Imagine you're a 20-year old Matie and about to depart for an exotic location where you'll spend the rest of the year studying at a foreign university as part of your programme.
It may sound like a pipe dream, but for the first ever third-year class in BCom (International Business) at Stellenbosch University, this is a real and imminent prospect. During the next few weeks, 22 students will be leaving for 14 universities in eight countries across the globe.
According to Programme Coordinator Prof Pierre Erasmus, this programme is the first of its kind in South Africa and a pioneer in business education at undergraduate level in the country. “The four-year Bachelor programme addresses a need to deliver graduates that are equipped to be role players in the international knowledge economy. It gives students exposure to different settings and develops their global mindset through a comprehensive and internationally oriented curriculum."
He added that the structured exchange programme provides a multicultural experience and the opportunity to create a long-lasting network with students from different parts of the world. “Students may choose any one of 44 partner universities in 20 countries for their exchange semester."
Most students have selected to spend the next semester at universities in Europe, while one student has chosen Malaysia and two the Americas.
Anika Faul, who will soon be heading for the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, said her choice was due to the fact that she wanted to get out of her comfort zone. “I also really like Malaysia's diverse cultures and languages, and the fact that Singapore is just around the corner."
Fellow student Janco Marais will enrol at Maastricht University (UM) in the Netherlands after spending two months with a family in northern Spain, where he'll teach their young son English. “I'll still be in time for UM's orientation programme at the start of the new semester in September."
“Almost half of Maastricht's students are from abroad. I like being exposed to a multicultural environment and I am motivated to establish contact with as many students as possible from different countries."
He'll be taking two modules and looks forward to being introduced to problem-based Learning (PBL), an education model of which Maastricht is the European pioneer. PBL challenges students not only to learn their subject matter, but also to actively develop their talents and interests as well as skills such as self-reliance, assertiveness and problem-solving capacities.
Amber Moon and Danielle Kruger are the only students bound for North and South America, Amber for the University of North Carolina in Charlotte (UNC Charlotte) in the USA and Danielle for the Pontifical Catholic University in Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio) in Brazil.
Amber's wish to experience the way of life in the USA first-hand, as well as the culture at a big American university, made her choice an easy one. “The modules that are offered really appealed to me because they are very different from the modules available at South African universities. I am looking forward to taking courses such as the Economics of Social Issues, as well as Gender and Communication."
“I would also like to discover how people's lifestyles differ from those of South Africans. Moreover, it is a huge opportunity for my own individual growth."
Although the BCom (International Business) programme introduces students to a foreign language, Portuguese is not one of the languages offered. (Students may choose one of Chinese, German or French.) According to Danielle, an intensive Portuguese course was therefore an important part of her preparations for living in Rio de Janeiro.
“Thereafter I'll continue taking Portuguese classes for 6 hours a week. I'm hoping to be fluent in Portuguese after the semester, when I'll go backpacking in South America for a month."
She explained that she'll take four to five modules including subjects such as International Negotiations, Introduction to Strategy in a global word, and Brazilian Foreign Policies, adding quickly: “And I want to take salsa dance lessons!"
Undergraduate training in international business may be relatively new to South Africa, but it is a well-known programme in many universities abroad, said Prof Erasmus. “We find that students in this programme are very focused and dedicated."
All four students said they were enjoying the course, and the combination of subjects from the Faculties of Economic and Management Sciences, Law, Arts and Social Sciences.
“I love the fact that the programme is so diverse: I loved doing Sociology, Intercultural Communications and the legal aspects of international business. Next year I'll specialise in Economics and Investment," Danielle said.
The module on International Business Communication in the first semester was one of Janco's highlights. “For me, the challenge is to integrate information from all modules."
After graduating, Janco, Anika and Danielle would like to enrol for postgraduate studies. Janco is interested in furthering his studies in international business, possibly specialising in negotiations. “My dream job would be to work in a capable, multi-disciplinary team of consultants."
Anika also wants to study further in international business, and plans a career as a managerial analyst. “I want to act as a consultant to firms who are expanding internationally, and help them adapt their new branches to their target markets."
Before embarking on a career in international trade, Danielle hopes to be accepted for a dual master's degree in Global Strategic Management. This new international programme offers two master's degrees by three business schools on three continents. Students divide their time between Lingnan (University) College in Guangzhou (China), the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia (USA), and ESADE in Barcelona.
Amber has no specific post-degree plans, but would like to have a career that allows her to travel and work in an international context. “I believe this degree will give me the skills I need to be able to do that. I would also like to focus on improving gender equality as I have a strong passion and interest in feminism."
- For more information about the BCom (International Business) programme, click here.
- Photo (by Anton Jordaan): After their final semester exam on Monday, 11 June, the third-year BCom (International Bussiness) class gathered for the last time for a photo with Prof Pierre Erasmus before leaving for foreign parts.