From Sweden to South Africa: A business exchange programme to remember

When Kristof Pölcmann, 31, was studying for a Master of Science in International Logistics and Supply Chain Management at Jönköping International Business School (JIBS) he got to take part in an exchange programme at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa (USB). 

“Simply the best,” is how he remembers this experience. Check out what he has to say on what it’s like to be a Swedish international student in the vibrant city of Cape Town:

Tell us, what made you choose to study abroad?

After a few years of work experience, I decided to return to school and applied to some programmes within Sweden. I got accepted to JIBS for a full-time programme and kept on working extra weekends with my previous employer as an international cabin crew member.

The job and school combination allowed me to experience sitting in the school benches during weekdays and flying overseas on weekends. Studying abroad was part of the programme. We could either do an internship or go on exchange trips.

Here, I took the opportunity to look for a place I haven’t seen before. It was a long-time dream to study abroad. Many friends of mine did it, and I also wanted to be part of that group. 

Why did you choose to study in South Africa? What did you like most about studying there?

There were many universities for us to choose from for the exchange trip. I did a somewhat in-depth research about the countries of my liking before applying. This was more of a cultural and societal research, rather than about the partner university.

Polcmann enjoying the mountainside in Cape Town, South Africa. Source: Kristof Polcmann

South Africa was a place that I had never been to before. It appeared to have a vibrant mix of cultures and history. It seemed affordable to be there. It has a better climate than Sweden, and I wanted to live in an English-speaking country. I also wanted to be in a place where different backgrounds mix well and are accepted by one another.

What did you study? 

I did a two-year programme to get my Master of Science in International Logistics and Supply Chain Management at JIBS. It was four semesters long. I got to spend my third semester abroad at USB, joining the MBA programme there. 

My master thesis in JIBS was titled “Digitalisation and Supply Chain Sustainability: A Triple Bottom Approach,” looking into the supply chain and its impact on social, environmental and economic (triple bottom line) aspects. I graduated with a B (3.5 GPA) in June 2020. 

Tell us about your most memorable time at Stellenbosch University Business School.

The entire semester in South Africa was such a memorable time for me, I got to live right in the city centre of Cape Town. We did a lot of activities with the other international exchange students and also local students. We surfed on a regular basis, sometimes we just hit the waves after school. We went on a lot of wine tastings as well since South Africa has such great quality wines. 

We travelled around the beautiful country. We checked out wildlife: penguins, lions, zebras, leopards, giraffes and so on, roaming free in their natural habitats. There was not one particular memory, but all of them that I will remember for life. Great place, great people, and great school. 

What are your plans for the future? And how do you think studying abroad helped?

I would like to keep an international mindset for the future. To travel, if possible, or live abroad, and meet a great variety of people. 

I think doing an exchange or a whole programme abroad is very helpful. It lets you explore things with the help of a controlled environment. Most likely, the other students will become like your family for the time. 

Here at the top of a mountain, Kristof is seen enjoying the scenery of beautiful Cape Town, South Africa. Source: Kristof Polcmann

One also has the opportunity to explore differences, new experiences, interesting insights in an environment that’s not home. It is a great way to learn soft skills in connection with knowledge from school.

What are your top recommendations or advice to others planning to study in South Africa? 

I would advise future students of South Africa to just do it. Once there, meet the locals! It is very easy to hang out with people from their home country and other international students. It will be more of a tourist trip.

Go out with locals, attend their celebrations, make friends with them. Then it will feel like home. The South Africans whom I had the pleasure to meet were extremely friendly and welcoming. I think everyone should try it out and see what a great country it is. 

On the other hand, one must also be vigilant on the streets and take care of each other. Like every other country has its problems, so does South Africa. From a European perspective, it was a bit of a challenge to keep in mind that it can be dangerous. There are a few simple rules that should be remembered to stay on the safe side. Regardless of some issues, I still say it is absolutely worth it!

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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