Life Changing Program Through Round River Conservation Studies Past Review

By (Westminster College, UT) - abroad from 02/07/2018 to 05/03/2018 with

Round River Conservation Studies - Botswana Program

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned so much about myself and what I want to do with my life and my future career.I gained so many skills in research, field work, wildlife biology, natural history, conservation biology, environmental science, language, culture, and the list continues. I use to avoid research whenever I could and now I am not only comfortable with conducting research projects, writing scientific research papers, and doing presentations on my work, but I am also interested in doing research in my future career. The work that was accomplished and is still continuing in Botswana with the local people is important and I am so thankful to have been able to be apart of this Round River team in doing good conservation work alongside people in the country who welcome and are excited about this work too. This program changed my life and I still look back and think of what an amazing time I had.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

This program was academically challenging, however the coursework was manageable and gave students plenty of time to enjoy our surroundings and explore. I learned more on this three month trip than I could have learned in a year in a normal classroom setting at university. Being out in the field and doing hands on research everyday was so special! This program has provided me with many life skills and experiences that have positively influenced my career goals. I am more comfortable with taking on research projects and have truly grown into a more confident and qualified scientist through the work I took part in through Round River Conservation Studies.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I loved working with our Botswana instructors and our partner university in Botswana. The people there are just so kind and friendly and every administration personnel we interacted with was so excited to see us and work with us. The program has a great relationship with the people and the partners we have in Botswana.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The living arrangements for the Botswana program were almost entirely spent in tents out in the bush or back country. I enjoyed packing up all of our gear into three vehicles and setting up in different campsites around the Okavango Delta. We would move periodically from camp to camp and got to see different places in Botswana as the trip went by. Our group became very close, very quickly because we lived in tight quarters. Now months later I am still in contact with many of my fellow Round River students because we developed close friendships and shared the adventure of a lifetime together. At first I worried that sleeping in a tent for a few months would eventually get uncomfortable, however it was never a problem and the tents had plenty of room. Also, in have thick and sturdy tents, I never felt that my safety was compromised and I never felt like an animal or the elements could harm me during the trip. Safety is a huge value of Round River and I definitely felt safe the entire time.

* Food:

We went food shopping in the town of Maun right before every trip we made out into the bush. We stocked up on fresh fruits and vegetables and breakfast items like oatmeal, cereal, and coffee. We had spices and common American ingredients and we got different treats on occasion. The students and the trip leaders cooked meals everyday, except for the few times we went out into the town and got to eat local Botswana food! The food in the town was incredible! I tried numerous things I have never even heard of before and I was so pleased to also experience their culture through food.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

One of our trip leaders is from Botswana so we were always learning new and interesting things about the history of Botswana, the environment, politics, everything and anything. We also worked alongside local escort guides in each of the concessions we moved to around the delta. We shared meals with them, danced with them, learned from them, and really got to know them and their stories of growing up and how they became escort guides. We learned so many things from the people we met! My favorite cultural knowledge exchange that happened during our time in Botswana is when we all learned how to make this special bread from an escort guide named Mmapula. She taught us how she makes it and then when we had to move on to different camps, we continued to make it all the time until the trip was over, always thinking of her and grateful to have received her recipe.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Our group remained healthy the entire trip. Only one student had a minor problem and our instructors dealt with it perfectly and efficiently and the problem was resolved in a timely manner. Our team was very prepared and equipped with medical supplies and first aid items so if something were to go wrong we would have it under control.

* Safety:

We had a detailed orientation at the beginning of the trip that covered rules and guidelines for staying safe. We were working in conditions that involved being out in the wilderness with potentially harmful animals and so safety was an important topic. There was never a time during this program that I did not feel safe and having experienced instructors by our sides, was comforting and reassuring.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

I was initially deciding between the Costa Rica program and the Botswana program. I am so happy with my decision to study abroad in Botswana because it is such a unique place and a place I might not have ever thought to visit in my personal travels. I wanted to get outside my comfort zone and go on an adventure for my study abroad and that is exactly what I did by choosing the Botswana program.


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

We did not have student budgets because the total program costs covered everything from food, living arrangements, and transportation in the country.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

We took an informal class to learn Setswana and throughout the trip we were encouraged to talk to each and practice speaking Setswana. Although we did not become fluent in the language, we were able to hold brief and general conversations and could eventually pick up on some of the dialogue of locals and our escort guides.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Beginner
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? I had no language experience of Setswana before coming and frankly did not even know it existed until I studied abroad in Botswana.
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? I would suggest that future students start learning some of the vocab and phrases earlier in the semester than later. At the end of the semester there is a final on Setswana and grasping the basics early on is definitely benefitial.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Other
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
  • Other
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • I loved being out in the field and getting to see incredible animals and wildlife everyday.
  • I loved our instructors and the classes we took. I learned so much from them on this trip and the information I gained is applicable and are useful skills that will help me in my future.
  • I loved Botswana! The people are so kind and welcoming. I have never seen so much beauty in one place; from the milky way always in focus to the most gorgeous sunsets I have ever witness, Botswana has such incredible landscapes.
* What could be improved?
  • Sometimes our cars would breakdown, so if anything could be improved I would recommend that they find a better system for keeping the cars healthy.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I didn't take as many shoes. I basically wore one pair the entire time and I brought four. I also wish I had known to bring more money for gifts to bring back home. I ran out of cash to buy things for friends and family from some local people in town. I bought some really cool tapestries and other hand crafted items, but I wish I could have gotten more.