African business woman in front of an old German university building
© BW_i
Olubukola Sola Olanrewaju from Nigeria came to Germany in 2013 to do her Masters at Nürtingen-Geislingen University.

My Nürtingen experience

Olubukola Sola Olanrewaju comes from Nigeria and completed her Master of Business Administration in Nürtingen near Stuttgart. She now works at Daimler Truck AG and lectures at her old university.

For Olubukola Sola Olanrewaju, her career path  started with a degree program she did not choose for herself. “I always had a passion for math, but my father wanted me to study something related to medicine”, she explains. So she signed up for Zoology at the University of Lagos in Nigeria. Specializing in parasitology, she learned all there was to know about illnesses transmitted from animals to humans. By the time she graduated in 2005, however, she was even more sure that she did not want to continue on that path.

“Luckily the big audit firms were happy to hire people from different academic backgrounds”, says Sola. And so, despite her degree in Zoology, she started working with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), where she was trained in financial accounting. She was very adept at juggling figures. She moved through the ranks quickly, and before long had been promoted to a role as Audit Manager. But she wanted a more international experience.

As a diplomat’s daughter, she had already seen a lot of the world. Her family had lived in Bonn from 1994 to 1998. Sola attended the international school there and learned some German. When her sister told her about a scholarship from the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service), Sola knew right away what she needed to do. She applied for a place on the International Management MBA program at Nürtingen-Geislingen University (Hochschule Nürtingen-Geislingen, NGU) and was accepted onto the course.

Initially, her husband wasn’t too thrilled. He didn’t speak any German and was not familiar with German culture. On top of that, they had a two-year-old child. How was that supposed to work if they went abroad? “I wanted to go to Germany, but I didn’t want to leave my husband and child behind”, she remembers. Sola convinced her husband to give it a try.

In March 2013, the family boarded a flight to Germany from Lagos with a ton of bags full of clothes and Nigerian food. Their first stop was Mannheim, where Sola spent six months doing an intensive German course at the Goethe Institute. She passed the C1 exam and was ready for university.

“At the time, only about half of the lectures were in English”, she recalls. This meant that a good knowledge of German was essential in order to pass the exams. That has changed in the meantime. “Nowadays the whole degree is in English, which makes it much more attractive to international students”, says Sola. While she considers it helpful on a day-to-day basis to have a knowledge of German, she feels that it would also be possible to get started without any German: “Once you are here, there are lots of ways and opportunities to learn the new language, either using special apps or simply by speaking to your neighbors”.

It didn’t take long for the family to find an apartment in Nürtingen. The most difficult challenges were the everyday things that one takes for granted in one’s home country. For Sola, those things included little things such as bread and water. “So many varieties of bread, and so many different types of bottled water at the supermarket”, she laughs.

At first it was difficult to find someone to take care of her son. Because Sola’s lectures did not always overlap with the opening times for the crèche and her husband was still spending a lot of time in Nigeria for work, she also needed a nanny. “The international office at the university was always there for us and helped us to arrange childcare for our son”, says Sola gratefully.

Her second son was born in June 2014. Just two weeks after giving birth, she was back in the lecture hall and even managed to do most of the exams for the second semester. “I was determined not to waste any time or prolong my time as a student unnecessarily”, she says. She took advantage of an additional semester to complete an internship at a German company before graduating. She worked full time for Robert Bosch Battery Systems GmbH in Stuttgart for six months while writing her master’s dissertation. “Looking back, it was crazy how much I was working, but I managed it”, she says.

She was already looking for a job at that stage. “I sent off maybe six or seven applications, and I got three interviews”, she remembers. She finished her master’s degree on 31 August 2015, and just one day later she started a job as a Financial Reporting Expert at Mercedes-Benz Bank AG. It took a lot of hard work and commitment, but it paid off.

She was responsible for the subsidiary in the United Kingdom. Together with her colleagues, she prepared the financial statements of Mercedes-Benz Bank and ensured their reports were prepared in line with IFRS and HGB (German Commercial Code).

She later moved to Daimler Truck AG, where she is now working as a Manager in Financial Reporting and Disclosures. Her team drafts the financial statements and sections of the management report, which is published for the capital market.

Both of these jobs were so close to Nürtingen that her family didn’t need to move home. “Nürtingen is our home, and my kids love it here”, she says. “Lagos is loud and busy. It’s much quieter here, but I really like it. I love walking in the woods and through the fields near our apartment at evening-time, it’s really beautiful”. The family has settled in well. They made friends quickly through the church community and of course through their children. Her husband also completed an integration course and learned German to B1 level. In 2017 he founded a non-profit organization called Lead Africa International e.V.. It empowers people of African descent all over the world to connect with each other and to strengthen the African continent through trade, sustainable development and cultural exchange.

Sola says that she is very grateful for her DAAD scholarship and to NGU. As a result, she wanted to find a way to give something back to her university. Her idea was to support individual students as a mentor. But then NGU offered her the opportunity to teach the International Business Finance lecture – in English of course. “The students in my lectures mainly come from North America, Asia and Africa”, she says. “I love seeing so many young people who made exactly the same decision as myself”. She loves teaching and also sees the lectures as an opportunity to keep abreast of the latest developments.

Sola would recommend studying at NGU. “NGU is a state university with reasonable fees, unlike the universities in the US or the UK, for example. And it doesn’t compromise on quality”.

Author: Claudia Doyle