As the day came to a close the 15 of us sat in a stasis of serenity and tranquil sequility to have experienced an African safari, a BBQ in the bush, and a night of dancing, singing, and drumming to attain the closure sought for in a study abroad experience unlike anything we could have imagined. We traveled through border control, we relieved ourselves in the shadiest of gas stations, we entered our paradise of a lodge from whence we would transfer our minds from the traditional American life to the beauty of beasts only dreamed of in our wildest thoughts. We were in Pilansburg South Africa – the place in which my dreams came true. My whole life I have been waiting to see lions, leopards, elephants, zebras, white and black rhinos, wildebeests, hyenas, and giraffes. To be honest, never did I think that this African safari possibility would come to fruition. Readily the possibility did come true thanks to the even more fulfilling service opportunity to Botswana.
Botswana grew me in directions I did not know existed. I learned how to communicate with children who are seemingly incapable of communicating with the outside world. Thanks to the lovely ladies (students) and professors in SLP I learned that even though children with autism have difficulty communicating with the outside world there are strategies to get these children to communicate with the world around them. Because of this, I have such a deeper understanding and respect for the scope of practice that the SLPs have. From Audiologist I learned how deeply connected communication is to the ability to hear. Its logical isn’t it? A person has to be able to hear properly in order to communicate. This fact being true, actually seeing the practice and implementation of the scope of audiology gave me such a deeper respect and understanding for the importance of hearing – something I took for granted – as well as the majesty of providing the ability to hear. As physio’s Shandra, Makayla, and I have a deeper appreciation and gratefulness to how truly lucky we are as Americans with all the access to information and education, and resources possible. Did you know, here it is considered childish to squat with good body mechanics? In the states, it is common knowledge the importance of proper body mechanics to protect your back from injury, whereas in Botswana not so much.
Our crew that united as a bastillion of Botswana brethren and as learners and educators furthered our own respective disciplines in manners that can only be elucidated in the perfection of our respective crafts. Each individual grew in unique ways and has a deeper appreciation and respect for one another individually as well as each other’s disciplines. This all being true, I can say that I have an even deeper appreciation for each person as a human being. Our professors guided us through the often tumultuous growing pains of becoming a high functioning interdisciplinary team while allowing us to struggle. I believe their choice of allowing us to learn from mistakes to be the best lessons and the way in which we will have the most retention of learning. It was amazing, it was frustrating, it was edifying. I am eternally grateful to our professors Janice Wright (SLP), Janice Howman (PT), and Rebecca Meier (Aud).
As imagined, on a trip to Botswana for 19 days, our crew got close. Each person was awarded a ‘spirit animal,’ an award from the professors, and a nick name for me. I will update the awards from the professors at a later date because I don’t have them at this moment in South Africa. The list as of now is their spirit animal and then my nickname for them and goes as follows:
Lauren Hancher: Cow (because she likes lying around and eating grass apparently), and Hancher the head Honcho
Lauren Muscari: Cheetah (because she’s so sleek and sneaky), *muscari*(in a whisper)
Gabbie Mayer: Owl (she’s so wise), Gaborone
Shandra Hamilton: Giraffe (she’s so long), Sweet Shandy (she’s had numerous versions of this for years)
Makayla Conley: Impala (she’s so quick, has loads of endurance, and she’s so impala-like), Mak (also had this knick-name for years)
Morgan Beul: Zebra (she’s so majestic), Magnificent Morgan
Sarah Scarberry: Badger (she’s so fierce), Sarrrah (with a rolled R that I can’t really produce)
Hana : Tantbane Horse (because she loved them so much and they are so Hana-like), Hana no N no H
Nicole Ritter: Goat (for obvious reasons, she’s the Greatest Of All Time), Nikki from the block (I have no idea why I chose that one)
Kailey Clark: Toy Poodle (because she’s so cuddly and beautiful), KK
Bre: Peacock (because she has such a bright and bold personality), Bresome (cause she’s so awesome)
Rebecca Meier: Elephant (because of her quiet all-knowing wisdom), Becky (hope Dr. Meier isn’t mad about that one! Yikes!)
Janice Wright: Rafiki (from lion king because she’s wise and not afraid to pop us on the head when we don’t get something), JM Dubs
Janice Howman: Kangaroo (because she just wants to put us all in her pouch and carry us around), J How (borrowed from my SLP and Aud counterparts)
If I am being honest, I don’t want to finish this blog. My heart is still in Africa, and though I am still in South Africa, I feel like I lost part of my heart when this trip concluded. Concluding this blog feels like I am truly closing the chapter of Botswana in my life. I am so much more fulfilled and grateful for our professions after this trip. We have an opportunity to effect change in every individuals’ life that we encounter. We are so lucky. I am so honored to be a part of the 2017 version of the OU Botswana trip.