Botswana sits at the southern tip of Africa, a landlocked country which is 70 percent desert. There are extensive wildlife, wetlands, and natural parks present in Botswana, leaving students studying in Botswana feeling as if they have stepped inside an issue of National Geographic. Gaining independence in 1966, Botswana is a young, strong democracy that is full of changes. It is the fastest growing and one of the most stable economies in Africa. Yet, groups of local Bushman and other Bantu groups still populate the country, offering students who choose to study abroad in Botswana a glimpse into what Botswanan life has been like for thousands of years.
The capital city, Gaborone, is located along the border of Botswana and South Africa and is by far the most popular city for studying abroad in Botswana. Born from the discovery of one of the richest diamond sources on Earth, Gaborone is a mid-sized city of nearly 300,000, located right where the blue tones of the Okavango River Delta meet the sands of the Kalahari Desert.
A tour of the city can include everything from game reserves filled with baboons, giraffes, elephants, and zebras to modern malls and restaurants. The city has excellent public transportation within as well as transport to connect you with the rest of Botswana. The divisions within the city can be a bit confusing when you first arrive, but will quickly become second nature after cruising through the streets in combis and talking to the locals.
Gaborone is the main base for the University of Botswana, which is Botswana’s first institute of higher education. The university has four campuses, two of which are in Gaborone. The National Stadium is located right next to campus and is typically filled with football matches.
Maun has a truly unique feel that is the result of a rough and tough “Wild West” location that is officially still a village becoming a popular tourist hub. Local tribesmen still bring their cattle to town for sale, tourists come from around the world, and huts stand next to skyscrapers. It has a slightly infamous and charming reputation for having more donkeys standing around town than people, but is also known as the “tourist capital” of Botswana.
Rural Areas. Perhaps the best location for studying abroad in Botswana is not one location at all. Rural areas are excellent locations for “getting off the grid” and gaining fieldwork experience in Rural Health Care, Wildlife Migration, and Environmental Research. The Chobe-Linyanti-Zambezi Wetland and the Okavango Delta draw scientists from around the globe.
Subjects & Courses
Study abroad courses in Botswana are known for spanning beyond the classroom. International and local students will typically be in the same courses and go on field trips and excursions together, expanding learning on its own. Classes are taught in English from elementary age and it is an official language, allowing for easy communication with classmates and teachers.
Conservation and Environmental Studies. Studying conservation in Botswana means being involved in the groundwork of a major movement to improve and preserve the natural beauty of the country. New initiatives are popping up that combine on-the-ground efforts such as wildlife migration monitoring, educating the populations, and habitat restoration. Classes range from Anthropology, to Ecology, to Wildlife Sciences, and more. These are all easily applied to the fieldwork students get to participate in during their time in Botswana and will provide opportunities to see animals in their natural habitats. Chobe National Park alone is home to over 120,000 elephants!
Public Health. Studying Public Health in Botswana is especially interesting because of the major action taken within the country toward the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Botswana has the second highest population percentage of HIV/AIDS in the world, but has made incredible strides in providing education and lowering prevalence, partially through international volunteering programs. The level of health care varies greatly across the country meaning there is still a long way to go though. Programs typically take students to different locations around the country so they can view these differences in order to gain a broad understanding of public health issues.
Engineering and Technology. Botswana’s rich mineral resources and diamond mines have made engineering and technology very important to the country. The University of Botswana has well developed programs and the country leads Africa in engineering innovation. The school offers specialized workshops and labs for exciting hands on work.
Scholarships & Costs
Botswana is a very affordable place for studying abroad. Most students can easily live and enjoy themselves on a small budget. Many spend as little as $10 USD a week outside of their programs fees. Botswana can also be a great study abroad location in terms of finding financial aid and scholarships. There are funding opportunities for students to study a foreign language in Botswana or to study conservation, among other subjects.
Organized safaris and excursions can be pricey, but are known for their great value and are well worth the money. Students taking classes in Botswana should ask about student rates and search for special offers to help with budgeting so they can experience all Botswana has to offer.
Accommodation & Visas
Most students live on campus in shared dorm rooms while studying in Botswana. Campus housing is typically very diverse and will be home to people from all over the world. Housing will most likely be included in study abroad program fees too. Both private and apartment style options are available for on campus housing in Gaborone specifically. Since field work is so popular in study abroad programs in Botswana, many programs include camping and other overnight excursions during some periods of the program.
Citizens of the United States and many other countries do not need a Visa to enter Botswana for the purpose of studying abroad.
Benefits & Challenges
Hot and Happy! It doesn’t matter where you decide to study in Botswana, you will be greeted by warm sun and hot temperatures. Even brighter than the sun? The people of Botswana are happy, welcoming, and crime is very low.
Getting Around the Country. Traveling outside of the major cities can be difficult without assistance. There are many roads in poor condition and they are not well lit. Local wildlife and livestock often find themselves in the road at night and their Botswanan owners do not take incidents lightly. It is best to travel with a well known company or public transport, but most study abroad programs will assist you with these types of arrangements.
NOTE: Buses fill up quickly so get there early!
Getting Around in Urban Areas. Public transportation may seem chaotic but is actually very easy to use. Combis (minivans turned public bus) are everywhere. Just asking the driver if they are going to a particular destination is typically the best route of navigation, and a welcomed question until you become more accustomed to your surroundings.
Address? What’s That? Not even the locals are familiar with street names or use addresses. The best way to navigate is by using landmarks so if you need to get somewhere or are meeting someone always ask for something well known that is nearby.