Monday, April 25, 2011

Finals Week

This is the only time I actually study! I’m kidding … well at least for the most part! This is definitely not my favorite time of each semester, especially when in school abroad. It’s quite hard to understand what teachers expect. During this time at USU, most students are locked away in their rooms, in study groups or in the library for hours at a time. Stress is at an all-time high and coffee is sold more than food! Not much is different here. I’ll be in my room studying for the next two weeks. I have two exams this week and one next week and then I’ll be finished with school for the semester. I can’t wait to be done. Each of my exams is worth 60% of my final grade. So I can only hope that I know the answers to whichever essay questions my marketing professors chose to put on their exams. I don’t have a final exam for my consumer psychology exam, so that’s one less exam to worry about.

Let me get back to my studies. Wish me luck!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

One month left of my last semester abroad

As I begin to reach the end of yet another semester abroad and possibly my last, I have begun to reminisce on all the great experiences and people I’ve met over the last 10+ months. It is sad to know that this may be my last time abroad in my life, but I am grateful for this opportunity and I am extremely thankful for everyone who has made this possible.

I have reached the point where I’m excited and anxious to return home. I miss my family, girlfriend and friends dearly. I have never been away from home for this long, so it will be nice to finally be home around my loved ones. I’m tired of communicating with people back home with messages on Facebook and email and talking on Skype, ooVoo and Google Talk. I am looking forward to some good ol’ face to face conversation. I miss my little brother a lot! The little guy is growing up fast without me. When I returned home in December for a few weeks, I was shocked to see how tall he had gotten and how much smarter he had become. I’m hoping to spend some quality time with him this summer, since I’m usually away from home since I go to school out-of-state. I am also looking forward to home-cooked meals. My mom always cooks a lot of my favorite meals when I return home from college for breaks, so I’m hoping that she’ll spoil me even more this time around.

I spoke with my academic advisor and department head a few days ago; I found out that I am projected to graduate in December 2011. As a first generation college student, having the opportunity to study abroad for three semesters, travel to 10 different countries and be looking forward to possibly being the first in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree at the end of this year is a blessing from above!

I am excited to return to USU in August. I’m hoping to have a fulfilling and eventful last semester of school. It will be nice to be reunited with all my friends again! I’m hoping that I haven’t forgotten anyone’s name, but I’m sure that’s inevitable! I have met a lot of people since being abroad and my memory isn’t the sharpest with names (better with faces). As far as weather is concerned, I am not too excited about having to experience a Logan winter again after spending a summer in Western Europe and Botswana and experiencing hot and humid weather in Ghana as well as the upcoming summer I will experience once I return home. Hopefully I’ll get out of Logan before it gets too cold. A parka, thermals, gloves, beanie and layering clothing can only do so much when the cold wind hits you!

After graduation, I am planning on continuing my education by pursuing a master’s degree. I will also apply for Teach For America and some internships and jobs. I have begun searching for grad schools in the U.S. that have M.B.A. (Master of Business Administration) programs and J.D./ M.B.A. programs (dual degree program- Juris Doctor degree and a Master of Business Administration degree).

Until next time…

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A look into the youth culture

Since being in Botswana, I've sought out to learn about and experience the local culture, especially within the youth population. My approach was to interact with locals, make friends and simply ask questions to get better understanding on various topics concerning culture.

I’d like to mention that there is a clear distinction between the youth culture and that of the elders.

Although I don’t think that the most effective approach to explaining a culture is to compare it to another, I think in this particular case, it will be the easiest.

It is no secret here that the traditional culture in Botswana is slowly fading and not nearly as strong as it used to be. I’ve found that the local culture amongst the youth shares many similarities with that of the Western world. The U.S. and U.K. have a significant influence on the youth here. A lot of times I find myself shocked at the similarities we share- from interests in music, movies, television shows, food and general topics of conversation. Access to the Internet and satellite television has made it possible for many people here in Botswana, as well as around the world, to be exposed to a lot of the same media. This exposure has contributed to similar interests shared. I digress to that that some of the similarities have been a “let down” at times. My expectations coming to a country outside of the U.S. were to experience things different and at times out of the ordinary then what I experience at home. But what I’ve experienced here is a lot of the same that I experience at home. From another perspective, if people here in were not exposed to things of the Western world, I think I’d be more so shocked that they are unfamiliar with most of the technological advancement that I experience on a daily basis. In this case, in my opinion, their Westernization isn’t completely a negative thing.

One trait the locals are known for is their hospitality. The people I’ve met here are incredibly friendly and have always been respectful and willing to help me with anything I’ve ever needed. One thing I noticed immediately is that generally everyone greets each other, unlike most people in the U.S. There is an unsaid form of respect here, which I admire a lot. Here, you are supposed to acknowledge peoples’ presence when you walk by them. It can be seen as rude not to greet especially when asking someone a question or requesting service. Most people greet saying “Dumela Rra” which means “hello sir” but many of the youth say “eita” (short for “eita ola”) which means “what’s up?”A simple response to “eita” is “shap” (pronounced like "shop" and is short for “shapoo”) which simply means “I’m fine” but can also be used to say “goodbye.”

I found it amusing that the majority of women here use umbrellas to shade themselves from the sun during the summer. There won’t be single drop of rain, but most women will have their umbrellas out. Unfortunately it’s not a cultural norm for men to hold umbrellas unless they are holding it for a woman, so most men settle for bucket hats. I usually politely offer to carry a woman’s umbrella in order to share the shade with her. It gets around 90 degrees here during the day so a bucket hat doesn’t do much.

As far as the culture within the university, I have found many similarities to back home. Everything from tattoos, multiple piercings, open homosexuality, smoking, drinking, and an admiration of being rich to a large hip hop cultural influence is present.

Most students here dress casually to school, wearing jeans and a t-shirt. The girls usually put in more effort towards their appearance than guys. There are a lot of similarities in dress here to what I see in the states. Compared to Ghana, the students here dress more similarly to students in the states. It’s far less conservative than dress on the university campus I was at in Ghana. One of the only differences between outfits here compared to the states is that I often see British styles incorporated into outfits.

As far as hair, most of the men and women stay well groomed. A lot of the men wear their hair faded (very low cut- nearly bald), bald, or have dreadlocks. The women wear a variety of hairstyles. Anything ranging from braids to cornrows, dreadlocks (which are more common here than in Ghana), fades and various other natural looks.

Excessive drinking is very noticeable on campus and in the country and is a big part of the local culture. In 2008, the president raised the alcohol prices by 70% to try to lessen alcoholism. Many of the youth begin drinking and smoking at a young age. Nearly all of my local friends both drink and smoke. Most of them mention that they are trying to quit smoking- some have been smoking 6+ years. Local and imported beers and ciders are very popular. Eligible students on the college campus get a monthly allowance equivalent to about $200. Once the allowance is distributed each month, the student bar on campus becomes filled with people for several days at a time. Tons of broken bottles and glass are always found in that area and in various parking lots around campus. Although it’s cultural acceptable for both men and women to drink, it’s more prevalent amongst males. There’s definitely a high level of peer pressure which I think is a great contributor to the amount of people who drink and smoke here. I don’t like beer or cider nor do I smoke so it gets quite annoying when people always offer me them and give me a hard time for not liking them.

Braaie, which I mentioned in one of my previous posts are very common, cheap and serve as easy way to have fun on any day of the week and are a big part of the local culture. People attending a braaie usually pitch in money to buy meat (unless it’s a birthday party or someone is being generous enough to cover the costs), someone provides a grill, others salad, potato salad, beer or ciders. Once at the braaie, someone usually opens all the doors on their cars and plays music to complement the social gathering. Braaie can last for hours and are usually more fun and a lot cheaper than going to local clubs.

House music is the most popular genre here. Most of the students are fans of South African House music and local house music. The local’s interest in house music definitely caught me off guard. Before coming here, I had no idea that they listened to house music. I actually found it awkward that nearly an entire society of Africans predominately listened to house music. I had previously thought of house music as the corny music that disc jockeys in the states played in clubs when taking a break from playing hip hop. But I have to admit that I’ve really come to like it. The house music here is not the same as in the states. It has its cultural influence and sound. There is also a variety of house music- some slower tempo, some more up tempo, underground, mainstream, jazzy, etc. Many of the locals are quick to tell me what type they prefer and why and will explain it to me in-depth, even though I usually can’t tell the difference between the songs they play for me. The dance moves to house music require quite a bit of coordination as they combine a lot of arm and leg movement. When I first saw how people danced here, my immediate reaction was laughter. It looked extremely goofy. But I now enjoy watching people dance. There is a general 1-2 step involved and from there most locals are able to freestyle and show off their various dance moves and flexibility. I’ve had the opportunity to go out to several clubs and parties and have picked up a few moves myself. Nothing to brag about but I think I can hold my own. Don’t laugh! I know I can’t dance well, but the dances that can be done to house music make those with limited coordination and “flavor” if you will (like me) have an opportunity to look descent on the dance floor. I have acquired some house music from my friends, so I’ll be sure to show off a few moves of my own once I return home!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

There's always time to educate

As the only African American male attending the University of Botswana this semester, I’ve had numerous opportunities to answer questions, educate, clear up misconceptions and end some of the stereotypes people I’ve talked to have about Black Americans (as the locals say), U.S., Americans, and share my home culture with locals.

The locals ask me a lot of questions in order to get a better understand of the American people, the U.S. and cultures represented within it.

Fortunately and unfortunately, depending on the perspective taken, the locals have access the to the U.S. media. I say fortunately because they are able to educate themselves on U.S. news, history, culture, entertainment, etc. and enhance their world view, and unfortunately because the locals are exposed to the U.S.’s most ignorant media.

Many of the students I’ve spoken to at school believe that nearly everything in American movies is the reality of most Americans, which is rather unfortunate. Although American movies help provide entertainment and information, they ultimately provide foreigners a way to grasp an idea of what American and Americans are like; but when the viewer is unable to distinguish between exaggerations of the truth and/or understand cultural norms and values, a lot of information can be misinterpreted. A few weeks back, a friend of mine asked me if high school students in America really jump on tables and sing and dance in the cafeteria during lunch time like in the movie High School Musical. I tried my best not to laugh and told my friend no, that it’s just a movie … in my mind I could only hope that students in the states don’t really do that!

One thing that shocked me when I first arrived here and what still bothers me to this day is that the majority of the students here use the “N” word. I used to hear the “N” word while I was in Ghana from time to time, but here it’s just out of control. The “N” word is a controversial word … in the U.S, but people in Botswana and other countries around the world who use the “N” word who have no knowledge of its origin wouldn’t consider it so. Unfortunately, it has become just another word many of the locals have added into their everyday vocabulary. It’s obvious that they got the word from the U.S. media because the way they use it is the exact same way most African Americans use it in the states. Although I find it ignorant, there’s not much I can do except tell people not to greet me with that word or refer to me as that word while in conversation and simply take time to educate people on the word’s origin. I come from a family that doesn’t use the “N” word in the house or in public. From a young age I was taught the history of the “N” word and told why it’s not appropriate to be used, even amongst people of my own race, so it’s always been one of those touchy words that I’d rather not hear and especially not be addressed towards me. So hearing it here of all places definitely is awkward.

Something else I’d like to mention is that, I’ve noticed that many of my friends and local students have many negative stereotypes about White Americans and speak about them as if they have interacted/live in a society of White Americans. I’m more than sure that the stereotypes they have comes from watching American movies and TV shows. It really saddens me that whatever movies or series they have watched have had such a large impact on their thought process.

My favorite questions locals ask me actually deal with basic geography of the U.S. Considering that many people who have lived in the states their entire life aren’t familiar with their own countries’ geography; one can only imagine how much more unfamiliar it might be to people from other countries. I think what’s difficult to grasp for most people I’ve talked to here are the States and cities as well as how large the U.S. actually is. There are a few cities and states that most people here seem to know: Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York City, Chicago, Miami … New York and California. But if you were to ask these same people to point these cities and states out on a blank U.S. map, they’d most likely have no idea where any were located. What’s also difficult for some is to distinguish states from cities. Since Botswana is nearly the size of the U.S. state of Texas, I can give them more of a visual example. There are several countries within Africa that can fit within the U.S., so many of these serve as my examples when explaining. I always enjoy these conversations!

There are some misconceptions that I’ve had to clear up. One being that all Americans are rich- or that at least the majority are. Another being that all Americans are the same and share the same culture.

Being the only African American male on campus and one of the few most students have ever met, I have the unique opportunity to share my home culture and to clear up, if you will, many of the things people here have seen in the American media about Black Americans. There always seems to be a lot to explain in this area- especially with the amount of ignorance portrayed in the American media. I digress to mention that when I was at school in Ghana, I came across a group of students in the business building who could tell that I was not local. After telling them where I was from, I asked one of the girls what her perception of Black Americans was. She said “I’ll kill you N*gga” and put up her hands as if she was holding a gun. I was in disbelief that those words and that image was the first thing she thought of. Similar to the perception many of the students I met in Ghana have, many of the local solely associate Black Americans with Hip Hop and Tyler Perry movies. Little do they know, African Americans have a beautiful culture and I am always grateful for opportunities to share what I can about it.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Can you please pass the ketchup?

There are several cultural differences that I've had to get used to. The local students are taught British English in school so there are a lot of words that they pronounce differently than Americans do as well as use different words that mean the same thing in American English. Americans have a distinct accent that most people here are not used to hearing on a daily basis. Being unfamiliar and unaware of these differences has brought me some extremely funny and embarrassing moments.

For the most part, understanding the locals is very easy. Although many have an accent, those who speak English, speak it very clearly. And because they speak proper British English, their sentence structure and expressions are often times easier to understand than how most Americans speak. One major difference is that the locals roll their “r’s” which sounds really cool when they speak.
Here are some common words said in America that are referred to differently locally. Saying some words we use in America. here are bound to cause confusion amongst locals. I’ve learned most of them the hard way.
Ketchup- tomato sauce
Trunk (of a car) - boot
Potato chips- crisps
Napkins- surfeits
Soda- fizzy
French fries- chips
Excuse me- sorry
Bathroom/washroom- toilet
Garbage can- dust bin
Soccer- football
Football- American football
ma’am- Mma- (mm-ah)
sir- Rra- (rrrr-ah *roll the “r”*)
Hello (to a woman) - Dumela, mma
Hello (to a man) - Dumela, rra
Goodbye- Go siame
How are you? - Le kae?
Oftentimes locals will say that they can’t “hear” you, if they can’t understand what you are saying due to your accent. And they usually can’t “hear” me. I mumble a lot and I kind of have a low pitched voice which is not a good combination.
One of my local friends taught me a little trick to tell is someone is speaking Setswana. They told me that if I hear someone speaking a language that is not English and I also hear English incorporated into it, it is most likely Setswana. Most people here speak multiple languages, so often times they incorporate multiple languages into conversations while speaking. Most of the people in Gaborone and in Botswana speak Setswana, since it’s the National language. But there are also people here from Zimbabwe, South Africa and other African countries, so it’s difficult to always distinguish what languages people are speaking at all times. While speaking Setswana, most of the youth incorporate English words into each sentence. So I can usually tell what people are talking about. At this point I’d like to mention that I get mistaken for a local on a daily basis, more-so than in Ghana. And locals here have a bad tendency of expecting that everyone here speaks Setswana. So what usually happens is, someone will speak to me in Setswana and I will understand the general context of what they are talking about, due to the setting we are in (usually occurs when I am buying food). So I’ll respond in English. But usually the person will continue speaking to me in Setswana and I will begin to no longer understand what they are saying and I will tell them that I don’t speak Setswana. After this, they usually look confused because I had answered their first couple questions. I then tell them that I’m not from here or that I’m American to clear up the confusion. And the person I am talking to usually laughs and says, “I thought you were Motswana” (a citizen of Botswana).
Another major difference here from the U.S. is that the people drive on the opposite side of the road (which they consider the correct side)! This was one of the most confusing things to get used to amongst coming here. I still get confused when I’m in a vehicle and we’re going through a roundabout or if making turns. Also when I’m trying to cross the road, I have to remember that cars are going the opposite direction on the street.
One of the biggest adjustments I’ve had to get used to since living in Africa- Ghana and now in Botswana is the slow pace and poor customer service. I don’t mind the slow pace, especially here in Botswana since its capital city is far less populated then the capital of Ghana. But one thing that’s hard to get used to is poor customer service. As my marketing professors often say, customer service is not a strong point in Africa, but it’s slowly developing and becoming more important in local businesses. But for now, I have just had to learn how to be more patient. Waiting for food at restaurants takes forever, this by far is the most annoying. And usually when taking combis (mini-buses) to get around the city, the driver will wait for the combi to fill up before it leaves from the beginning location- so that he is are able to maximize his profits. But this usually entails waiting crammed in a hot mini bus with no air conditioning for ten minutes.
In the classroom, there is often a language barrier. Although lecturers are in English, students and professors often speak in Setswana and I usually don’t even think that they notice. Most of the students in my classes answer questions the professors ask with a combination of English and Setswana. Sometimes it seems as though the students cannot fully express their thoughts in English, so they supplement with Setswana. This doesn’t bother me, since it’s just part of the cultural experience. I will usually just ask a classmate to translate what is being said if I feel what they are saying is important.
The employees of most local businesses I have gone to also speak Setswana when providing service. So I always have to let them know that I don’t speak it.
Ordering food over the phone can be quite difficult, especially when taking into consideration Setswana, British English and different terminology used by between Americans and locals. I tried ordering a couple pizzas for my roommate and I and it was nearly a complete fail. I spoke as clearly as I could but it still didn’t work out well. From the beginning, the employee misunderstood what I was trying to order. I had to ask her to repeat what she was saying on several occasions because I was having a difficult time understanding what she was saying and she started getting frustrated. She assumed that I was ordering one pizza and began asking me for my phone number and address. When I tried telling her that I wanted a second pizza she assumed that I didn’t want the first one. When I tried to explain that I wanted both she became confused. I started using American terminology that she didn’t understand which made it worse. Once she finally understood my order she asked me if I wanted extra cheese on each of the pizzas. I said, “No thank you”, but she didn’t understand what I meant. She said, “Rra” but in the form of a question- indicating that she did not understand what I meant. And she was rolling the “r” really hard when she said it which was annoying me. She kept saying “Rra … Rra … Rra." Oh Lord, it was a mess. The pizza place ended up delivering one pizza but billing us both. So a second driver had to deliver the other pizza they did not deliver.
Adjusting to cultural differences here has overall been easy and a fun experience and I am definitely looking forward to telling my friends and family all the funny stories once I get home.

Friday, February 4, 2011

One month in and loving Gabs!

I've been in Botswana (Bots) now for a month and I really love it here. Gaborone (locally called Gabs), the capital city of Botswana is modern and continuing to steadily develop. Many of the local facilities, roads and technology, as well as the university I am attending are up-to-date with the western world. Although I am in a third world country, the development, especially in Gabs, would not give that impression to most who visit.

My transition moving to Bots and getting familiar with my new surrounding has been positive. I’ve taken advantage of the many opportunities I’ve gotten, and have been able to make many friends, visit malls, eat at many restaurants, go to braaie (barbeques), visit friend’s homes and experience the nightlife.

There are several malls in Gabs. The largest shopping mall is Game City and is the most impressive as far as development is concerned. Game City has many stores, restaurants and grocery stores within it and looks better than many malls I've been to in the U.S. Although Game City is the largest, I usually go to Main Mall and Riverwalk Mall because they are close to campus and have my favorite restaurants and spots to hang out in the city. Main Mall is located at the center of town and has shops, a craft market, banks and business offices. Riverwalk Mall is the first super-mall in the city and has more than 10 food outlets and serves as a hot spot for many locals. There’s a movie theater here as well as an ice cream parlor, Indian and Ethiopian restaurants, a pizza place called Debonairs (which delivers pizza around the city for free), a coffee shop called Equatorial Coffee Company and several popular restaurants like Primi Piatta (mainly Italian food), Linga Longa (restaurant and bar), Nandos (flame grilled chicken) and Spur Steak Ranches.

I enjoy going to Main Mall with friends to eat at a fast food restaurant named Chickin Lickin’, which has some really good fried chicken wings. At Main Mall there is a bar named The Room, which is quite popular amongst locals. It’s very small, literally a room, but is fun to go to with a group of friends. My favorite place to go to at Main Mall is Café Khwest. This is a very relaxing place where you can get breakfast, lunch and dinner and full bar service. Most locals go to Café Khwest on Thursdays after work to hang out with friends while enjoying a few drinks and the music (usually house or jazz) played by the disc jockey.

During the week, restaurants, bars and lounges are popular hangouts for locals. You can start your week off at either Linga Longa or Bull and Bush Pub for Monday Rib Nights. Linga Longa and Bull and Bush Pub each offer reduced rib prices on Mondays, so those willing to get their fingers dirty and some meat in-between their teeth can enjoy a delicious half or full rack of ribs and a side of French fries. Believe me, you’ll be full beyond belief and feelings like you are dying!

On Wednesdays and Fridays, the Gaborone Yacht Club is a nice spot to hang out at and offers a great view of the Gaborone Dam. The Gaborone Yacht Club is a relaxing place to spend with friends, whether for dinner or drinks and is a popular spot for many of Gabs white middle and upper class.

If you enjoy karaoke, you can go to the Sports Bar on Thursdays and sing your heart away. After attempting a duet to Toni Braxton’s “Un-Break My Heart” and Coolio’s “Gangster’s Paradise” I decided that karaoke was not for me! But it was fun to feel like a superstar for three and a half or so minutes, sing terribly, miss words and still receive a round of applause at the end of my not so memorable performance.

Clubs are popular on Friday and Saturday. If one is into clubbing, he or she can go to Bull and Bush Pub or Fashion Lounge. Fashion Lounge is quite a distance away from the city and is quite expensive to get to by taxi and the entrance fee is expensive but it is the classiest option for clubbing. Bull and Bush Pub offers more variety, equipped with a dance floor, several bars, pool tables and a restaurant and is more accommodating for those who don’t particularly like to be limited to dancing or watching others dance, like myself. Lizard Lounge is the closest club to campus and is not recommended by most locals because it’s “sketchy” as most high school and college-aged Americans would say. I have to admit that I’ve gone to Lizard Lounge several times and have enjoyed it! It’s best to go with a group of people on a Thursday night which is “Ladies Night” (ladies free entrance all night and free entrance for college students before 10 P.M.).

Block 411 (the student bar on the University of Botswana campus), best known as 411 by students on campus, is a very popular hangout spot for male students. 411 mainly sales local and imported beers and has two pool tables and a television, commonly used to watch soccer. 411 gets crazy after the local students get their monthly allowance. Many people park outside of this bar, open the doors and trunk of their vehicle, bring out a cooler filled with ice and beer, turn up the music in their vehicle and sit out and relax with friends. This activity is most common amongst the locals, especially at braaie.

The word “Braai” is Afrikkans for barbecue or grill, and is a social custom in Bots as well as several other Southern African countries and can take place during any day of the week. I have found myself at several braaie throughout any given week. At most braaie I’ve been to, foods and drinks such as steak, lettuce, potato salad, phaletshe (grinded maize), and corn on the cob, chips, beer and soda are served. Braaie are a lot of fun to attend and are easy to put on, whether at someone’s home or an empty parking lot or plot of land.

There are many other places around the city that I’ve been to that I didn’t mention as well as places I have not been to yet, but I hope that I was able to give a descent overview of things to do around the city.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Back to school

The University of Botswana is nearly the size of Utah State University (USU) and has a student population similar to USU, with about 15,000 students. Most of the students are from Botswana, although there are students from other countries in Africa and exchange students from the U.S., Canada, Europe and a few other countries.

I live in Block 480, also known as Las Vegas, which ironically shares the name of my hometown. Block 480 has both shared and private rooms and each block within the hostel houses men or women. Blocks A1, A2, B1 and B2 are for women and blocks C1, C2, D1 and D2 are for men. My room is about the same size as a shared room in Valley View or Mountain View Towers at USU, and comes with a bed, desk and chair and closet. There are community bathrooms, but each is not shared by many people per floor, which gives a more homely feel. And the bathrooms have hot water, which is a big relief after a semester of cold and lukewarm showers in Ghana. I am sharing a sharing a room with another exchange student who is from Finland. This allows a unique opportunity for me to learn about another culture that I was not already familiar and also houses me with someone who is also interested in learning and exploring the country. I’m glad that I’ve been housed with the local students rather than segregated to international student housing like I was in Ghana.

I am studying fourth year (senior level) marketing in the business block on campus. The classes I am taking this semester are: Managing Marketing Relationships, Marketing Management & Strategy, Marketing Ethics and Consumer Psychology (a class in the psychology department). The business block is three stories tall and is equipped with Wi-Fi, study rooms, computer labs, classrooms, offices and one of my favorite places hangout on campus, the Koffi Cabin (a coffee shop that has donuts, sandwiches, drinks, cake, cupcakes and other goodies). Although I do not study marketing at USU, I want to continue familiarizing myself with key business concepts, as I did while I was at the University of Ghana last semester. Classes here are taught in English (the official language in the country), although most local students speak Setswana (the national language in the country) amongst each other. I find the classroom atmosphere similar to that in the states. Teaching styles vary depending on my professors, but I’d say that I don’t find school here much different than in the states. As many say “school is school”!

All the students at the university that I’ve met have been welcoming and open to sharing their culture with me as well as allowing me to share my home culture with them. A large part of the culture within the college community is westernized. Many of the students watch American movies, listen to American music, and dress similarly to Americans, follow American politics and are familiar with American culture. Therefore, my social interaction with many of them is fluid.

Each day, I make a conscious effort to meet new people and to make new friends. Although I do hang out with international students occasionally, I put forth more effort towards being more immerged in the local culture, so I chose to hang out with locals. My efforts have paid off and I’ve been invited to local’s homes, churches, bible studies, to the local hot spots around town, to braais (barbecues), house parties, been taught some Setswana , shared many long meaningful and inspirational conversations about culture and life with locals and most importantly, begun to build friendships.

There are two cafeterias on campus for students as well as a student bar. The largest cafeteria is Moghul. The cafeteria food is good but they serve a lot of the same foods day-to-day so it only takes about two weeks to get tired of it. I’ll usually have a choice of either rice, phaletshe (grinded maize), bogobe (grinded sorghum), stempa (samp and beans) and occasionally matemekswane (bread- dumplings), followed by a choice of either chicken or beef and occasionally seswaa (pounded meat), a choice of soup, and a choice of either coleslaw, beets, cabbage, shredded carrots or pan-fried potatoes. A few of my favorite dishes are phaletshe, bogobe and matemekswane. I was actually relieved that the food here didn’t hurt my stomach when I first ate it. Many people usually experience traveler’s diarrhea, but that wasn’t the case for me. That’s probably too much information, but I’m just putting it out there!

I’ve settled into my new environment and I am looking forward to what the rest of the semester may bring.