townships such as Old Naledi,  White city and Bontleng and our tour guide showed us a glimpse of the living situations in these areas, and  further explaining the type of people who settle in these areas aswell as how townships grow overtime.

DSC_0338Welcome dinner: Let’s dine, and yes the famous Avani stir-fry.

Amazing Race: Before students start their clinic visits, our volunteers (the heart of the program) go on a combi safari and teach the students how to use our local public transport. The main aim of this activity is too get students comfortable with using public transport and mainly how to stop the combi when you reach your destination “Ema mo stopong”.

DSC_0219Welcome to Botswana!


We bid farewell to Fall 2017

As the semester comes to an end, we bid farewell to our fall 2017 students in a special way. As the CIEE Gaborone study center, we hosted farewell braai and farewell dinner to the eight ladies. Still can’t believe that the semester has come to an end, the three months flew by so fast and we now reminisce at the memories we created this semester, from orientation week to Khama rhino weekend that was two weekends ago before the farewell braai.

Farewell braai

Pic 1

The rain clouds threatened the day, as the preparations for the farewell braai continued with no bother. Families and friends trickled in as we danced to music while preparing the food serving point, the meat being grilled on the braai stand (barbeque) and chats flying in the air, we even forgot that it was the farewell braai and left with a couple of weeks left till the end of the semester. We were all so excited to see each other, especially homestay families and kids already playing soccer and focusing on having the most fun with their friends.

Pic 2Kayla's dad play soccer with the kids


Beside the regular beef and chicken, we added a twist of people bringing their own dish, different kinds pasta dish, dumplings (madombi), spinach, potato salad, garlic bread, green salads that had everyone rush in line. The braai food is the most exciting part about this day.

Pic 3Keya on the braai

Pic 4-1Food is ready!!

After we ate food and we regained our energy, we went on with the festivities of the day. We danced till our feet hurt and learned some few danced moves along the way.

The step dance move: such a very popular dance move at any event in Botswana, we put on some music, Mafikizolo’s new song Love portion, thathi skupu and step’d all the way.

The cha-cha slide: The students were so excited to teach us the slide, and  “Alright now, we gonna do the basic step, to the left, take it back now y'all, One hop this time, right foot. Let's stomp, left foot. Let's stomp, Cha cha real smooth” we danced for the four minutes and added another.

Pic 5Time to dish up

Pic 6

As the night invades, and the festivities had to come to an end it was time for us to clean up and head home.

Pic 7We had so much fun!


Farewell dinner

Pic 8

Three months have come and past, we ended our semester with a farewell dinner at Phakalane Golf Estate. The theme of the night was Fabulous Botswana – Vegas inspired and everyone came dressed to impress, also looking to snatch the best dressed award.  Truth or dare game was played and that made us laugh that we even forgot it that this was our last dinner together. Superlatives were given out and gifts were exchanged, we thought we were going to avoid a tearing up moment, but then Emily’s letters too each and everyone of us made us sob for a minute.

To the Fall 2017 group: thank you so much for spending the semester with us in Gaborone, Botswana.

Tsamaya sentle, ka pula.(Go well, with rain). Till we meet again.


Taking a combi through the Semester

22490179_1669131959765931_3523378217782103949_n (1)

Maeve Barry from Occidental College

When reflecting on this past semester, time spent on public transportation comes to mind. Some of the most interesting people I have met and most memorable experiences have occurred on combis. A combi is a small, often white van that is jam packed with people, ignores all American notions of personal space, makes an infuriating amount of stops, but ultimately gets you where you need to be on the most round-about route possible. On my first ride to orientation at University Botswana, I was joined by my block 9 neighbor Hayley. We were both too insecure about our Setswana to call out “Em ma mo stopong!” as you are supposed to when you reach your stop, but luckily we met a kind man who called it for us. I knew we were supposed to stop near a bridge, but unfortunately there is more than one bridge in Gaborone and I was far off in my estimation. Haley and I got off, lost and confused, wandering around for an hour under the blazing sun. Most people we came across were incredibly helpful; one woman in particular became our guardian angel and walked us to the taxi station. This instance of kindness was consistent with my overall experience in Gabs; the people, women especially, have been so gracious and helpful to me in a way I am not accustomed to in Los Angeles or anywhere else I’ve spent time in the U.S.

Maeve blog 1

A week in, and Hayley and I are feeling more confident! We became flustered in the bus rank, which still happens, as there is no way of avoiding the bewilderment that coincides with countless men yelling at you to get in their ‘special’ (more expensive) taxi and the continuous catcalling and harassment that is inevitable for women in the bus rank. Overwhelmed, we hopped in a combi without doing a thorough questioning as to where it went. We rode for an embarrassing forty five minutes before realizing we were not headed home. My alarm bells didn’t start ringing until a pack of wild zebra ran by alongside the combi, which is not something you see in the city. When we asked the combi passengers if we were headed to block 9, they all burst out laughing while informing us that we were headed “into the African bush!” We wound up in a village unbeknownst to us, with no living creature insight except for some friendly goats. A combi plowed around the corner and, as the driver called out to us, we ran to him, hopping on without ever looking back.

Maeve blog 2

As I become more adjusted to combi routes and life more generally in Gabs, I have come to love my hour long combi ride to and from school. Everyone greets each other when boarding it, instead of the silent, awkward stares you receive when finding a subway seat in the U.S. On the way home from my internship one day a combi passed by me filled with only school children. The driver invited me aboard if I didn’t mind music. I was confused why he felt the need to ask until we took off, and I realized by loud he meant the type of loud that is likely to burst your eardrums, music-you-can feel- vibrating-through-your-entire-body-loud. We sang along to 80’s pop music without self-consciousness, since there was no chance someone could hear you and the other passengers were seven.

Maeve blog 3

On other enjoyable rides when my hearing is intact, I have met incredible people and engaged in discussions about politics, gender roles, colonization, race and religion. Other rides have been spent in comfortable silence after the initial “Dumela!,” offering me the time to myself that I have so greatly missed since arriving at college. My daily combi rides serve as a reminder that some of the most meaningful experiences occur in the most ordinary of circumstances, when you are sweating profusely, sticking to the seat of a bumpy vehicle.

Maeve blog 4

ema mo stopong!


A Saturday in Kanye

Hayley headshot

Hayley Poore from University of Washington

As part of the CIEE public health program, we got to spend a week in the beautiful village of Kanye.  Since we were busy with clinic visits and Setswana class during the week, we finally got to experience some Kanye festivities on Saturday.

In the morning, we went to a lodge to do some cultural activities, which included walking and climbing to see the gorge.  It was a little tough to climb, especially since they hadn’t told us to wear hiking shoes, but it was worth it since it was so pretty.  We also got to milk a goat and then try some of the fresh milk right after.  The milk was still a little warm, which I didn’t love, but it was a new experience and I’m glad I got to try it.



Feeling the water in the gorge

Hayley 2

The dam next to a lodge in Kanye

After the lodge, we all piled into some cars and were taken to the wedding of a relative of some of the host families (two of the host moms are sisters and a third one is the daughter-in-law of one of them).  Even though we did not really know anyone at the wedding besides each other, we had a lot of fun.  There was so much food, music, and even some dancing.  One of my favorite parts was watching the bride come out in all of her different outfits.  I think she had four in total.  They were all gorgeous and every time she would come out with a new one, the whole wedding party would do a dance from the house back to their seats.  There were so many people at the wedding that some people were sitting on the ground or just standing since there were not enough chairs and tables for everyone.  It was really cool to see since it felt very different than any of the weddings I have been to back home.  Since my family was not at the wedding, I had to get home before it got dark.


Hayley 3The front walkway of my Kanye home


Once I got back to my house, I had a little time to relax before me and two other CIEE students were off to a birthday party with my family.  The birthday party happened to be for the mom of one of the other students (our host moms must be pretty good friends).  It was a pretty big party and there were probably at least fifty guests.  She was turning 65, so it was a pretty big deal and some of her relatives gave speeches or sang songs.  You could tell how wonderful of a person she must be and how much love everyone had for her.  They served us dinner around 10pm and even though it was late, it was worth it since it was really good.  As soon as dinner finished, they passed out some sort of bread with cream on it, which we all enjoyed.  There were two beautiful cakes in the shape of 65 sitting on the table all night, but we thought that they were too pretty to cut which was why we had the other dessert.  That assumption was incorrect, however, since they cut it up and served us pieces as soon as we were done with the bread.  

Hayley 4The sunset behind my house in Kanye

Even though we did not always understand what was going on, I had a blast at all of the events and they were unlike anything else I have ever experienced before.