Beginning this month, 47 third-year SBE bachelors’ students in the fields of economics or international business are embarking on global business or economics internships—a challenging component of the Emerging Markets specialisation that was launched in 2015. After the internships, the students will also produce a thesis based on their experience.
“The specialisation is part of an emphasis of SBE to give opportunities to particularly global-minded and adventurous students,” says Kaj Thomsson, the faculty member in the economics department at SBE who is in charge of the development of the programme.
“It’s a way for us to be truly global in terms of where students go, where we interact with people and companies, and where we draw influences in terms of our own mindsets. We want to not only look at the richest parts of the world, but also the parts that are emerging.”
It’s a little different, he says, than traditional development economics, although there is some overlap as many students are interested in that. “But it’s not only an emphasis on poorer countries developing,” he stresses. “It’s also an emphasis on the fact that there’s a lot of excitement, a lot of things happening around the world, and growing opportunities.”
All 47 students in the first cohort have now been successfully placed with a company in countries such as Vietnam, Mexico, South Africa and China. Together the internships cover 18 countries over four different continents. The internships will run between four and six months, and the students will be working in various capacities, including finance, supply chain management, social entrepreneurship and sustainable economic development.
The students were tasked with finding the internships, with support from Thomsson and the newly formed internship office. “They have to put a lot of effort into this themselves,” he says. “That’s part of the process: in many ways the Emerging Markets students are asked to be more responsible for their education than is typically the case. But arranging the internships has also involved a massive effort from the internship office, who has had to resolve a steady stream of unexpected problems with contracts, visa applications and cross-cultural communication problems.”
In addition to the internship and thesis, participating students were required to take four newly developed courses specific to emerging markets in their second year, alongside courses in business or economics from the regular bachelors’ programmes. In the third year they take two region-specific courses and participate in a range of additional activities specifically designed to prepare them for their internships, and for later working in or with emerging markets in productive and socially responsible ways.
During the competitive application process, Thomsson said they were looking for “students who have a strong academic capacity, but who are also highly motivated, adventurous and particularly interested in these topics.” They were also looking for students who put additional time into supporting the programme in a broader sense, in extracurricular activities—interacting with guest lecturers and organising other events.
“We are really trying to teach them not only new topics, but also to have a very strong component of both community building and personal development,” Thomsson says. “We also try to teach them how to handle uncertain situations where they are outside their comfort zone. We take a very holistic view.”