Studying abroad is something that many young South Africans have dreamed of. The myriad reasons for this dream are not hard to come by, of course. Unfortunately, neither are the obstacles. Brent Morris, the Managing Director of IE Abroad, studied in the UK – an experience which completely opened up his world and ignited his passion for the work that IE Abroad does – assisting those that would like to get their degrees abroad. IE Abroad recently joined forces with Sable International to provide international advice to prospective students across South Africa, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Uganda. In an interview with BizNews, Morris discussed the mutually beneficial partnership between IE Abroad and Sable and the experience which they offer to those students who would like to take the leap and get their qualifications abroad. Drawing on his own experience, Morris stated that, ‘Yes, you learn a skill. Yes, you get a qualification, but you’re building an international global profile.’ – Nadya Swart
Brett Morris on his background:
My background is international education for the last 10 years or so. I used to work out of the UK for a couple public institutions out there. I did a bit of work for some US universities as well. And all through this time, within the recruitment side of the universities – so recruiting international students who wanted to study abroad. So I did this for these universities, mostly around the African continent, which has been really awesome because I’ve been able to travel the continent.
So, you know, as a South African, you don’t generally get outside of your little country, your little bubble here. And I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been to, I think, now 15 or 16 African countries and really got a good taste of how the African continent looks and the scope of education and the desire to internationalise education. And I’ve been fortunate to be able to help that. And it’s been a wonderful experience.
On IE Abroad’s partnership with Sable International:
So Sable International have been a group of companies that have looked to internationalise people. So when we started talking about working together, it just kind of made sense because that’s exactly what we do. We don’t necessarily cover all aspects of that, but our part of the journey just really kind of crossed over. Our clientele were the same, the people that we were looking at, the people we were speaking to.
And I think what they found is they had a lot of their emigration clients coming to them going; ‘But what about my son, my daughter? What are they going to do? Where are they going to go? Or can I actually emigrate through education? Is there an opportunity to go? You know, I haven’t actually studied that degree or I don’t have that skill to get into that country. Is there an opportunity for me to go by studying?’ And they didn’t know the answers. You know, they weren’t equipped for those answers.
So bringing us on board has brought that experience and that side of the business has now kind of opened up for them by bringing our expertise on board. Plus, we partner with universities. So our business is based around university partnerships. So we’ve brought that as well.
On his experience studying abroad:
I was fortunate, although I also hold a British passport, so I was able to go to the UK to work. But while I was there, I was able to do my master’s at Anglia Ruskin University. So I did the international student journey myself. I went on campus as a new kind of international person and it was definitely daunting and I wish I had kind of had this hand-holding experience that we offer our students when I went.
It’s also opened up a huge amount of opportunities, and I firmly believe that [with] international education; not only do you get the piece of paper and the experience from the degree, but the network that I developed, the people I met. I met people from China, from India, from the USA, from Indonesia, you know, from Africa – just a world wealth of people that I would never have met. And when it comes to doing business, when I want to do business in India, I pick up the phone to my mate who I studied with and I’m like, ‘Hey, you know, I want to get into India. Can you help?’ You know, I don’t just phone anyone. I phone the guy I went to university with.
And I’ve just seen that and this is why my passion is so high for this business, because I see this with students; they go ignorant and green around how the world works and they come back just completely changed and way more open to different cultures. And I think that was the big thing for me, you know, just understanding different cultures and how they work together and even, you know, just the way business is done in different countries. That was huge for me, and I could never have learned that if I hadn’t traveled there and done that myself.
On the benefits of studying abroad:
We spoke a little bit about the emigration side of things, and I think it’s so relevant right now for South Africans because we’re all kind of looking at options and, you know, ‘are there are options outside’ or ‘what can I look at as a backup? Is there another alternative to what I’m doing right now?’ And I bring it down to two things; there’s the opportunity to go overseas and to get a job and to work and potentially stay depending on your circumstances and how you do things.
But there’s also the opportunity, and I look at myself as an example; I gained the experience in the UK and the USA, and I brought it back and I brought it into Africa. And my business has flourished because I’m doing things sometimes in a way that we weren’t doing things in the past and just bringing that experience of the way that they worked over there here has made a huge difference. So I see the opportunities from an emigration point of view, but there’s also the opportunity to come home. And not only that, now I have an international qualification when I am in South Africa, and that means something.
Your perception is big right? In business. So I’m a salesperson, and I sell that. I sell the idea. When you look at me, who am I? I’m Brent Morris. I studied in the UK. I worked in the USA and the United Kingdom. This is my profile. And if I was a student, this is exactly what I would be selling to them. Yes, you learn a skill. Yes, you get a qualification, but you’re building an international global profile.
And that brings it back to what we were speaking about with Sable. What is their core company value? It’s about internationalising yourself. And for me, there’s no better way to internationalise yourself than to getting that degree because it really does do that. There’s so many aspects outside of just the degree, but the people, the way you learn to do business, even just working part time in a company over there teaches you HR principles that we don’t even dream of doing here. You know, you have to go on a course to climb the ladders. It might seem silly, but there’s a reason for all those things, and there’s a reason why they’re first world and why they’re doing things these ways, because it values the employee, it values the company.
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