This year, Thato Mmatli from South Africa and masters graduate of Leadership and Management in International Contexts, is due to make a speech.
SI News Service caught up with her to find out more.
Why did you decide to study Sweden?
My first experience in Sweden was in 2013 when I was invited to present my research at a conference in Stockholm. I really loved it there and so I decided that one day I would return. A year later the Swedish Institute Scholarships were advertised in South Africa and I knew that this was the best opportunity to pursue my goal! I was attracted by the international and culturally diverse academic environment of Swedish universities. It’s a great way to learn and to build networks with intellectuals from around the world. Linnaeus University was a great choice and it has exceeded all expectations.
Have you enjoyed your time in Sweden? In what ways?
Without a doubt this past year has been incredible and truly memorable. I have enjoyed the relaxed and welcoming Swedish culture. In general people are friendly and always willing to help, which is essential for a person living abroad for the first time. I have explored the food, music and also travelled to as many cities as I could to experience the way people live. I have seen so much of Sweden’s beauty and I am truly blessed to have built close relationships which I believe will last a lifetime.
What’s been the best part about studying in Sweden?
My academic experience on the whole has been exceptional, but I have particularly enjoyed the open and informal relationships with my professors. I have been able to share my ideas, ask for advice and explore my own creativity throughout the study curriculum. This has really nurtured my intellectual growth. It has been liberating to approach anyone on the academic staff, regardless of seniority, to ask questions and have meaningful conversations. Also, I have thrived as the chairperson for the Kalmar Local Network of Future Global Leaders as well as the International Ambassador for Linnaeus University. These two activities have broadened my skill set and it has been a great learning experience to collaborate with students from institutions all over Sweden.
How did it feel when you were asked to speak (at the Diploma Ceremony)?
I was absolutely elated! Throughout the selection process I knew that I was competing with the world’s most talented students, so I felt really honoured to be chosen to speak at the ceremony. Each person who submitted their speech had an important message to share about their journey and what they envision for the future. Hence, I fully appreciate the privileged position I am in to have this opportunity and to address this distinguished group of future leaders.
What sort of things will you talk about in your speech?
I have personalised my speech to reflect the lessons I have learned throughout my journey in Sweden. I address the question of leadership and the contribution which SI scholars can make to the world. The Swedish Institute’s core values of trust, creativity and cooperation are also included as they have been central throughout the scholarship period. Overall, the intention of my speech is to inspire and I hope that each member of the audience will feel empowered and energised to pursue greatness!
Are you going to be returning to South Africa?
Yes, I will be returning to South Africa later this year in August 2017. Everything I have done and all of my achievements in Sweden have been to be a worthy brand ambassador for my country. I am looking forward to finding ways to which I can utilise my experience and make a meaningful contribution.
What are you planning on doing when you go home?
My goal will be to expand on my work experience, particularly within the field of leadership development. I am really passionate about identifying and nurturing leadership capability and South Africa has massive potential in this regard.
What would you say to students coming to study in Sweden?
To students coming to study in Sweden, I say congratulations! You have chosen a world-class platform to pursue your intellectual growth. Continue to leave your comfort zone and to explore territories unknown. When in doubt, ask questions and know that someone is always available to be of support. To the world you reflect your family and your country, so work hard and represent them well! Learn, laugh, dance and enjoy the adventure!