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Botswana through the eyes of a Japanese student

Dream fulfilled: Kohdai during his days in Gaborone
A former international student from the University of Waseda in Japan says studying at the University of Botswana (UB) was a life-changing experience.

Kohdai Aoyama majored in African studies and linguistics at the University of Waseda in Japan because he was passionate about learning about Africa. The Japanese student recalled that the first time he heard about Botswana was in primary school on a world map.

“My decision to come and study in Botswana came as a result of my interest in the culture, history of African countries and the fact that I was studying African studies.”

The 23-year-old stated that fortunately for him, the University of Waseda had an exchange partnership programme with the UB granting him the opportunity to come and study in Botswana for a period of 10 months from July 2018 to May 2019.

“I also wanted to be a pioneer since only a few Japanese travel to Africa.

“I faced a couple of challenges while here. For instance, I found out that time was not of the essence and that, offices closed early.

“And there were instances where I was stereotyped because some Batswana called me Chinese and in those instances, I tried to correct them but in vain,” he recalled.

The issue of respecting time was an adjustment for Kohdai.

He says Botswana and Japanese culture differ greatly in the approach to time management.

“In Japan, we emphasise the importance of time management or appointment, but my observation is that in Botswana time is

not of that essence.”

Kohdai added that although he encountered a few hiccups in adjusting, the majority of the people he interacted with were tolerant and kind as they made him feel welcome.

On the difference between the two universities, he said the population of students in UB was quite small compared to that of Waseda.

Kohdai mentioned that while in Botswana, what he missed most about his home country was the Japanese cuisine because no place in Gaborone served Japanese cuisine except one outlet at Airport Junction.

The lack of Japanese cuisine was more than made up for by the opportunity to travel to the Okavango Delta, Maun and other places, which showed him the beauty of Botswana.

The young student has some advice for Botswana-based on his stay in the country.“Investing in various sectors of the economy played a major role in the rapid growth and development of my country.

 I think Batswana can develop their country with their natural resources and look for more investment opportunities.

“A country like Botswana is rich in natural resources and it should use that to its advantage to develop the country.”

Kohdai says given a second chance, he would jump at the opportunity to return to Botswana.

“I would definitely come because there is still a lot to learn and a lot of tourism sites to see.”

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