Forty Acres Scholar Explores Climate Issues in Botswana

San Cultural Center 3-1

Forty Acres Scholar Emma Heitmann‘s studies took her far beyond the typical classroom experience this summer—and straight into a majestic African safari.

Heitmann, a sophomore studying environmental science at UT, spent six weeks studying abroad in the country of Botswana, where she explored climate change issues and interactions between humans and the environment.

“We [worked] on a farm doing research on the changes in vegetation and how that’s affecting the environment,” Heitmann says. “And we also got to have some cultural experiences and learn about cultural issues there.”

Central Kalahari Game Reserve- Giraffe with Acacia Tree

Heitmann says being in Botswana gave her a new outlook on how to approach environmental issues. Most of her classes as a freshman at UT focused on looking at issues from a physical perspective, but the trip opened her eyes to the cultural impact as well.

“It challenged me … to look at the human dynamics and the cultural implications,” Heitmann says. “It really gave me a completely different perspective on the subject.”

That’s not to say the trip was all work and no play. Though it was hard to pick just one experience as her favorite, Heitmann says she really enjoyed being on safari because she was able to observe lions, hyenas, and other wildlife without any fences or barriers.

“It’s a completely different experience to be in nature like that,” Heitmann says. “You just feel so vulnerable, but at the same time you feel completely one with nature.”

In addition to the real-world experience she gained while abroad, Heitmann learned something about the way of life in Botswana that she plans to bring back to campus with her this fall.

“The pace of life there was so different. It was a lot slower. We still got the same amount of work done, but it was much more relaxed,” she says. “I hope to bring back some of that calmness with me when I return to the busyness of UT.”

Moremi Game Reserve- Elephant at watering hole

Without assistance from the Forty Acres Scholars Program, Heitmann says she would not have had the opportunity to go abroad and probably would have spent the summer at home working. “[The trip] was awesome,” Heitmann says, “and I’m just so grateful that the scholarship allowed me to go on it.”

Though Heitmann isn’t 100 percent sure what she wants to do after graduation, the experience she had in Botswana has certainly got her thinking.

“It was so refreshing to get away from the city and modernization and just be somewhere completely undeveloped,” Heitmann says. “I’m really interested in policy and after this trip, [I] think I want to do something international.”

Top, Heitmann in front of the San Cultural Center.  Middle, A giraffe with an Acacia tree on the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Bottom, An elephant at a watering hole.

Emma Heitmann is a recipient of the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation Forty Acres Scholarship.

Photos courtesy of Emma Heitmann.

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