So now I’m suddenly in Botswana? It’s still hasn’t sunken in that I’m going to be here for four more months. I arrived last Sunday and came as part of the CIEE Gaborone study abroad program along with twenty-something other students.
I’m a Creative Writing major. A couple years ago, I didn’t expect to be able to study abroad anywhere except England, Scotland, Australia, and maybe New Zealand. Which is certainly nothing to scoff at, but I was interested in something different. Someplace that wouldn’t be so easy for me to visit on my own time. Then early in my junior year, Japan, Italy, Spain, India, and Botswana popped up on the list for English (literature & creative writing) majors. I think I blinked once, grinned, and decided that I was going to Botswana.
There were so many reasons for me to choose Botswana! My first impression was that the University of Botswana (UB) offered some amazing classes. Classes I couldn’t take at the University of Southern California (USC). There is an incredible list of anthropology, literature, English, and history classes that focus on subjects such as children’s folklore, oral poetry in Botswana, women’s literature in Botswana, French colonialism and its aftermath in north Africa, Ancient, Colonial, and interdependent India & south Asia, pre-colonial African civilizations – you name it. This was great, because to my disappointment and frustration, my own university offers exactly zero African history courses. And the English program is maddeningly Eurocentric, focusing only on British and American writers, subsequently deeming the wealth of world literature available as unworthy.
Also, as an American, I knew that I essentially knew nothing about Africa. We are grossly uneducated and misinformed when it comes to that entire continent, which is a shame. Myths and American societal racism permeate our notions about Africa and when history courses in the U.S. give the lion’s share of attention to Europe and North America, what are we supposed to do?
I wanted to learn the truth of at least one African country and culture. I wanted to unlearn some of the myths I know affect my thinking even if it’s subconsciously. I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted something different than the typical study abroad experience in Europe. And regardless of this personal agenda of mine, from what I researched, Botswana looked amazing all on its own.
Let’s see how this once-in-a-lifetime semester goes.
PS: UB’s science classes are pretty sick too. I’m personally considering Mycology, Applied Botany, Aquatic Biology, Animal Diversity, and Meat Science (that’s right: Meat Science) as electives.