In my previous post, I spoke briefly about studying abroad in Cape Town, and I’d like to describe the academic experience in more detail … because despite all the travel and fun my group had during our time in Africa (and we had a lot!), we also had the opportunity to take classes at another renowned business school, the University of Cape Town (UCT).
I took 3 classes which I thought were very interesting. My first class focused on small business consulting, and I was able to get a truly hands-on perspective of the challenges that a local entrepreneur faced in South Africa. In small teams of 3 to 4 students, we were assigned to a small business entrepreneur from the local townships (slums) with whom we worked with for 6 weeks. Our project culminated in a series of actionable recommendations that we gave to improve/grow our entrepreneur’s business. My particular entrepreneur was a woman named Patheka who wanted to own and operate full-service guest houses for long-stay individuals. This project was extremely challenging, as she did not have a steady stream of cash flow, nor did she own any of her own assets, but my team and I were able to identify several avenues that we drilled down into, so that we could give her some (hopefully) value-add recommendations that she could actually implement in the short-term to get her business up and running.
My next class was focused on diversity, which I thought was very interesting because South Africa is still struggling greatly post-Apartheid to fully integrate the different races in order to have an inclusive and diverse work environment. In fact, South Africa is one of the countries with the largest level of inequality in the world! So, it was refreshing to candidly explore this topic, learning from people who experience this type of environment first-hand. My final class was the theory of management and we analyzed quantum physics, complexity, and the psychology behind why particular management and leadership methods are in place. The class was a bit theoretical, but incredibly fascinating, since I had never thought about management in such philosophical and psychological terms before.
Overall, I was pleased by the quality of classes that were offered to us exchange students, as well as the caliber of our peers in the exchange program — many of whom come from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School and Chicago Booth. I learned a great deal and networked with intelligent individuals … all from the comforts of sunny, gorgeous Cape Town!