Students from Botswana learn all about the U

Doreen Gustave, a student tour guide for Admissions, takes high school students from Botswana on a tour around the University of Miami's Coral Gables campus. Photo: TJ Lievonen/University of Miami
By Ashley A. Williams

Doreen Gustave, a student tour guide for Admissions, takes high school students from Botswana on a tour around the University of Miami's Coral Gables campus. Photo: TJ Lievonen/University of Miami

Students from Botswana learn all about the U

By Ashley A. Williams
A unique exchange program brought 10 high school students from Botswana to South Florida and the University of Miami’s Coral Gables campus.

When University of Miami senior Wame Chibamo received a call that 10 budding students from her home-country of Botswana would be visiting the Coral Gables campus she became speechless.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Chibamo, a biomedical engineering major who is a Top Achievers Scholarship recipient. “In my four years here, I’ve heard of student exchange programs at the University, but I never imagined that they would be coming from my country. I am just so proud.”

Two weeks ago, the 10 students arrived at Miami Central Senior High School, their host, to participate in the Blindfolded International Student & Cultural Exchange Program. Beyond benchmarking their curriculums against Miami students, the group also got a chance to experience popular South Florida attractions, including visiting the beach and attending a Miami Heat game. On Wednesday, the University of Miami’s Office of Undergraduate Admission showed the students around the Coral Gables campus.

Dressed professionally in their blue blazers and striped ties, the 10 high school seniors reveled at the sight of the lush green lawn, palm trees, and the buzzing campus. Thabang Sekgantsho said that seeing bodies of water everywhere was shocking. Because, where she is from in Gaborone, Botswana, it is landlocked and sandy.


Onneile Anita Mosokotso said that student life is much different in Miami than at her school, Ledumang Senior Secondary School.

“You guys are very advance here as far as technology,” said Mosokotso, who aspires to become an accountant one day and hopes to be able to apply to the Miami Herbert Business School. “In our country, we don’t have most of the technology that I saw here. Even in school, you guys use laptops. But back home we use paper, pens, and books.”

Refilwo Maatla Molefi, an aspiring lawyer, said her visit to the University was a definite culture shock. At her school, they aren’t allowed to add accessories and only can wear their school’s uniform.

“I hope that I am one of the chosen students to get a scholarship, so that I come to school here,” Molefi said. “This is the only school that I want to attend.”

The students’ visit was thanks to Edwin Sheppard. A Miami native and 1991 graduate of Miami Central, he was inspired to create an exchange program after a visit to Botswana for his 45th birthday. After reaching out to the school’s principal, Baopedi Barumi Othusitse, and explaining his mission, she agreed to take a chance on him and the program. Sheppard raised funds and the students were chosen based on their outstanding performance in school.

“I wanted to start a dialogue between Africans and African Americans,” said Sheppard referring to the first program of its kind in Miami-Dade County Public Schools. “I wanted to dispel the negative perceptions that we have of each other.” Sheppard said he specifically wanted African Americans to realize that Africa is a beautiful continent with resourceful people. He also wanted the students to learn about people in other countries.

And, the students were grateful for the experience. Mosokotso said the trip has made her happy and it has inspired her to continue to excel academically, so that maybe she can study in the United States. “I might miss home, but I will have to make sacrifices,” she said. “I love Miami. It is so great.”

Atang Odirile Lejaki also hopes to return to the University as a student one day. “The people are friendly, and the buildings are amazing,” said Lejaki.

At the end of the tour, students chatted with University of Miami student Chibamo in their native language. They asked her questions about her scholarship, the University’s application process, and how she has adjusted to living in the U.S.

Of course, a trip to the University of Miami would not  be complete unless the students learned how to properly throw up the U. They giggled as they formed the U with their hands and posed for a group photo.