Stellenbosch University
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Nqobile Mtolo honours her late father’s wish and graduates as a Matie
Author: Corporate Communication & Marketing / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie & Bemarking [Anél Lewis]
Published: 14/12/2023

​Stellenbosch is far from Soweto, but Nqobile Mtolo promised her father that she would study at Stellenbosch University (SU), as he regarded as it as one of the best educational institutions in the country.  

Unfortunately, her father died shortly before she was accepted to study a BA in Humanities at SU, so he never knew that she honoured his wish. “After my dad passed away, I made it my mission to go to Stellenbosch because that is what he would have wanted.” And on Thursday she graduated with a Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing from SU. 

Raised by her grandparents – Mtolo’s mother passed away when she was young and her brother only a few days old she has always been determined to follow her own path. She says she was encouraged by the resilience of the woman who has been her “mother” since she was a child. “She inspired me to be the person I am today.” 

Mtolo admits that her first six months on campus were “very difficult”. She arrived only six months after losing her father, without friends she could rely on to adjust to the new environment. “My biggest challenge was the loneliness; being away from family.” By June of her first year, she was ready to pack her bags, and she applied for a transfer to the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), her father’s alma mater.  

Fortunately, the transfer never came through, as things changed significantly during the second half of that year. While waiting for word from Wits, she decided to “give Stellenbosch another try”. Mtolo became involved in student leadership and found her voice for others, as well as for herself. “I was quite shy, but being involved in student leadership created an avenue to meet new people."

She now describes her time at Stellenbosch as a “positive experience” and attributes her newfound confidence to the challenges which forced her to stand up for herself. “As a student leader, I found myself speaking for other people like me – students who maybe had no parents or who had come to Stellenbosch from townships. 

Mtolo withdrew her transfer application to Wits and became the first grandchild in the family to graduate. Seeing the pride on her family’s faces made her journey to the podium even more worthwhile. “It was a very emotional experience.” 

Although she initially applied to do her honours in sociology, Mtolo opted for a postgraduate diploma in marketing where she could apply her skills within a broader field. “I spoke to family who are involved in marketing and realised that there are so many opportunities in marketing.” 

The first day of the course was “very overwhelming”, Mtolo says. She was working at the time, completing an internship to cover her rent, and living costs. Starting a course in a new field felt daunting. “But I started to develop a true passion for marketing, and I soon realised that with my background in humanities, it was the perfect fit for me.” 

She has her eye on a job in digital marketing, either in Cape Town or Johannesburg, where she can apply what she has learnt at SU. Mtolo’s advice to those considering studying far from home or outside of their comfort zone, is to “hang on and don’t let your challenges determine what your future will look like”.  

​Photo: Stefan Els