I’ve been extremely busy the past few days packing up all my stuff, celebrating with friends, and preparing to leave Botswana. We depart tomorrow morning at 4 am for a trip to the Okavango Delta and I’m very excited! I’m so grateful I get to spend my last few days of my study abroad experience surrounded by friends and in the most beautiful place in this country. I’m not so much looking forward to the bucket baths and dugout toilets, but I know I’ll be home in one week and back to my incredibly comfortable life. This is likely the last time I’ll have Internet before I get home, so I wanted to post one more blog. Time for sappy reflections and thank yous. If you don’t like corny, the following may not be for you.
My time in Botswana has truly affected my understanding of the world around me and has helped me to grow personally too. I can’t wait to see how these changes will manifest themselves in my everyday life. Being exposed to a completely different culture, the good and the bad, has been such a refreshing experience. It has taught me that the way we do things in America is not the only way. Just because it’s what I’m familiar with doesn’t make it right. The way the Batswana greet each other each time they enter a room is so welcoming. It has made me question the way Americans enter a room and immediately avert their eyes from everyone around. I am also extremely impressed with the way the Batswana so kindly welcome their extended family into their homes at any time of the day. My entire time here, I’ve seen maybe two homeless people. It must be so nice to know you always have a place to go. Yet there are many aspects of the culture here that I find offensive and rude. Manners are generally poor. People don’t move over to let others pass. Women talk loudly on their phones in crowded combis. Kids demand things from foreigners. Restaurants have extremely poor customer service. Drivers are insanely reckless! Another thing that bothers me here is the treatment of women. Males are treated with so much superiority and it pulls at my heart to see women being told they can’t achieve things or they need to focus on the household chores. In the beginning, these things infuriated me, but I’ve learned with time that they are engrained in the culture and not at all meant to be offensive.
Personally, these past four months have been the most challenging of my life. If you know me well, you know I’m always up for the next challenge and to push myself harder. Yet I had no clue what was in store for me here. At times it has been incredibly challenging to keep going. Some of the most challenging times have included getting robbed, getting sick, severe bouts of homesickness, harassment from males, and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. But I never gave up and I’m so thankful for that. I’ve gained so much independence while here in Botswana. I haven’t been able to run to my parents for help and that has led me to learn to solve problems on my own. I’ve gained self-confidence in my abilities too. I learned a new language, I conquered the public transportation system, and I even went bungee jumping off a bridge! I’ve become more assertive and more flexible. I’ve had to adapt my lifestyle, getting used to the water being turned off or the power cuts or even not having food in the house a lot of the time. I’ve learned to go with the flow, as you never know when or if things will work out here. I finally understand what it’s like to be a minority. Being stared at is one of my least favorite parts of being here, but I now understand how others feel back home. I’ve also gained such an appreciation for everything I have at home and everything my parents provided for me growing up. When you see the kind of poverty I’ve seen, you can never look at material things the same again. Sure, I miss my iPhone, but living without it these past four months has shown me I don’t need it. I hope it will change my texting habits too! Finally, my study abroad experience has shown me that I absolutely want to see the world! I’ve only had a taste of what’s out there and I know I’ll continue traveling and exploring.
There’s just no way I would have gotten this far without the support of so many amazing people. My CIEE friends have been the best part of this program and I’m so grateful for every single one of them. You each add something unique to this group and I know I’ll miss you all so much. There have been so many times where I’ve felt down and you have helped to pull me up. You encourage me, support me, and push me outside of my comfort zone. I can never thank you enough for making these past four months some of the most memorable of my life. To Sydney, thank you for reminding me to put on sunscreen, for protecting me from creepy men, and for always being up for a good conversation. To Tyler, for keeping me entertained in toxicology and bruising up my arm a few times. You made me stronger ;) To Sara, for always having a smile on your face and cheering me up with your laugh and imitations. To Claire, for being willing to listen to me vent and being one of the most caring people I have ever met. To Alex B, for pushing me outside my comfort zone and forcing me to have fun. To Nora, for suffering religion with me and introducing me to one of the best book series ever! To David, for your consistent positive attitude. To Connor, for capturing my most embarrassing moments and always checking if I’m all right. To Shiyang, for taking the best pictures I could ever imagine and making any situation fun. To Connie, for always asking the right questions and caring so much about all of our CIEE assignments. To Jess, for teaching me it’s okay to be myself and making me laugh all the time. To Christina, for planning the best mid-semester break trip and for giving me your life advice and wisdom. To Mani, for always making me laugh and taking care of me. To Adela, for making me into a cute pumpkin and never failing to show me you care about me. To Katt, for helping me get home in the beginning when I could never remember the directions. To Thomas, for inspiring me to keep learning Setswana. To Wendi, for always being up for an adventure and for being my friend since we met on the plane here. To Corinne, for splitting taxis with me and offering an interesting perspective on any issue. To Alex W, for your encouragement and being one of the most kind-hearted people I’ve ever known. To Sha-Hanna, for making me laugh and loving me even though we are so different. To Steph, for your optimistic attitude and overall adorableness. To Ryan, for being my friend since the very beginning. And to Sol, for your life advice and ability to make me feel like everything will be okay. I love each and every one of you so much!
I also owe my gratitude to the CIEE staff for all your hard work in making this program amazing. Without the CIEE program, I doubt I would have lasted here. I have appreciated your support from the beginning to the end. I hope we can keep in touch! Additionally, I want to thank my parents because I know I would not have come this far without them. I appreciate your financial and emotional support immensely. I appreciate your help getting ready for the program and encouraging me since long before I stepped on the plane. It means the world to me that you believe in me and gave me your blessing to study abroad in Botswana. I know it hasn’t been easy to have me so far away and watch me struggle, but I hope the changes you see in me make it all worth it. I love you both so much and can’t wait to see you in just a few days!!! I also want to thank my friend Autumn back home. You have been supportive through my entire journey and I don’t think I could have done it without you. Can’t wait to see you soon! Finally, I want to thank everyone who has been reading my blog. Your encouragement has pushed me to continue blogging about my experience and has made me feel just a little bit closer to home. I’m just so thankful to have had the opportunity to study abroad. Through all the challenges, I can say it has still been an incredibly positive experience.