If I can graduate, so can you
Dustin Coraizen traces the secret of his success, from Paternoster to Stellenbosch.
Cape Town - I am a graduate of Stellenbosch University, currently enrolled for my BEd Honours in 2016
. Here’s my story:
I have always lived life according to the principles of individual imagination.
Looking back, I realise success to me has never been a one-man show. It was always a communion where all gathered to benefit and contributed to one main goal – and that was and still is – individually, to also succeed in life.
I grew up in a fishing village where I attended two primary schools, St Augustine’s Primary in Paternoster and Eden Primary in Vredenburg (where I was head boy twice – in 2005 and 2006) before I went to high school at Weston Secondary School, also in Vredenburg.
A single-parent child, I knew all along exactly where I wanted to see myself in life.
Knowing how I’d get there was in the hands of what I called faith and hope – something, I believe, you most definitely have to have while embarking on your academic journey.
I knew either way I would get where I wanted to be in life by working with my body and not against my will.
I believe that hard work is not a sacrifice, but a daily routine; it should come naturally and be part of one’s lifestyle. I told myself that you don’t need favours or money or attention to work hard, you only need a will to “want to do” and “want to succeed” in this life. Either you are the norm, or you help change the mindsets of the norm.
And that’s how I entered Stellenbosch University in 2012 after I took a gap year in 2011 to focus on the community and community projects, to get myself more campus-ready and orientated while figuring out my financial status.
I follow the examples set by my mother, Esmerelda Coraizin, and my sister, Aniska Coraizin. They have been my main support structure, along with my little niece, Georgia, through whose eyes I saw a different part of life as she is just 4 years old.
Every pre-student needs a tight-knit support structure. My sister helped me to study and to make notes and my mother listened to me while I constantly discussed and talked until the early hours of the morning while preparing for my examination papers.
I am originally from Paternoster (meaning Our Father), on the West Coast. Here unemployment is rife among the youth. But I always said to myself that I would never be a victim of my circumstances or my surroundings.
I started off with an empty page, but as I grew older my picture got structured.
A structure I was privileged enough to have imagined years ago while holding on to that empty page in my hand, knowing that something good would come of it.
I started my first year of campus not knowing what to expect, but I knew where I was heading. I knew that to make a living in this unknown jungle I had to get involved in whatever Stellenbosch University could offer. The education faculty became my home and my studies became my number one priority. At times, I did not even have time to eat or sleep.
But, I knew, come what may, I had to be ready for each and every class the next morning, because I had a choice.
I became much more open with my higher beings and had the power to still help and direct my fellow Matie students as I was actively involved in societies on campus.
I became an activist for more than just the students at the faculty. I became, I believe, an ambassador for perseverance.
My mother used to call me and ask me if I had anything to eat for the night, and I would reply: “Yes mom”, knowing there was not anything to eat (everything is three times as expensive in Stellenbosch). What kept me going was the fact that I still knew where I was heading.
My second year was far more manageable. I became a member of the student council for the education faculty as well as an activist for different societies, plus a class representative at the end of my second year for the following year.
I made sure that where there was a fire or a flame, there I would keep warm. The main secret to being academically successful is to have a balance between campus life, social life and residential life.
I found that there were too many things to do on campus to not do anything. At the same time I had to sustain myself financially, as student life can get seriously expensive.
In addition, my involvement in helping to create understanding between lecturers, students, the student council and general workers contributed to my success.
As a student you have to have an open mind while strolling down Victoria Street and enjoying Vensters and the welcoming programme, because it is also just as easy to turn down the wrong path and end up lost – exactly where you found yourself perhaps in the beginning.
During my third year, I felt more of a sense of relief as I was on the edge of completing my BEd degree. I also started to present classes for second-year students on the philosophy of education. This helped me to link theory to practice and get into the mindsets of students who still needed to grow in the subject of education and its different methodologies.
At the same time, I was elected as ambassador for Hope@Maties where I mentored Grade 12 pupils to get them ready for varsity. Here I was able to share my own life experiences which helped me to get where I was.
I was also able to contribute towards the dreams and ambitions of future students, especially in how they viewed themselves and their backgrounds as a positive platform.
My fourth and final year was a source of pride and success. I was able to still be involved in many of my activities as an undergraduate student. It showed me how I had grown from where I was, with the empty page, to where I could look back at my successful academic years.
The balance between academia and the rest of my activities as a Matie gave me a headstart to achieve even more. I received merit recognition achievements at my campus residence, the Republic of Helderberg – Stellenbosch, in each of my four years as an undergraduate.
One of my biggest accomplishments was to pass my BEd in general education cum laude, with specialist subjects in the fields of mathematics and natural sciences and an average of over 83 percent. In addition, I managed to be enrolled and accepted to do my BEd Hons in educational psychology: educational support in 2016 at Stellenbosch University, while also being a full-time educator at a local primary school – Rietenbosch Primary.
As individuals, we all have a certain type of notebook to fill in from the day we are born. Whether we use colour pencils or just grey, white and black pencils, no one can change what we see individually and imagine what the story is supposed to be.
The ability to imagine and see my world and my success, regardless of my circumstances – that’s what kept me going.
Stellenbosch was a new world for me – a jungle – but still I knew where I was heading long before I started my studies, because that’s what matters. We all can, it all depends on whether or not we want to. It is not easy; no one said it would be. But if I could do it, and still can, so can you.
* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.