by Ben McAuliffe
Climbing Table Mountain in South Africa, Caving in Lesotho, getting our truck stuck in sand in Namibia and being charged by a hippo in Botswana are just a few of my favorite memories from my time abroad. I was lucky enough to spend the past semester in Botswana, attending the University of Botswana. It is an experience that I am still processing that changed the way I see the world. I was thrown into a new place, a new culture and due to a problem with flights I had absolutely no orientation. It was the biggest culture shock I have ever felt, but it was the biggest confidence builder when I started to find my way around and figure everything out. Everything from personal space to the food was different from what I am used to and it made me grateful for the little convinces I have in the United States.
The differences were what made my study abroad so amazing. It allowed for little victories along the way. From being able to order my food in Setswana or finding what Kombi (A type of buss that drives throughout the city) would take me to the mall I wanted to go to. Every day was filled with little challenges, little victories and plenty of failures that shaped my study abroad experience into the rewarding experience that it was. Even after all the frustration and all the challenges I would never change my time abroad. I met amazing people and I saw some of the most beautiful landscapes this world has to offer and I am thankful for every second of it.
In school I was lucky enough to be able to work with different groups of local students. This was a blessing and a curse. A blessing because I was able to meet new people and make friends with local students. It was a curse because sometimes my group members could not understand me or I could not understand them and the local students and I have very different ideas of time management which led to conflict among the group. This was a great opportunity for me to enhance my leadership skills, I had to learn how to work with people from different cultures and at times with people who did not speak the same language as me. It was a challenge but in the end, it was a great experience that allowed me to build my skills as a team member and a team leader.
I am still thinking through my time in Botswana and returning to everyday life after such an exciting few months has been difficult at times. But it was completely worth it. If I could give someone who is thinking about studying abroad one piece of advice it would be to go for it. It’s not going to be easy and you will have challenges along the way. But you will miss it when you get back and you will be telling people stories about that time you studied abroad for months after you time abroad.