IMBA Johannesburg Residency – Week 2
It is the second week of our first international residency for the Intercontinental MBA Program. The students are in Johannesburg, to date having successfully shaken off jet-lag and are in the full swing of our deep dive into the business and social culture of South Africa.
It has been a very full ten days. We know that even though aspects may appear similar to our U.S. home, we are certainly not in Chicago any more. Our first weekend after orientation and a tasty opening dinner, we went to a game park for game drives and a Leadership Retreat led by members of the Jesuit Institute of South Africa. The context of herds of beautiful animals in the wild (we spotted 4 of the Big-5) was an inspiring backdrop for reflection and meditation on our respective roles in the global business community.
The students have a full academic and social dance card. They are taking four courses, three of which are taught by local professors who add a unique African perspective to their Finance, Macroeconomics and Organizational Behavior classes. I teach Marketing Management, and as part of the course the students are meeting with and writing marketing plans for local non-profit groups. Social activities have included a Rugby game at Ellis Park (the scene of the World Cup in the film Invictus), a visit to a Lion Park to pet the cubs and witness the adult pride tear into their weekly feeding, Rihanna in concert (yes, that Rihanna), a performance by a well-known cultural satirist Trevor Noah, a concert of traditional African music at an anthropology museum and a roundtable discussion on land reform at a local university. Yes, that is in less than two weeks; we will be here for five.
Lodging is comfortable and food delicious, plentiful and fairly inexpensive. We have rooms at a guest house in Melville, near the Jesuit Institute, where we go for our classes. A half block away is a street of small restaurants and shops that offer several varieties of delicious cuisine. We also have a nicely equipped shared kitchen at the guest house. We love the local food, but cannot help but note the leisurely pace of service. Despite the temptation to eat out each night, in the interest of time to do school work the students have begun to prepare some communal meals in our new home.
In the spirit of full disclosure, there have been struggles. We awoke earlier in the week with no running water, the Internet is spotty and slow and several students with spring allergies are feeling them as we witness this season in the southern hemisphere. Individuals go nowhere alone and rush hour traffic in Chicago pales in comparison to that in Johannesburg.
The consensus of the group (to borrow a Biblical phrase) is that it is good for us to be here. We are immersed in an emerging economy, while having the luxury of being guided through it by knowledgeable and patient locals. The result is that we are learning more on many levels than we ever could have anticipated.