Photo: Chris Kelly 4 Rhodos l August 2012
biG dReAms in smAll spACes
By Wilhelmina Maboja Every year, rhodes University attracts a number of promising students to the institution. this year, 21 of the 62 first ever graduates from the Oprah winfrey leadership academy chose to study at the university. vuyolwethu gqaleni, also known as vuyo, is currently studying a bachelor of Science degree in human kinetics and Ergonomics. rhodes is one of the few universities that offer the course and, although she is still getting used to life in a small town after being in the big city, the positives of studying close to her home town of mthatha and enjoying frequent family visits far outweigh the adjustments she has needed to make. "i thought i was going to major in hkE, but now things have changed, i'm now one of those confused little first years," she laughs, explaining that she's having second thoughts about taking her course further. finding the right course can be taxing despite and because of the variety of subject choices on offer. "joining rhodes is the beginning of an exciting new phase in your life and in your intellectual and personal development," said vice-Chancellor dr Saleem badat during his welcome address to the university's new students at the beginning of the year. "having completed your schooling, you are embarking on a new voyage". and just as there's the thrill of leaving home and finding your freedom and independence, there's also a need to make the right choices. "i've met some bumps along the way," says gqaleni, "but i've learnt, and i'm still trying to learn." along with trying to strike a balance of a healthy social life with one's academics, there's also the pressure to succeed. gqaleni will be one of the first in her family who will be getting a degree. "i feel a lot of pressure, everyone's looking up to me," she says, "i have to prove to them that i've done the things they've sent me to do, but as a black South african having degree is a great thing." despite her indecision about her current course and the demands of success, gqaleni is still hopeful and plans on putting her degree to good use. "with my knowledge and everything that i've acquired at rhodes, i can already help people back at home, by being involved in community projects and helping wherever i can." though small, with just over 7 000 students registered this year, the University maintains a consistent track record of high pass rates among undergraduates and postgraduates in the country. and while this track record of successful pass rates might seem to add to the pressure of being a budding undergraduate, gqaleni has her eye on the prize and is confident that this success will also soon be her own. "my degree is what keeps me going," she says, "and knowing that i'll leave here having something in my hand that i can be proud of," she says.