S.E.T. for socio-economic growth
Gabbi Christians is an engineer in the making, hoping to find innovative solutions to problems
My journey to loving learning began a little over a decade ago. It all started because of a game I called, “School-School”, which I would play with my older sisters. My oldest sister would pretend to be a teacher, while I would pretend to be a pupil in the class, along with our middle sister. Newton Primary school definitely added to my love for mathematics and science. My fondest memories are of when we conducted tiny experiments and observed dissections by Mrs Olivier in natural sciences. I would stare at the preserved specimens lining the shelves of the lab and I remember being utterly awestruck and completely engrossed in it all. Then came high school. Throughout my high school career, I ranked first in my grade; receiving numerous awards for my academic performance. I was so excited to be in Grade 12. Ironically, what was supposed to be the pinnacle of my high school career became a year filled with uncertainty, stress, fearfulness and being forced to do work with minimal contact time with educators. This reality compelled me to work independently and with even more dedication. An honours blazer was conferred on me in Grade 12 for consistent academic excellence. I matriculated as the top student in the Northern Cape for 2020, attaining the goal I had set six years earlier.
When applications for university first opened in 2020, I had no idea what to apply for. The more I researched, the more I felt like I was being pulled in a million different directions. If I had been asked why I had chosen Chemical Engineering back them, I would not be able to answer the question. I can now. I have recently come across one of Albert Einstein’s quotes. He said, “Scientists investigate that which already is. Engineers create that which has never been”. Whenever I doubt if I chose the right path or field, I read this quote. Engineers constantly push boundaries and defy the odds with what they design, build and create. We cannot give them all the glory, that I know, but they do contribute a great deal to making new things and finding innovative solutions to problems. As an aspiring chemical engineer, I would be given the opportunity to do just that.
Covid-19 hit in my matric year. Then we went into the nationwide lockdown, leaving me filled with feelings of doubt in myself and my future. Then one day, I decided to only focus on what was within my control, and work towards adapting to any uncertainties or abrupt changes in my circumstances. This is just one example of how I managed to turn this dream-crushing pandemic into a learning experience. It took my understanding of resilience, adaptability and consistency to another level, allowing me to grow as an individual. I think it’s important to remain as positive as possible, no matter how hard it may be. Try to learn something from all your experiences. Push yourself, compete only with yourself and don’t be afraid to ask questions or to ask for help whenever you need it. There is power in admitting that you need help, just as there is power in admitting when you need to rest. My father always tells me, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” There will be a test once in a while where you do not perform as well as you hoped you would. What matters, however, is that you pick yourself up after you stumble.
I hope to be the successful owner of a consulting engineering firm with a focus on renewable energy.
While I loved science, mathematics was, and still is my ultimate favourite subject. Newton offered “Enrichment Maths”, which is basically a more advanced version of the maths curriculum you were taught in class. A few children, no more than 10; starting from grade 4, would be taught how to approach Olympiad-style questions or content that would be covered in the years to come. The teacher facilitating these lessons, Mrs Van der Merwe, really motivated and encouraged me to participate in all the Olympiads I could. It was through her that I was able to attend similar mathematical enrichment classes, but on steroids, at the University of the Free State every two weeks. It was tough- waking up early on those Saturday mornings, driving through from Kimberley to Bloemfontein, sometimes even doing the week’s homework on the way… My parents and sisters were really supportive and still are during this time.
Always try your best to live intentionally. Do things daily that will get you closer to your goals. Even the smallest little task counts. Do not be distracted by people or activities that do not add value to your life. There are many opportunities for us out there, we just have to be brave enough and determined enough to grab them. Whenever you reach a hurdle, do not give up. Ask for help from anyone willing to offer it. Help, encourage and support one another. Only by working together will we be able to accomplish greater things than we thought possible.
Choose what you love or what you find interesting. If you do not know what that is, then do some research. Try to explore as many courses offered by different universities as possible. Do not be persuaded or forced to follow a certain path if you do not want to do it. Just bear in mind that your decision is an investment in your future. Also set realistic goals for yourself and work towards them. Use your time wisely. What you choose to spend your time on now does affect your application to these higher education institutions. It is up to you whether this effect will be detrimental or beneficial to your future.
I am of the view that talent means very little without discipline and consistency. These two values allow you to reach much greater heights, while at the same time inspiring others to do the same. Achievers always go looking for opportunities. They rarely sit idly and watch the world pass them by. They understand how precious time is, and they rarely procrastinate. Mediocrity is simply not an option, as they know what it takes to excel, and they go out and do just that.
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