By: Sikhumbuzo Nxumalo*
What an incredible year I have had! This year was my fourth year at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) George Campus in South Africa, where I have been studying towards a bachelor’s degree in Forest Engineering and Environmental Management in the Faculty of Science (under the School of Natural Resource Management). I am really amazed at how much I have grown in the past few years.
This year signified not only the end of my undergraduate life, but also my 20th year alive, giving me just a few months before turning over into the big 21 years. I was born in the rural areas of Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa and raised by a single parent in a little town called Nongoma. Growing up and studying in this context in my early primary and high school taught me a lot about the importance of being a motivated, enthusiastic, friendly, approachable, reliable and a trustworthy student who is genuinely concerned about the welfare of his fellow students. I grew up very goal-directed and have been a dedicated and involved student from the beginning of studies, this being later intensified when I got to university in 2009.
When I got to University I took up the opportunity to join as many societies as possible, where I got to also serve in various leadership capacities. These include amongst others, my role as the chairperson of the student-driven Saasveld Forestry Association (SFA) and the SAPPI Student Forestry Club which assists Sappi-sponsored students in academic and social aspects on campus. I also got to be a supplementary instruction (SI) leader for junior students, and got to be involved in various community initiatives. I was deeply honoured when these leadership positions and the work my team and I did was acknowledged and scooped the Campus Principal’s prestigious award for excellence in leadership in October during the annual achievers’ dinner awards.
This year I also got the opportunity to present at a number of forums, including a conference of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) about Climate Change Mitigation held in Port Elizabeth earlier this year. This year I was also blessed to be one of the NMMU student representatives who attended the International Forestry Students Symposium held in Turkey where I was elected along with a Nigerian student to serve as councillors in the International Forestry Student Association (IFSA) board. This is the first time in the history of IFSA to have African students to serve on board.
All of the above and other stuff not mentioned has contributed a lot in my growth and has helped me realise my potential as a young leader. I have always relied on the help of the Almighty and dedication in everything I do. Prioritising my tasks and time management is one of the attributes that helped me be able to strike the balance between my academic and social life throughout the duration of my studies.
My message to the young people out there is to seek first the Kingdom of God and all this other things will be added into your life. Let God be your guide and a light unto your path through the duration of your studies. Study hard and go through the work covered in class on a daily basis and most importantly ask for help if you do not understand. With everything you do, do not just do it; but give it your best! Get involved in leadership and social activities to further boost your friendships and future networks. Before you do anything and make any decisions in life ask yourself the best question ever: “Is this the wise thing for me to do?” not according to your standards or anyone else’ standards but according to God’s standards.
*Sikhumbuzo Nxumalo is completing his bachelor’s degree in Forest Engineering and Environmental Management in the Faculty of Science (under the School of Natural Resource Management) at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, George Campus. He hopes to further his studies for a masters’ degree in Forest Engineering next year, in 2013. Find out more about IFSA here.