Sabelo Mthembu had earned a graduate degree, but once he landed a job in his field, he realized he wasn't really happy with where he ended up.
"As a printing process lead, my responsibility was I had a machine and I took care of it. ... It was cool for about two years and I got some great experience, but then I realized factories weren't my thing. There's more to life than making just paper and packaging."
He was managing like he wanted, but not in the way he wanted.
"I felt like I was in a space where I was more in charge of managing people and getting them to do stuff than it was about finding solutions and fixing problems. I was becoming an expert in that operational setting and I just didn't want to be an expert in what I hated, so my way out was an MBA at UB," he says.
Once at UB, Sabelo would select data analytics as his MBA specialization.
"It felt like the perfect fit because you get to analyze things and you get to solve problems. You actually add value by asking the questions," he says.
From Durban, a coastal city in South Africa, Sabelo found the University of Baltimore through research online. Sabelo searched for AACSB-accredited business schools in the United States and found UB's Merrick School of Business.
His application solicited a quick email response from a dean at the Merrick School of Business and then more web-based conversations, which Sabelo says made him feel honored.
Because of initial issues with getting his visa on time and all the other major life changes to move to the United States for the first time, Sabelo was a week late to start the semester, but quickly felt at home finding the same personal connection he had in his first interaction was reflected in more staff and faculty.
That community feeling made him decide to be an orientation leader.
"For me, it wasn't about doing the job, it was just about helping people because I got helped and I think if I didn't have someone who spoke with me and took my hand and showed me and worked with me, then where would I be? So that's just my way of giving back."
Sabelo also joined the Student Government Association, went on a global field study to Finland, interned with the city of Baltimore and worked as a graduate assistant in the Merrick School.
"There's just been so many opportunities from that," he says of the graduate assistant position. "They asked me to do some research, to interview South African entrepreneurs and understand what their challenges were. I felt like that would have never happened in the UK, that would've never happened back home, which is insane. You feel like the places where you lived you would get those chances, but at UB, there's just been so many opportunities."
Sabelo graduated with his MBA in May 2020. Looking back at his experiences, he says he is proud he made the most of his time.
"I came here and I said to myself if I'm going to go international, study overseas, I'm going to do more than read a book because I can read a book at home," he says.
"I think, I took a chance on UB and the chance has paid off. I'm in a foreign country having had one person as a contact, and I've been able to meet a bunch of people, meet new friends, get work experience, have an opportunity to be a grad assistant and that's assisting me with my fees, getting involved on the SGA. I definitely took a chance on UB and UB's paid me back."