Michael Curtis, a rising junior studying Middle Grades education at UNCG, reflects back on his study abroad experience in Botswana and shares the life lessons he learned.
I am back in the states now, and I’ve had a lot of time to think about my experience. It still amazes me that I spent four months living in Botswana. Four months in a place that I knew little about. Four months that really changed my outlook on life itself. I think back on all that happened in Botswana and as I reminisce, I start to miss it. I miss my roommate, Wame Tobatse Jakobe, I miss the other international students I experienced Africa with, and I simply miss Botswana. It was far from the ideal country with the heat, the power outages, and the mosquitoes, but it taught me so much in those four months. It taught me to be patient very often when dealing with people who are amazed that you don’t speak their language and when a certain calculus professor expects you to know everything about calculus without actually teaching it. When we looked out over Victoria Falls and took a boat on the Okavango Delta it taught me about the beautiful world we live in that not enough people know about, and if I had to choose one, the most important thing Botswana taught me was that we are all people, regardless of skin color. I went to Botswana with the false hope that because I looked like them I would immediately be placed above my lighter skinned international students. That was quickly proven false. When you go to a different country, the first thing that people notice isn’t that you are black or white, it’s that you are American. In Botswana, I noticed that people cared far more that I was American than they did that I was a black American. This is the lesson that will stick with me for the rest of my life. Skin color is simply a color, and we too often try to make it out to be the most important part of who we are when in reality it isn’t. Botswana and the Batswana (locals of Botswana) taught me this lesson and I am forever grateful. I left this country nervous and not knowing what to expect. I didn’t know that I would travel to four different African countries and see things I’d never thought I’d see. I didn’t know I would become best friends with a roommate that thought that all Americans were lazy until he got to know me. I never thought that I would survive four months in a country and continent that is so misunderstood, but I did. I stepped out of my comfort zone and in the process learned life lessons that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else, and I owe it all to the country and the people of Botswana.