The much-anticipated arrival of our second son in early June did confound plans for the whole family to join me on MBA exchange to the Fuqua School of Business (http://www.fuqua.duke.edu) at Duke University in North Carolina. While my exchange scholarship covered tuition for the whole semester, complications around flying with babies – not to mention having no nanny in America – led us to opt for a more prudent approach to the exchange programme with me going alone for just one term in the end.
Duke proved an incredible experience, but being away from Katherine and Charlie for a couple of months was very tough indeed. On the academic side of things I had the opportunity to take some superb courses in Leadership, Negotiation and Behavioural Economics as well as a trans-disciplinary course in Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Conservation Development, but there were also a number of highly memorable extra curricular experiences…
A prestigious business school like Fuqua attracts a procession of noteworthy visiting speakers and inspirational guest lecturers. While it was a privilege to attend their presentations, there was much more to my Duke experience than simply high quality courses and talks from captains of industry. Duke is a renowned basketball school and arriving just in time for the onset of March Madness – in a year that Duke would end up going all the way to winning the national championship title – was a real stroke of luck.
First I joined a group of fellow exchange students for the round of 16 in Charlotte, and later for an epic road trip to Indianapolis to attend the final four knockout. Winning tickets in the student lottery allowed us to watch both semi-finals and the final live. Being amidst 73 000 very vocal, fanatical supporters inside Lucas Oil Stadium was an unbelievable sporting experience that I’ll never forget.
After the fun and festivities of Duke’s victory in Indiana, I had some road races to look forward to back in North Carolina. First, I took on the never-ending hills of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh marathon (http://runrocknroll.competitor.com/raleigh), which destroyed my legs and caused me to fade badly towards the finish. My 3h37 time was the slowest marathon I’ve ever run, but still placed me 79th out of over 2 000 competitors, hinting at the severity of the course. Barely a week later I tackled the Tar Heel 10-miler (http://tarheel10miler.com) around Chapel Hill, which was shorter, flatter and much more fun!
My two months in America concluded with a long weekend up in Connecticut to visit some recent safari companions and great friends – the Traggio family – before proceeding on to New York City to take care of some Passage to Africa business with Michael Lorentz, and then a long flight home.
It was a privilege to attend Duke for a couple of months and I thoroughly enjoyed my time in America but, as it draws to a close, I am very excited to be headed back to my family in South Africa and look forward to guiding a couple of outstanding Passage to Africa safaris that are on the cards for June and July.