My summer in South Africa

Read more below about Yalena’s experience in the 2017 South Africa Summer Abroad program.

Q&A logo s

South Africa

I’m entering my last year at Rotman, specializing in Finance. I love new experiences and I’m passionate about many things such as oil painting, skiing, photography, yoga, calligraphy, and more. I’ve traveled a lot: I finished secondary and high school in Singapore and have taken four Summer Abroad courses in three years! I’ve been to close to 20 countries.

What motivated you to take the South Africa program?
Many factors motivated me to take this program:

  • The design of the program, specifically the working element. Students were able to gain real life work experience.
  • The professor. I respect Ann very much and have always wanted to take her courses, so it was a perfect opportunity to have close interactions with an amazing professor.
  • Doing meaningful work. The course is about inclusive consulting instead of the high-end consulting we normally do with big corporations. I feel more accomplished because I could implement some changes and help people at the bottom of the pyramid.
  • Travelling. I love travelling and every holiday I go to a different place. This provided me with yet another chance to explore the world and experience a different culture.

Was this your first time in South Africa? How did your impression of the local culture shift before, during and after your travels?
Yes, it was my first time in the African continent, actually. As I get to know South Africa better, I love its culture even more. Local people are very enthusiastic and hospitable. I’m also amazed by their delicate handcrafts. They are very talented people who can normally speak 3-5 languages and are really good at dancing and singing.

Do you think that taking the RSM395Y0 course in South Africa made a difference in your learning experience? How so?
Definitely. By working with our clients directly, I have a better understanding of the kind of work I actually enjoy doing and had a chance to apply the knowledge and skills I learned in school in real life situations. Many of the new concepts I learned from this course brought new inspirations to my career plan and allowed me to discover many new opportunities worth attempting.

What was your favorite aspect of studying abroad?
One of my favorite aspects of studying abroad was the close integration between professor, students, local people and other onsite staff. I learned so much from everyone of them.
Another aspect was the wonderfully designed course schedule. It combined both learning and cultural activities together, and we could study and have fun at the same time!
And finally we had enough time to really sink into the local environment. Just a few days’ travel would not really have been enough to explore the city.

Did you get a chance to interact with your professor?
All the time. Ann is a very engaging and caring professor. In class, she always encouraged our inputs and provided many valuable insights to our work. After class, she really became our friend and we would just talk about everything. She was not only our professor, but also a life mentor and an interesting friend.

Did you know anyone in the program before going? How was the experience of meeting new people?
Yes. It was amazing, I love meeting new people. Living together, exploring the city together and having fun together allowed us to become close very quickly and easily. There were so many memorable moments.

What did you typically do after classes?
We explored the city, took photos and tasted local foods! And of course, shopped!

Did you mostly eat out or cook in the residence? What did the other students do?
Everyone ate out. There were so many delicious and unique local cuisines at very affordable prices. We didn’t even have enough time to try them all, so no one cooked in the residence.

Tell us a little bit about the field trips you went on.
We covered almost all the attractions like Table Mountain, Cape of Good Hope and so on. We had an amazing guide, Jerry. He wasvery knowledgeable and humorous. We also visited museums to learn about the history and culture which was very educational as well.

Is there anything you wish you would’ve known prior to leaving?
I pretty much had all the information I needed. The Summer Abroad office and our professor are very experienced and thoughtful.

Do you think you packed your suitcase appropriately for your travels? If not, what would you say you did wrong? And if so, do you have any tips for future travelers?
The only thing I would mention is that the weather in Cape Town was colder than I thought. I should’ve brought more jackets. Especially at night, it can be quite chilly.

Are there any particular highlights of the city that you would recommend future students to check out?
One of the highlights of the city is The local handcrafts, which are amazing. I bought so many gifts at the Watershed.
Another highlight is the sunset in Cape Town, it is magical. You can try different places: by the ocean, at the top of the mountain, etc. You’ll never forget that view!
And finally the foods: ostrich meat is delicious and local, and don’t miss out on the seafood as well!

Would you say you’ve gained any particular skills during your summer abroad?
Many! For example,I’ve gained consulting skills, by assisting our clients in solving real business problems), and also developed more communications skills. (Everything involves communication you need to talk to your clients to know their needs and explain your final recommendations, you need to talk to your teammates to develop solutions together, you need to talk to the professor and local consultants to get feedback and opinions.

In a nutshell, I highly recommend this program!

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