From her home in Soweto to the bright lights of New York city, Siphesihle Sitole, a beneficiary of the Cyril Ramaphosa Education Trust (CRET), proves the organisation’s selection of students based on potential. This vibrant graduate has been selected to participate in the Fordham University Emerging Markets and Country Risk Analysis programme and spent six weeks in the Big Apple. Now, the programme shifts to Pretoria for the final leg, with the international cohort coming to South Africa in August.

The all-expenses paid programme focuses on upskilling Bachelor of Commerce graduates by training them in Emerging Markets and Country Risk Analysis content, including financial accounting, economics and international investments.

The selection process for the Fordham University programme is strict and Siphesihle passed a series of interviews before being chosen as a participant. She graduated with a general Bachelor of Commerce degree along with an Honours degree in marketing and business science. She is currently completing her post-graduate diploma in property development and management.

Fordham University already has a relationship with the University of Pretoria and, because of the success of a previous CRET student in the programme, extended the application opportunity to CRET students as well.

During her six weeks abroad, her first time travelling internationally, Siphesihle soaked up the cultural exchange and gained valuable knowledge, both academically and personally. The programme participants explored various boroughs of New York City along with trips to New Jersey and the city of Boston. Along with a theoretical component, they were afforded the chance to see the practical application of the coursework by visiting multinational businesses.

“I feel very empowered, and my knowledge base has expanded. We did site visits at international companies and got to meet top executives of organisations who shared how they operate and created policies based on international guidelines. We had great presentations and we had to complete analyses of various countries in terms of political risk. Although we’re two thirds of the way through the programme, I can analyse political events with a broader view, and I have a better understanding of the socio-economic dynamics of different communities.” says Siphesihle.

“The time in the USA really opened my eyes. The American students are very different to South Africans, and they aren’t afraid to voice their opinion or discuss different points of view. A difference that stood out to me was how much history is celebrated with great fanfare and we as South Africans can learn from that,” she muses.

Siphesihle is excited about welcoming her new American friends and classmates to Mzansi. As part of the trip, they’ll be visiting Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria where they’ll be doing site visits at the South African head offices of multinational organisations, participating in lectures with local academics, and enjoying some of our fun tourist attractions.

“Whenever I said I’m from South Africa, it was the conversation starter, and my classmates already have lists of places they want to see when they’re here. I can’t wait to show them my hometown and we are all looking forward to completing our course together. Beyond the great acumen we develop through this programme, we’ve also built valuable connections and get to enjoy this cross continental cultural exchange.” she says.
Siphesihle aims to fully gain the advantages the programme offers.

“I believe it’ll make me stand out from the rest. We all have degrees, we have distinctions in our academic transcripts so, what makes you stand out? I’ll have this training now, and I am so looking forward to the doors it’ll open in the future.” she says excitedly.

“I want to take what I’ve learnt, teach it to others and apply it in any sector where I might work. My goal is to be in the finance space, banking specifically. We’re in the fourth industrial revolution, you need to adapt to whatever is new, and I want to see the growth and development in the finance sector. This programme can help me do exactly that.”