The inaugural cohort of South African students attending Fordham University as part of a new agreement with the University of Pretoria (UP) wrapped up its five-week study in July with a bang.
The group attended the Macy’s fireworks display as the finale of a cultural/academic experience that marked, for some, the first time they left the African continent or set foot on a plane.
“I’ve seen fireworks before,” said Peter Maibelo, a post-graduate student at UP, “but . . . here in America on July 4, they’re something not to be missed.”
Maibelo and nine other University of Pretoria students arrived in late May to earn certificates in Fordham’s Emerging Markets and Country Risk Analysis Program and to experience American culture via New York.
The men and women, who left July 5, were co-sponsored by the consul general of South Africa. They lived on campus in Tierney Hall and, in their spare time, saw much of what the City had to offer.
“Two shows in five weeks! Broadway was amazing,” said Bridgette Layloo, a post-graduate student of economics at UP. “Back home, we don’t really go to theatre.”
“Living in the Bronx was great,” said Maibelo. “It helped us to see another side of the U.S. than what you see in the movies.”
The students also were invited to informational sessions at the city’s leading financial houses, including J.P. Morgan and Credit Suisse.
But UP economics professor Reyno Seymore, who acted as a chaperone, singled out as the trip’s highlight a June 11 visit to the NASDAQ Times Square trading floor to kick off the 2010 FIFA World Cup, opening in their native South Africa, The students joined South African Consul General Fikile Magubane in ringing the opening bell.
“We missed the opening ceremony in South Africa,” said Bernard Mohlakwana, a UP graduate student in economics, “but we had a different kind of opening ceremony right here.”
Following the NASDAQ opening, the visiting students walked from Times Square to New York’s Paley Center for Media to watch the match.
“We were blowing on our Vuvuzellas and wearing our South African t-shirts,” said Maibelo. “Everybody was staring at us and smiling, and it made up for our not being home.”
A few Fordham students joined the South Africans on their outings. GSAS graduate student Loren James enjoyed the chance to go backstage at Chicago, and to visit Washington D.C., where the group toured the Capitol and visited the United States Agency for International Development.
“I would never be able to do these things on my own, so this program has helped me,” said James, who in August 2009 was among the first Fordham students to attend a summer session at UP. “Being able to share Fordham with them—and especially those places they might not get to see otherwise—has been worthwhile.”
Mohlakwana said he found the coursework in risk analysis particularly relevant to his future plans. Each student had to choose a country to study, and Mohlakwana chose Tanzania, which he analyzed for its strength as an emerging developing market.
“Africa is on the verge of becoming the next big emerging market, and I want to be there and see it through,” he said. “This was my first time off the African continent, and I am taking a lot home with me.”
Oudolapo Fakeye, a GSAS student in economics who took classes with the students, agreed.
“What Fordham is doing is monumental,” he said. “It has offered a course on emerging markets and so many African markets are primed to be very big over the next few decades. South Africa is at the forefront. It shows great promise and has political stability. So an exchange between Fordham and UP students is very significant.”
Seymore said that both Fordham and UP have begun listing each institution’s economics faculty members and their areas of expertise, hoping to match up those professors with similar interests. For Seymore, it was a “thrill” to meet Dominick Salvatore, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Economics and the author of International Economics, the textbook that Seymore routinely uses in his UP classes.
“It’s our hope that UP and Fordham will end up with some joint research, which would be good for both institutions,” said Seymore, a specialist in environmental economics and international trade.
“Fordham has embarked on a mission to have academic centers all around the world, collaborations that will benefit both Fordham and our partner universities,” said Booi Themeli, Ph.D., assistant professor of economics, one of the programs’ faculty members. “Now our first South African students have gotten the full American experience.”