As I gazed through the window of the bus at the sight of the breath-taking scenery of the Stellenbosch wine land and mountains, the prospect of beginning my tertiary studies at one of the top ranked universities in Africa started becoming a reality. Coming from a rural background in a village called Iinongo in the northern part of Namibia which is well known as “Wamboeland”, I was excited and humbled to be amongst the privileged few who had made the cut to pursue studies in Civil Engineering at the this prestigious institution. Where I come from, Stellenbosch University is hailed as “Africa’s Harvard University”; it is a class above the rest due to its rich history of academic excellence and research.
The first steps of a journey always prove to be the hardest. My first months of class were characterised by a lot of challenges. The jump from high school to varsity is quite a huge leap and it had quite an effect on my grades in the first months. Engineering Maths 115 proved to be my worst nightmare. Struggling to keep a straight head and trying to stay afloat, I approached the Dean of the faculty of Engineering for help. He took time off his busy schedule to sit with me and discuss all my challenges. His wise words and great motivation had me determined to go back to the drawing board to pull up my socks and to get right back into the game. The faculty made available tutors and mentors to assist all first year students with challenging modules and these support structures boosted my academics to a greater level.
What excited me most about the learning environment offered in engineering is the industry based approach of most lectures. The lessons are designed in such a way that students are faced with real life, day to day scenarioswhich required themto make use of their engineering knowledge to tackle these different challenges. For a young prospective engineer, this made every class worthy to attend as there was a whole lot of insight on offer every day. The first year was general, meaning all first years had the same modules from different engineering disciplines (Civil, Mechanical, Chemical, Electrical and Industrial). This gave us room as first years to explore which modules we enjoyed most and make decisions of what disciplines to take up during the preceding year based on how we fared during our first year.
I was amazed by the diversity on offer within the faculty and the university at large. Being an international student, I felt honoured to be part of a very vibrant youth movement comprising of people from across the world. There is nothing more beautiful than seeing people of different races, cultures and origins housed in one institution working together in harmony towards a common goal. The braai and beer socials over the weekends united us. The ecstatic atmosphere present in the stands every time the Maties rugby team played were overwhelming and made me feel the human spirit of togetherness within the whole campus. Personally, the spirit of Ubuntu made me feel at home, I had confidence in asking for help from my fellow students and lecturers with no fear of discrimination for being a foreigner.
My first year in Stellenbosch is always something that I will cherish forever, it was a year of self-discovery, Ubuntu and academic take off. Hours upon hours in the Study centre gradually pay offand live on to tell a story of hard work and persistence to make it through first year engineering.
Written By Ismael Nuunyango