Driven to exploration, Vicky Jan is spreading her wings by immersing herself in a whole new area of study.
Vicky Jan has always had a passion for the outdoors, so it’s a no brainer that she has chosen to follow a path that will lead to a sustainable future for Africa’s natural resources.
“Growing up in the Eastern Cape, I loved being outside. I wanted to be wherever it was green. So when I got to school and learnt about geography, it became my favourite subject from the get-go,” she says.
Now in her third year at Stellenbosch University, she is studying for a BSc in Geoinformatics, a new and developing discipline combining geography and technology. It offers opportunities to work in maintaining natural resources and sustainable development in Africa, and Vicky has her heart set on putting her knowledge to work in the mining sector.
Vicky loves the stimulation and challenges of the courses she’s studying as well as the academic environment. “There’s always something new to learn,” she says. “Life on campus has exposed me to a melting-pot of people and cultures, which has been so interesting for me. I’m learning so much about people and also about myself in the process.”
Vicky took up positions of leadership from a young age, serving as deputy head girl of Gonubie primary school. “My high school (Hudson Park High) had a different leadership structure to most, and in matric I was made head of service, which involved community outreach projects and fundraising for various charities,” she explains.
Vicky says her school days were focused on achievements and making her mom proud. “It was so nice for me to have my mom at school events and to see how proud she was of me,” she says.
Born to serve
With her academic studies currently taking up most of her time, Vicky still prioritises leadership and serving her community, which means serving on the house committee and looking after the services portfolio of her university residence. “Part of my portfolio is critical engagement which is focused on what is happening on campus and all the news of what is happening in our community and in our society,” she says, adding that this portfolio has sharpened her negotiating and mediation skills.
Vicky is close to her mother, who spent 32 years working as a domestic worker for a family in East London. Vicky grew up as part of this larger family. Although her mom is now retired, Vicky is still in touch with this extended family and “big sisters” who have always treated her like one of their own and are constantly there to support her.
But home, she says is wherever her mom is. “What people see of me, is a reflection of what my mom is, and everything she taught me. My mom taught me to smile and to be nice to everyone – to be warm and affectionate and to give people the gift of attention so that they can feel special in that moment. She taught me to be grateful and happy and to appreciate the small things in life.”
Acceptance equals affirmation
Vicky says when she learned that she had been awarded the Moshal Scholarship she immediately burst into tears. “But they were tears of joy. It was a huge relief, but also a statement that helped me to believe in myself. It wasn’t just based on my academics and achievements, but was an acceptance of me, as a whole. It was an affirmation of me as a person and of my self-worth,” she says.
She is immensely grateful that being a Moshal scholar has helped to alleviate the financial pressures on herself and her family, as well as for the extensive opportunities and academic and emotional support that it offers.
“I particularly enjoy the workshops that Moshal offers us, to teach us different study methods and skills such as time management that have been so helpful to me,” she says.
The Moshal Annual Event has been extremely inspiring for Vicky. “All the Moshal scholars come together from around the country for the event and it’s amazing to hear other people’s stories and to learn what they have been through and what they have achieved,” she says.
“Being part of the big Moshal family makes me realise I am not alone. There is always support available to me if I’m going through troubling times which is so good to know because sometimes my family at home don’t understand the academic pressures of university life,” she adds.
After graduation, Vicky plans to do her honours and is looking forward to going from there into the working world. She also wants to complete her Masters degree. “I’m excited and looking forward to all the growth experiences still to come and I’m looking forward to being independent,” she says.
“I’m very excited to see where the journey goes from here on,” she adds. “And I’m looking forward to seeing more of the world. The career I’ve chosen offers many opportunities for travel, both in Africa and globally.”