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Goodbye, South Africa

The Intercontinental MBA Students are packed and boarding planes for their homes in the U.S. As I wrote a program evaluation form, I was stunned by the long list of activities and experiences we have had in South Africa during the past five weeks. These are full time MBA students, so they were taking four graduate business courses. I taught Marketing Management and three local professors taught Finance, Organizational Behavior and Macroeconomics. Although the students did not realize it and perhaps were a bit jarred by the methods and demands of the local professors, they were being exposed to the method of university education that is predominates the globe. I am convinced they will be relieved to be back to the familiarity of an American-style classroom on Monday.

We took some weekend excursions out of Johannesburg– one weekend to the Pilensburg Animal Reserve and another to Cape Town. On weekdays our days were busy with class, visits to our respective service organizations and corporate visits. Evenings were filled with social and sports activities and study. A list of some of our activities includes the Apartheid Museum, three nights at two different theaters, attendance at Rugby, Cricket and Soccer matches, and two evening speakers. Daytime activities included a trip to the capital of Pretoria where we met with a member of the governmental planning commission, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank and members of the U.S. State Department at the American Embassy. In a previous blog I described our time in Soweto.

To fit all of this into five weeks, I think it is instructive to consider what we did not do. We did not cook or do grocery shopping (well, we did a bit, but not tied to necessity), do laundry, clean our rooms, make or change our beds, commute, sort through mail, watch television or follow sports, politics or world news in any detail. There were no haircuts, manis or pedis, massages or facials. Several students indicated they missed college and professional football, but we always checked the final scores and not hanging onto every play was a big time saver. We did “hang out with friends,” but these friends were the small group in our cohort and a few new local friends.

The final days were full of “lasts.” We had our last English breakfast at Jakes, our last seafood curry at Poppies, our last sips (or swigs) or local South African beer and wine, our last Appletizer. We packed up and struggled to fit that last bit of souvenir shopping into our bulging suitcases. We said last goodbyes to our new South African friends. We took one last look at the purple blooms on the jacaranda trees and the bustling shops on 7th Street. We looked one last time at the dense, but hilly and tree-laden city from the panoramic hilltop location of the Jesuit Institute of South Africa. We said goodbye to this developing country, knowing that we will all return, most likely with family and friends.  We look forward to reliving some of our memories and creating new ones.

Mary Ann

  • By Danielle on 11.12.2013 at 11:08 am

    It’s so sad to leave after studying abroad, but it sounds like there will be great adventures ahead! Where is the next study abroad location?

  • By Thom Feldhacker on 11.12.2013 at 8:06 pm

    Danielle, the next location is in Santiago, Chile.

    This was a great first trip abroad for the program. Many of us students were unsure of what to expect. Now that we are home we have some time to reflect on all that we did (and we did so many things!). The greatest part of this adventure was that it was not just focused on business academics but a brief acculturation into the life of a South African and how business is relevant at all levels of this society. We learned the history, did cultural & social events, and made friends with many of the locals. 7th St. will most definitely miss us! It was a refreshing experience to realize that our two cultures are completely different but at the same time very similar.

  • By Rudy Birtler on 11.14.2013 at 4:00 pm

    Our South Africa residency was such a positive experience, it makes me wonder how Chile and Asia are going to top it. Even a week later, I still find myself driving on the left side of the road and was sorely disappointed to find the dirty laundry I left on the corner of my bed was not returned at the end of the day cleaned and folded.

    As my colleague pointed out, it was fascinating to think we were virtually on the other side of the globe and the two days of travel to get there certainly reinforced this. The native Zulu and Swati tongues with their singsong diphthongs, clucks and clicks made the Midwest seem like a far distant place, but as we sat and got to know our hosts the distance shrank by the syllable.

    Sala kahle, South Africa. Until we have the pleasure of visiting again.

  • By Chelsea Fauria on 11.14.2013 at 4:15 pm

    What a wonderful synopsis of our hectic and incredible time in Johannesburg! Since returning home, I have come to the realization of just how much I learned during the residency. In the classroom, we were exposed to new teaching styles, and rose to many challenges academically. Johannesburg is the business center for the continent of Africa, we were fortunate to be able to visit and gain insights from businesses at all levels of society. I am looking forward to the next residency in Chile and learning about business and culture of Santiago!

  • By Saba Ahmed on 11.14.2013 at 4:22 pm

    What, no mention of the fabulous Grapetiser? Why is Grapetiser not in the U.S. yet!

    I agree with Rudy; our experience in South Africa was extremely positive. While I personally can say that the South African learning dynamic in the classroom was very different, and yes, quite jarring, from the familiar American one I am used to, I am glad for the experience. It is important to remember that what we learn as intercontinental MBA students–including accepted local practice and social etiquette within the classroom and without–is all relevant to our experience in an increasingly borderless world. We must be able to communicate effectively, regardless of wherever we may be, and being aware of any cultural differences and how to reconcile those differences is key.
    -Saba Ahmed

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