29 April 2022

Postgraduate student in Hospitality Management, Tabile Sikatele, and Vuyelwa Carol Magagula who is doing her Honours in Development Studies, are completing a semester course in Health Management, which will enable them to work in the fields of occupational health promotion and public health.

The opportunity for the two students to study a semester at the Austrian university was made possible through an agreement between UMP and FH JOANNEUM, signed in 2018, which includes exchange of staff and students, work integrated learning (WIL), collaborative research, curriculum development, Agro-processing and value add, enhancement of graduate employability and ways to enhance involvement of private companies into the student development programme of UMP.

Valuable experience

FH JOANNEUM will train the students to become specialists in the organisation and planning of health-promoting and advisory measures and tourism offers in recreation and health tourism. Magagula and Sikatele are enjoying high-quality education and gaining valuable practical experience at the Austrian university.

“I have gained valuable intercultural skills and I wish to apply this to my already existing skills. Having to step out of my comfort zone and step on the way of personal development will allow me to not only add value to myself but to UMP upon my return,” says Magagula.

“I have experienced cultural diversity first-hand and I wish to share my experiences with other students as well. I am encouraged to integrate my success, problems, obstacles, opinions, and ideas of the study abroad experiences by readjusting back to the cultures and values of my home country and in implementing what I have learnt.”

Sikatele adds that she will apply the leanings to her studies by engaging more with her lecturers and fellow classmates, and give more input whenever it is needed.

“My advice would be work hard, be open minded, do your best and God will do the rest.”

UMPSikatele advises other students to work hard and do their best to receive great opportunities.

Open minded about diversity

Language barriers, food and foreign culture are some of the obstacles the two students had to turn into positives.

“Thinking of language, I have always imagined myself having fluent conversations. If I cannot speak well, I feel demotivated. One thing I have learnt along my journey of learning German is that one cannot speak unless one knows what they’re saying and learning this needs patience and discipline,” says Magagula.

One thing that I wish to point out about living in a different country is that you are constantly thrown into new and challenging situations that force you to improvise and find solutions. Even though it is not always easy, all these experiences helped me to grow in some way or another.

Sikatele adds that the experience, though challenging, was absolutely worth it. “It has been an amazing experience for the past three months. Life changing really – from learning different words every day in German, meeting different people from different countries, to travelling to different places around Austria,” she says.

Magagula says: “What I’ve enjoyed most during my time in Austria, Graz to be specific, are the many diverse encounters with different people. Some I have met only once, and others have become very close friends with whom I communicate on a daily basis.”

UMPMagagula would one day consider relocating to Austria.

Big dreams

“Studying abroad is a one-of-a-kind experience for me, but there’s something you’ll always encounter regardless of where you go: and that’s the importance of communication and cultural exchange,” says Magagula.

“It offers you opportunity after opportunity to grow academically and personally. However, if you don’t set measurable, achievable goals, you will not feel satisfied with what you learn. I would consider settling in Austria. Although the cost of living is extremely high, Austrians have well-paying jobs, and the unemployment rate is very low."

Sikatele might one day consider moving to Austria. “It is an amazing country: the people are friendly, there are many job opportunities within the hospitality industry, the unemployment rate is low, and there is no crime,” she says.

At the end of the semester, Magagula and Sikatele are expected to have acquired additional skills that will give them an advantage when seeking employment in the fields of occupational health promotion and public health.

They will also be able to implement significant and lasting change in many aspects of general health.

@ Story by Cleopatra Makhaga. Pictures supplied.