My name is Hannah and I’m going to be the communications assistant for the ACM Botswana program this semester, which means I’ll be posting blogs and pictures to give you a taste of what we’re up to on my program. Whether you’re a friend, family member, someone considering this program in the future, or someone just perusing the Internet, welcome!
A quick bit about me: I’m a third year English major and Global Development Studies concentrator at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa and I live in Southern California, about an hour east of LA. Some of my favorite things are running, improv, kids, trees, and chocolate chip cookies (I baked a bunch that I am bringing with to Botswana in case I need a taste of home).
This semester I’ll be taking three classes and completing an independent research project. My first class will be on the Setswana language, which is a Bantu language spoken in Botswana, though English is pretty widely spoken as well (which is good cause I don’t know any Setswana beyond “hello” at this point!). That class is taught by the same people who teach Peace Corps volunteers and will also teach us some cultural things as well, so I’m super excited for it. Then I’ll be taking “Urban Africa,” a course taught by Professor Steven Volz from Kenyon College. He is a history professor joining us for the semester and I’m really looking forward to this class as a little taste of good old familiar liberal arts college classes, even in a new setting! I’ll take one class at the University of Botswana, likely something in religious studies, though I won’t know for sure what I am taking until we get through the first week of classes or so. That will be really cool to get a taste of class at a much larger school than I am used to (a little over 14,000 undergrads is pretty different from 1,700 students at Grinnell!) and to see how things differ in teaching and class styles. Finally, I’ll do an independent study project advised by Professor Volz, likely doing participant observation and working with a local organization in Gaborone. I won’t know exactly what I’m doing for a little while, but I’m so excited for it!
Finally, let’s talk about our feelings. Frankly, I’m terrified, but also unbelievably excited. I’ve never been the biggest fan of travel in general, but I knew that if I studied abroad I wanted to go somewhere a little less conventional than Europe, and after learning a lot of interesting things about development strategies in classes at Grinnell, I wanted to get a more hands-on taste of life in a less developed country. I’ve never traveled outside of North America, though, so it feels like a big step just to be going anywhere. I’m also a relatively picky eater and a vegetarian, which has always made me a little more afraid of travel, but I’m ready to be (again, relatively) more adventurous with my tastes this semester. I’m saying all that mostly so that if anyone is reading this in future years, worried about choosing this program or worried about getting ready to go, you know that you’re not alone in feeling nervous. I’ll be updating this blog with every worrisome moment and triumph of bravery I can find the space to write about. I’ll be okay. You’ll be okay. We’ll be okay.
I just passed a John Steinbeck quote in the JFK airport that said “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things,” and I that feels so good to read right now. I know the next four months are going to change me in ways I can’t even imagine at this point. It might be scary, and it might be difficult at times, but I’m ready for the challenge and adventure. Thanks for joining me.
Update! (cause I wrote most of this post in airports on the way over, but didn’t get it posted until now, when I finally figured out Internet at the UB) I made it to Botswana and the first day has been a whirlwind. The flight was good, but long. I was really worried about customs, but it was really no big deal. It is so incredibly hot here, and I need to go buy a fan, but I have met most of the people on my program, taken a trip to the mall to get toiletries with several UB students working for the international students office, talked with Professor Volz, and gotten sufficiently freaked out by people driving on the wrong side of the street. It’s so weird that right turns are the turns that pass over a bunch of lanes! I can’t get over that! There is lots more to talk about, but I am jet lagged and getting ready for another big day, so I’ll sign off here. My writing and pictures will get better once I’m more settled, but for now, enjoy some pictures of the planes I rode on to get here.