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A safari in Kruger National Park was on the agenda of Linda Chew and her Columbia classmates while in South Africa.

Johan Sjolander/iStockphoto

Linda Chew is enrolled in the two-year, full-time MBA program at Columbia University in New York. Originally from Vancouver, she is a graduate of the commerce program at Queen's University in Kingston. Linda began her career at Deloitte LLP, where she spent four years in its Toronto and Vancouver offices, most recently working in mergers and acquisitions. She is a chartered accountant and a chartered financial analyst charterholder. This is the fourth entry in a series on her MBA experience.

I find that airports are always great places to think and reflect. Currently, I'm sitting in Cape Town International Airport in South Africa after spending 10 days in this beautiful country. This trip was organized by two classmates – one from South Africa and one from South Korea – who led 35 of us through Kruger National Park, Johannesburg and Cape Town.

As this was the first time on the continent for many of us, we revelled in the opportunity to see and experience all that we could. Between safari game drives, hiking and taking mental snapshots of the panoramic views on Table Mountain, we also had more formal, educational experiences. During stops at a restaurant, an African bank and the mayor's office in Cape Town, we learned the history of racial inequity in South Africa and how important a message of inclusion is to both government and business mandates today.

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There have been many highlights on this trip. The first is the opportunity to engage in many meaningful interactions with my classmates. As we try impala sausages and other local delicacies, our conversations are blessed with a wide range of topics. We've discussed everything from new venture ideas, the branding of chocolate in the United States versus Belgium and travel stories, to near-death experiences and the dating scene in various parts of the world. To have interesting chats with so many other like-minded, similar-aged individuals while experiencing a foreign environment together is a privilege of being in business school.

We also attended an alumni event in Johannesburg, where I met some Columbia Business School graduates from more than a decade ago. Their stories are similar – after graduation, many went on to join reputable international companies to gain experience before ultimately returning home to fulfill their desire to make a local contribution.

One particular alumnus now works in asset management, allocating capital to companies in sub-Saharan Africa that are mispriced in the stock market because of political instability in the region. His objective resonated with me. My motivation to attend business school has always been driven by my desire to return to Canada one day to invest in small to medium-sized enterprises, bringing with me what I learned at Columbia and in my post-MBA career. To see other alumni accomplish the same goal in their home countries is both inspiring and reaffirming.

As I return to New York for my final semester of business school, I look forward to more travel and more interactions that will continue to motivate me.

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