Original Research - Special Collection: Creating value through entrepreneurial learning

Students’ entrepreneurial learning through an internship abroad: A cross-cultural experience

Inger B. Pettersen, Elin Kubberød, Elma van der Lingen, Adolph C. Neethling
The Southern African Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management | Vol 15, No 1 | a678 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajesbm.v15i1.678 | © 2023 Inger B. Pettersen, Elin Kubberød, Elma van der Lingen, Adolph C. Neethling | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 November 2022 | Published: 24 August 2023

About the author(s)

Inger B. Pettersen, Mohn Centre for Innovation and Regional Development, Faculty of Engineering, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Bergen, Norway
Elin Kubberød, School of Economics and Business, The Norwegian Business School, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway
Elma van der Lingen, Department of Engineering and Technology Management, Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and IT, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Adolph C. Neethling, Department of Business Management, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa


Background: Cross-cultural learning provides students with the opportunity for improved self-awareness when they are placed in unfamiliar situations where their understanding of who they are and what they can do is challenged or expanded. This paper built on the concepts of experiential learning in rich contexts and self-image shocks and explored the research question on how cross-cultural learning in entrepreneurship exchange programmes offered students unique personal learning possibilities and outcomes.

Aim: The aim was to build new theoretical and empirical knowledge on the influence and importance of cross-cultural learning in entrepreneurship education (EE).

Setting: The study involved South African (SA) students taking part in an internship programme in the vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem of Bergen, Norway.

Methods: Adopting a longitudinal design and purposive sampling, four SA students were included in the study. Data were acquired from two reflective group sessions, on two separate instances, and a final student reflection report. The interviews were transcribed and coded along with the written reflection reports and these data sources were subjected to thematic analysis.

Results: Four themes were uncovered: Learning about the entrepreneurial culture triggers comparison with own culture, Embracing uncertainty and developing entrepreneurial capabilities, Transformational learning through self-image shocks, Can I become a future entrepreneur? Where am I going?

Conclusion: The research highlighted the importance of cross-cultural experience and foreignness as powerful triggers in stimulating students’ introspection and development of self-image.

Contribution: The research combines two research streams, hence advancing our theoretical conceptualisation of cross-cultural learning in EE.


cross-cultural learning; student internship; experiential learning; entrepreneurial self-efficacy; transformational learning; entrepreneurship education; self-Image shocks.

JEL Codes

A19: Other

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education


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