From CA to Capetown: A Student Exchange

Business students from UCLA visit Cape Town in South Africa and Capetonians come to UCLA for an exchange that's about more than just business.


By Greg Forbes Siegman

Published Jul 8, 2008 4:45 PM

By the time Jocelyn Liu M.B.A. '08 enrolled at Anderson School of Management, she already had crisscrossed the globe, studying and interning in places like Denmark, Taipei and Hong Kong.

And yet, the California native leapt at the opportunity to spend a quarter as an exchange student at UCT GSB — University of Cape Town's Graduate School of Business. "South Africa was appealing to me because it's a very young democracy," she says. "I thought it'd be interesting to take the concepts I learned at Anderson and study them through the lens of a developing economy."

Jocelyn Liu in Capetown

Liu's experience at UCT GSB met those expectations — and then some.

"My classmates were primarily from Africa, so the in-class discussions were extremely educational for me," she says. "We discussed things like how businesses can effectively sell products to consumers in the townships."

The education Liu received in South Africa extended far beyond seminars and textbooks.

"Everywhere you go, you meet people who were confined by apartheid — and who overcame the challenges of it and now help others," she says. "It's very humbling."

In the process, exchange students like Liu add more than just an appreciative set of ears and eyes to their new community.

"Multiple perspectives always add to the richness of the engagement and learning in the classroom," says Elspeth Donovan, one of Liu's former UCT GSB instructors.

The exchange of students and ideas between California and Cape Town is a reciprocal one. While Anderson students get to study in an emerging market, UCT GSB students visiting California have a chance to experience an established one.

"The wider range of courses, resources and exposure to international faculty and students that a school like Anderson can offer is great for UCT students," says Donovan.

Capetonian Jason Myhill talking with friends

Jason Myhill, who spent a quarter at Anderson, agrees with that assessment.

"My time at Anderson introduced me to people, places and things I'd never experienced," he says. "It was a much larger playing field. It inspired me to think bigger."

So much so, a motivated Myhill — who had sold his house to become a full-time MBA at UCT GSB and then sold his car to come to the U.S. for the exchange program — launched a new consulting business (Dynaminds) shortly after returning to South Africa.

Liu urges other students from Anderson and UCT GSB to study abroad, even if they are initially nervous about being so far from home.

"I had no idea what to expect. But [my housemates and I] were all there together in this very new experience, so we bonded very quickly," she says. "We also made friends with students at UCT and a few other local Capetonians."

Myhill felt at home in Los Angeles before he even unpacked his bags.

"When I arrived at LAX, some Anderson students — who I'd become friends with when they studied in Cape Town the previous year — were there to pick me up," he says. "Thanks to the exchange program, I had friends at Anderson before I'd even set foot in America."



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