Leading up to my semester in Botswana, one of my biggest concerns was whether or not I’d be able to find vegetarian food while here. Through my pre-departure research, I got the impression that meals in Botswana are traditionally centered around meat. While this is definitely the case, it is more than possible to survive here on a vegetarian/vegan diet, and I’m here to tell you how I’ve done it so far.
I’ve been vegetarian for about five years, so I was determined to keep it up through study abroad, but didn’t want it to limit where I was able to study. Even though I was apprehensive at first, I committed to Botswana and have been pleasantly surprised with the vegetarian food I've found, and incredibly grateful I didn’t let my worries prevent me from having the amazing experience I have had here.
As context, out of the 15 students in CIEE this semester, 6 of us are vegetarian, so if you’re a vegetarian/vegan who wants to study here, you’ll likely have company. Out of the 6 of us, 2 are staying with host families and the other 4 are in the dorms. I’m living in the dorms this semester and can only speak to that experience, but if you are interested in a home stay, I can assure you that both are possible and good options!
As for the dorms, there are no kitchens and a kettle is the only cooking tool allowed. However, there are also dining halls, grocery stores nearby, and multiple restaurants off campus with vegetarian options. During my first week here, I rented a fridge with CIEE’s help and bought a kettle at the mall, and they have been my best friends since. I love to cook, so not having access to a kitchen has been one of the hardest parts of my semester, but I’ve gotten particularly creative with my kettle to tide me over. So far in my room, I’ve managed to cook noodles, couscous, and oatmeal, heat up canned beans, steam veggies, and hard boil eggs. I also love making sandwiches with avocado and veggies and prepping overnight oats with bananas or apples to keep in my fridge and eat for breakfast in the morning.
As far as food on campus goes, my favorite place to eat is the dining hall Executive where I can get a plate for about $2, and they almost always have a vegetarian option (usually soy meat) to go with a starch and vegetable sides. For the vegans out there, it is pretty easy to get by as well, and it’s even possible to find some of the dairy alternatives like soy and almond milk at select grocery stores. CIEE is also amazing about ensuring that there are vegetarian options at all our meetings and excursions, so no worries there!
While food in Botswana may be centered around meat, it is still possible to experience the delicious local cuisine as a vegetarian by sticking to the starches, like pap, samp, and sorghum, and the vegetables, like morogo and butternut. As a vegetarian here, you will not find all the foods you might be used to, but as long as you are flexible and open, I promise it is doable and infinitely rewarding in the end.