Sunrise in Botswana

Sunrise in Botswana

Sarah Riley: Botswana, Africa

I don’t think when I came to Auburn I would have imagined I would end up going to Africa after I graduated. I had studied abroad for a semester in Italy during college and going somewhere like that might have seemed a bit more natural. Instead, I’m spending 4+ months in Africa where the culture and environment is so unlike my own.

Sunrise with friends

While in Botswana for a week of training, I had some experiences that weren’t too different from when I was in Auburn. I was able to meet college students and learn about their life and experiences, some things like having hard classes and writing lots of papers are universal. Learning about life as a university student and the similarities and differences to my life in Auburn was only the beginning.

While interacting with other college students my age brings a sense of comfort, other experiences during my week in Botswana brought a healthy amount of uncomfortableness. I spent three days doing a homestay in a village where I learned the importance of meeting and introducing yourself to the chief of the village before going to interact with others. After that interaction and the chief giving permission for us to stay, I went with a few others on my team to stay with a family nearby. We were able to participate in day to day activities with them; cleaning their home, preparing food, going into the center of the village, making visits. I learned so much about the value held in family and everyone working together to help each other succeed.

Sarah and friend in front f village house

At the end of that week all of our separate teams came together to debrief, sharing our experiences and what we learned. It was great being able to process everything as a group, talking through how we would apply things we learned to the rest of our time in Africa. We ended the week with a sunrise hike to the highest point in Botswana. In some ways this wasn’t too different than going on a hike in Chewacla, but in Chewacla you don’t have to worry about running into baboons…

Sarah by a lake

That hike felt like a physical representation of what I had experienced over the course of that last week. I had been in some “easier” settings that were more familiar to me and didn’t have too hard of a time navigating those, other times things were challenging and I had to learn how to adapt to the culture and work through different expectations.  But the reward found in both those learning experiences and the hike were just as great.  I came away with a deeper understanding, patience, and appreciation for cultures that continues to shape me today.  And as I watched the sunrise it was like a new part of my life was just beginning.

Auburn Abroad

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