Missouri State University
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Study Away Students Blogging Abroad

London Town!

Hello my name is Meghan Grabowski.  I am studying abroad in London this semester through the Missouri London CAPA program. I have been in London for a couple of weeks now and I must say I am really enjoying it! I have never really been out of the country before so I was prepared to feel totally culture shocked.  Honestly though the transition has been pretty easy.  London is definitely a good place to start for your first time out of the country.  No language barrier. That is not the only thing that made the transition so easy though.  I have been placed with a  great group of people.  I feel like I have known some of them forever.

 

They are an adventurous bunch, which is what I wanted/needed.  One of the first nights we traveled down to the Monument and then went to Tower Bridge and walked along the Thames.  We have walked through Regents Park and walked up Primrose Hill twice, as well as having a picnic.  We also went to the Tate Modern.  This is a modern art museum which is not my cup of tea, but if you are into that sort of thing, my roomates liked it.  Most recently we went to the Thames River Festival and saw a parade.  I feel like I have done a lot yet nothing at all.  There is so much to do and see in London it is incredible. Even in your neighborhood.

I am currently living in a flat in Camden with two girls.  They boys in our program are in the room above us.  It is nice having everyone so close.  The Camden markets are really cool.  There are so many things.  I know things is a broad term but there is honestly just so many trinkets and objects.  Even some yummy looking food.  I can’t wait to seriously go and shop there.

I have only had two of my classes so far.  My other two start tomorrow and I am anxious to see how they go.  Especially International Economics.  My Shakespeare class is pretty interesting though.  I am also in Roman Britain and the teacher is pretty cool.  We will see how the classes progress and if they are still interesting.  Well I suppose that is all for now.  Here is to more adventures!!!

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Life’s a Beach

Hola! While my Springfield friends rejoice in the 60 degree weather, I thought I’d rub the fact that I am in Puerto Rico in just a little more with some pictures of the beach. I have visited five different beaches so far, and I usually get to go once a week. For the beaches in San Juan (where I live), I have to ride either a bus or a train and a bus to get arrive which can take about an hour. As you can see, though, it’s worth the wait!

 

Escambron
Playa Escondida
Playa Escondida otra vez
Escambron
Not a Beach!
Playa Escondida
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Firsts of Many

Buenos dias! Yesterday marked four weeks of me living in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and in honor of my first month here coming to an end, I thought I’d share some of the other (many) firsts I’ve experienced here.

First time flying.

First time on a plane.
First time on a Puerto Rican beach.

Taking the train for the first time.

First view of Old San Juan.

My first waterfall!

I’m sure that I’ll experience many more firsts in the coming months (and hopefully some seconds and thirds and fourths). But for that to happen, I have to get out and away from this computer screen and go find those experiences, so for now, adios!

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Farewell

My finals are now finished and the paperwork done, I now have to say goodbye to Botswana.When I first came to Botswana and UB, I had my own thoughts on what I would find and experience, I thought that I would come learn about the wildlife there, hopefully see a leopard and get to learn about the culture.

But What I instead found was that other than the wildlife, was that I had the chance to experience and become part of the culture, I learned about the dances and the life people led outside the city about the cattle posts and about how close people are to their family.

China, me, and Moabe

I made friends from all around the world from other parts of my country, from parts of Africa, and from places as far as Germany and Sweden. It was a gratifying experience, one that made me expand my view of the world.

Some of the things I learned was how close they hold family to them in Botswana, it is seen in how they manage to care for their families while they are in college, how older siblings will provide money so their younger ones can go to school. It was seen in how my local friends were always their for their siblings to provide support if needed. The respect people in Botswana show for their family, parents and elders is a much humbling experience and is one that I believe could be expanded in my own country.

I have also learned more about myself here, about making new friends, excepting different ideas that do not always go with how you were taught or believe. About adapting to differences and making them part of you.

For all the advice that I can give on what to bring and my experiences here what I can say is that you will learn more from being here from seeing what it is like to live in a culture so unique and different from your own than what I could ever teach you.

 

MY friends at the Kgotla, whitney, elissa, binta, ida, and beckyChina, me, and Moabe

Go siame everyone, and fair travels ^^

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Chobe National Park, Okovango Delta, and Victoria Falls (pt 2)

So on my last part I mentioned largely Chobe National Park. The Delta trip was also interesting but largely we saw lots and lots of Elephants, seriously if you want to see elephant go to the delta, we saw old ones and young ones though not many with large tusks.

Other animals we saw were the water buffalo, hippopotamus and of course crocodiles.

So on a brighter note here are some pictures from the remains of my trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are so many more amazing pictures I could show you from this trip, but I will move on to Victoria Falls. We went to the Zambia side of this park. And the falls were amazing! Right outside the park there is also an amazing craft fair where you can buy different African crafts for really cheap, bring things to trade on this trip they were asking us for anything shoes, pens, lighters they will barter for it and they preferred American cash (mainly because it is much higher to their Kwacha)

 

Overall it was an amazing trip worth going to if you want to see the wildlife of Botswana

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Chobe National Park, Okavango Delta,and Victoria Falls Trip! (Part 1)

So During the Fall Semester you get a short break (1 week). During this time of the year the parks are still dry and so have great viewing of animals and young ones and it was during this time that we decided to take a week long trip into Chobe (mostly).  It was an amazing trip one of my favorites here, yah you can to cape town or Mozambique but you don’t know what your missing if you miss out on this trip!

 

Locations: Maun, Kasane, and Zambia

Activities: Camping every night,food provided as well as tents, game drives 2X a day (dawn and dusk), 1 Boat tour, and then a day at Victoria Falls

It was an amazing camping trip we had so much fun not only during the drives but also just hanging out afterward, listening to the elephants and hippos in the night, wondering how close the lions were and chasing off the pesky honey badgers.  During some of the drives we sang songs we all knew some of the others sang Disney songs in Swedish.

Here are some of the things we saw :

Birds: ( roughly 27 different species that I could identify with help)- Some of which were the Cattle Egret, Red Billed Cormorant, Lilac Breasted Rollers, Hooded Vulture, Ostrich, Fishing Eagle, Cory Buster, Great Eagle Owl, European Bee Eater, and the Ground Hornbill

African Darter (Snake Bird)

Mammals (26 recognized species), this included 4 of the big 5 (Lion, Leopard, Giraffe,and  Water Buffalo) as well as other rarer animals like the stable antelope, wild dog and klipspringer. We also saw plenty of impala, elephant, Zebra, Hippopotamus, Warthog, and Kudu

Fishing Eagle and Elephant ^^
Wildebeest and Impala

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Male Kudu

 

 

We saw a lot of Elephants on this trip, you will see signs everywhere declaring Kasane as the ‘Land of the Giants’ and they are not kidding the elephants are everywhere and there are even crossing signs for them

The Kudu, impala and wildebeest largely ignored us but we did get to watch a wild dog chase down pray that riled quiet a few in the large herd.

Part of my favorite part of this trip was the predators we saw, we saw 3 different prides of lion (2 larger ones) and 3 different leopards, one even had a kill under a tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lion pride managed to catch a young zebra and as we watched one of the mother elephants got worried about how close the lions were to her calf so she trumpeted at them! She then got in front of her calf and the others came round, the younger lions moved away while a few of them just ignored the worried elephants.

 

Will Post more Pictures and talk about the trip later, for now please enjoy these and I will talk to everyone later!

 

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La Réunion: Studying Abroad on a Tropical Island Blog # 1

I can’t believe that I have already reached the half-way point of my stay here on La Réunion, a tiny island in the Indian Ocean a good distance off the coast of Madagascar. There are many pros and cons of living on a tropical island. Pros: beaches, mountains, hiking, waterfalls, and volcanoes. Cons: the islanders have their own ways of doing things, and there is nothing you can do about it; you have to adapt.

First of all, time exists on a different plane on La Réunion. If you are given a time to be somewhere, as a general rule, you show up ten or fifteen minutes late. It’s okay; everyone does it. The islanders definitely take the French “Fifteen Minute Rule” to heart. Also, you have to abandon the notion (commonly held by many Americans) of a store or shop that is open 24/7. In fact, many places don’t open until eight, nine, or even ten in the morning. Then, they close a few hours for lunch, and then reopen for a few hours in the afternoon, and then close for the rest of the night. Also, they are not open as many hours on weekends as they are on weekdays. Buses stop running around seven or eight at night. The lesson to be learned from this is that you can’t take things for granted. Don’t expect a place to be open; don’t expect a bus to be running or be on time; because, it probably won’t be. It is important to not be too adamant about your plans. You have to be flexible, because, trust me, your plans will be changed.

As a foreign student, the single hardest thing to get used to on the island is the university. For someone who has enjoyed the structure and organization of an American university for the past three years, it has been very frustrating to deal with the disorganization that plagues Université de la Réunion. As a foreign student, you can expect to spend your first month here at the university trying to organize your class schedule. All classes don’t begin on the same week as they do in America. In fact, some classes start one, two, three, or even four weeks later than others. Also, beware that classes can change rooms and times at anytime. I found that religiously checking the department bulletin board for posted notices is the best way to keep track of changes. Don’t expect any other form of communication.

Learning French on the island is an emotional rollercoaster ride. Within a single course of a day, you will meet and talk to someone and be able to understand almost everything, and then you will meet someone else and barely be able to understand anything. Just when you believe that you are finally getting the hang of it, reality sinks in, and your confidence is shattered. The Islanders speak Reunion Creole, and when they speak French, their Creole accents and use of Creole vocabulary can be quite strong and can make things difficult to understand.

But even though being a foreign student who is learning a different language can be quite frustrating, you just have to remember that there is always light at the end of the tunnel, or more appropriately, there is always a beach on the other side of the island.

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Places to go and Things to do in Gaborone

Hey Everyone!

It is now October and as such we are nearing Botswana’s amazingly hot summers, and so in our effort to find somewhere to hang out that is in the shade I have decided to write a blog on places to go in Gaborone both during the day and night.

Quick Tip: Make sure you have sunblock here or buy an umbrella, a lot of locals use them to protect you from some of the heat and if you are a lover of swimming bring a swim cap as it is required to swim in the pool here (which is amazing).

Food:

Just like back home you will eventually get tired of the cafeteria food. Which though good and fairly cheap (15P) can get a little monotonous since it mainly consists of rice/pap/pasta, chicken/beef, and a vegetable (squash, cabbage, salad) though how they are cooked does sometimes change.

There are 3 main malls here in Gaborone (which I may have mentioned previously) of the three they all have different types of food that you are welcome to try depending on your price range

Main mall: mainly has plenty of street vendors with hotdogs and 3 fairly decent sized restaurants which are the hungry lion, chicken licken, and Nandos, all of which sell a western style of food so if your missing the states a bit, there are close, there is also a KFC in main mall if you really want something from back home.

Riverwalk: Has tons of restaurants it has Indian food (Indian embassy), brazilian, italian (Primi Piatti), and some general resturants where you can get food like burgers, stake, chicken (Apache Spur, and Linga Longa). For places to just relax it also has a amazing coffee shop (Equatorial) which offers wi-fi and fairly cheap coffee. There is also an ice cream shop and a ethiopian resturant (which is one that I enjoy other than primi). This mall also has Nandos and 2 pizza places

Of these all I would suggest going to Primi sometime the food is awesome, it has free wi-fi, a nice interior and good drinks.

If you want more of a social atmosphere though I would also recommend Linga Longa which is like a bar/restaurant and is cheaper than primi.

Game City: Is one of the larger malls and so contains a bit more, it also has Nandos, as well as 2 coffee shops and a chinese restaurant.

Outdoors:

If on the hot days you want to go out and enjoy the weather there are numerous things to do outside, by combi or taxi there is a nice garden nearby which also has a small coffee shop, there are parks and Gaborone Game reserve isn’t too far from campus (less than a 5 minute combee ride). Kgale hill is always a nice place to visit as well.

Night Activities:

If you are one to go clubbing or just want to get out and see other locals in a more relaxed setting there are 3 main clubs around Gaborone they are Bull and Bush, Zoom, and Lizard Lounge, there is also a more local one called Chihuahua (though I wouldn’t recommend it). As always in cities and especially foreign countries it is important to travel in groups if you decide to go out, Gabs is fairly safe in many standards but there are crazy people everywhere.

Bull and Bush- is one of the ones that costs to go in, it has good food during the early evening and a decent sized dance floor with a pool table in another room (if you are a girl, just know it is hard to play pool in this country the guys hog the tables). Generally it is 40P to get in and you can get there by cab, though it is one of the pricier clubs it is also one of the safer clubs

Lizard Lounge- is a much smaller club and if you are female you will almost always get in free it is two floored so if you just want to hang out you can go upstairs there is a decent sized dance floor as well with mirrors all around it, none of us have ever had in major problems at this club

Zoom- is one of the more local ones and is not recommended on the weekends (same with chihuahua) as it can get dangerous with the pick pockets, two girls have had their phones stolen here, so if you here about this club from the locals keep in mind that you need to be very careful and travel with a large group. Other than that it is a large club with two floors .

Chihuahua-  I have not been to this club (or zoom) but of the other internationals here who have they have gone once and say never again, it is in a not so great part of town so stick to the other three if that is what you enjoy doing ^^

Tip: If you do go clubbing or drinking be careful and make sure to be friends like anywhere in the world there are guys who are jerks and there are thieves so stick together and if you bring a nice phone leave it in your dorms when you go out.

Campus Events:

Throughout the year (or semester in my case) there are different activities on campus.

If you are religiously inclined they do a lot of big events through the church and every Wednesday they do discussions, religion is very important to many Batswana and so you will find many groups, clubs and activities all the time.

During the fall semester there is the Freshers Ball which is a large party held on campus generally there are 3 security teams available during this time, but in my experience I would suggest staying in during this particular event. It is large and as such many of the people off campus generally come in and security is not always tight near the dorms which in the long run is where you are going.  If you do decide to go, be in a large group don’t carry money if you don’t have to and do not have your phone on you.

During the spring semester there are inter varsity games which is you enjoy sports you can attend.

Clubs:

There are so many groups and clubs on campus some of which are:

Swimming Club (5P for the whole year and you can be a beginner with no experience meet every day but fridays)

Karate (of which I am a member 100P a month which includes 3 aerobics classes we meet every day and have competitions about every month) <—Awesome club! ^^

Aerobics Club- meets every day

Basketball, Softball, and Football teams are all here

Philosophy club and a bible study club is availble

For those who are more academically interested there are many societies such as:

Environmental Society, Economics Society, Wildlife Society –which all do different events and activities if you are curious just attend on of their introduction meetings to see what is going on

Tip: There isn’t an easy way to find clubs on campus, it took me a month to find out when the karate club met, the swim club and sports clubs will post many posters as will the academic societies for meeting times just keep an eye out around campus or ask a local (which is what I did)

Other than that look around and explore there are always different events going on and different things to do get involved make friends both local and other international students and be patient!

Side Note: Sorry for the lack of picture for this blog, one of the other things you will have to get used to is that the internet is not always fast or always working and sometimes certain things are blocked, though the wi-fi is fairly consistent near the library or off campus.

Go Siame!

(Once I am able I will be posting about my trip to Chobe, the Delta and Vic falls!)

 

 

 

 

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Beginnings

Hello Everyone!

or as I learned its actually Dumelang. As you can tell my Setswana class is going well, if you happen to meet me I can so far greet you hello, ask how your are doing tell you I am doing well and then bid you goodbye and tell you that it was nice meeting you. One of these times I will post some Setswana for you all, its good to know the basics.

Classes

Tip with classes and most of Botswana culture (you will need this skill): Patience

Bring it with you and keep it as a close and good friend, It is now the 3rd week of school and I perhaps will be able to get my student ID card tomorrow and they don’t have many of my books in, but I am feeling good this week so we shall hope for the card. On the other side though the teachers are very understanding and one said he would even let me borrow his in the mean time.

As for classes due to my major being science the teachers as always in that major are on top of things and so I have my syllabi but not all do, many courses will begin in earnest this coming week, here is a list of my classes for those interested.

  • Setswana for beginners
    • if you can take it, so far its fun and elders appreciate you attempting to understand their language
  • Entomology (study of insects)
    • …the things you learn in the class…some may scare you
  • Dynamics of a Savanna Ecosystem
    • All I can say is that I get to do a mini project on termites! :)
  • Environmental Education
    • get back to you on this one, we are still debating on the definition of this in class..

Total Hours: 12

Kgale Hill

Kgale hill is located near Game City one of the nearby malls, you can take two mini buses there or a cab depending on how much pula you got (P6 vs P30 one way). We were hoping to see baboons but no luck. There are some great birding sites here though and the hiking isn’t terribly hard. If you like hiking and outdoors go for it its a cheaper excursion

  One of the pics from Kgale, there are so many beautiful shots you can get here.

 

 

 

 

 

This trip proved uneventful in our grand search for baboons, but do not lose hope we plan on another trip to see them, did see birds and cows though and even a stray dog.

Go Siame! (Goodbye)

 

 

 

 

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Cultural Excursion

Hey again,

So much happened that I decided to post just about this. ISEP took us out on a cultural excursion price this year was P570 or a little under $100. It included:

  1. Visit to Bangwaketse Kgotle in Kanye
  2. Visit to Mmakgodumo Dam, Manyana Rock Paintings and the Livingstone Tree
  3. Overnight stay in Bahurusthe Cultural Lodge
  4. Game Drive at Mokolodi

Bnagwaketse Kgotle in Kanye

The Kgotle is a court and meeting place found within a village, it is here that the Kgosi (or chief of the village) will hold court, see over marriages and discuss recent events occurring in the village. Nearby there was an area for lost cows to be reclaimed and behind the Kgotle was the administrative offices. Some of the interesting things you will learn about though is the bride price, which here included 8 cows, the Kgosi here said that it was a sign of thanks to the family for raising the woman you are marrying.

Kgotle

 

 

Bnagwaketse Kgotle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some other interesting things to note as seen with the picture of all my friends you are required to wear a skirt or dress when entering the Kgotle

Tip when packing- bring long skirts or a dress they suggest it and its a good idea. Tough on another note, shorts and pants are worn on campus so don’t get worried about whether or not you can pack them, you can.

 

 

 

Mmakgodumo Dam, Manyana Rock Paintings and the Livingstone Tree

These are all interesting parts of the culture here in Botswana.

Many of the Rock paintings that we saw were over 2000 years old and included images of impala and giraffe. The Livingstone tree is an awesome fig tree where Livingstone a missionary back in the 1800s came and taught locals about god, how to reach and write and healed them (as he was also a doctor).

Mmakgodumo Dam

Bahurusthe Cultural Lodge

The cultural lodge was amazing with dances for the men and women (we tried to perform one that 14-16 aged girls would do to show the coming of themselves. We (the women) were also given the chance to grind sorghum for the men, the guys got to do a dance to. Then they were shown to their tents and some of us slept in tents while others slept in a hut. I slept in a hut, it was nice but got really cold.
Tip #2: If you go in the fall semester pack warmly, it gets seriously cold at night here

We were also taught about the Bahurutshe Culture including the fact that the baboon was their animal totem and that in their village back before independence it was common for marriages to occur only within the clan, so you would marry your uncles son or daughter.  We also got to talk about the changing of culture though and how many of the younger ones no longer stay in the villages or have arranged marriages. After the dancing and music we also got to eat a traditional meal and had breakfast the next day.

Mokolodi Game Drive

Impala Crossing the road

Being a person who loves animals, this was my favorite part. We also got food here and got to watch the hippos in the distance while eating. I hope to go back again to do a horseback tour.

Things seen included: Impala, giraffe, warthogs, birds (white egret, go away bird, and horn bill), wildebeasts, white rhino and her 5 wk old baby (adorable), ostrich, zebra,and hippos, we even got to see some of their rescued cheetahs

 

Mother White Rhino
Baby Rhino
Over all it was an amazing weekend, anyone that comes, I suggest you pay the amount and try it!
Here are some other pics
Mokolodi Game ReserveDont mess with the Hippos- we did see some though ^^
Female Ostrich 
Me
Over all it was an amazing weekend, anyone that comes, I suggest you pay the amount and try it!
Go Siame!
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