After spending the last four years working on her Bachelor in Social Work (BSW) degree, Loandrie Potgieter will be among the 5 853 students who will graduate at the 2019 December graduation ceremonies at Stellenbosch University (SU).
Despite her visual impairment, Potgieter was one of the top academic achievers in the Department of Social Work since her first year in 2016. She will receive her Bachelor's degree in Social Work cum laude on Thursday.
KC, her guide dog will accompany her as she walks up to receive her degree.
Potgieter says her personal attributes played a significant role in ensuring what she describes as an exciting and fulfilling academic journey at Stellenbosch University (SU).
“SU has had a big impact on me as an individual; however, my personal traits – resilience, optimism, self-efficiency and determination – helped me to overcome barriers in the environment."
Potgieter was born with an eye condition and had functional vision up till 2013. “I did everything normally, except for when using a computer or reading a book (had to hold it closely).
In 2013, my eyesight deteriorated overnight, I had to figure out new ways of doing things."
But, says Potgieter, being visually impaired did not change her personality. “I am still the person I always was and I still have the same outlook on life, and the same personality. Being visually impaired presents you with a different set of challenges to overcome and it makes life interesting in various ways."
Although it can be very challenging at times, she says she gets by with the support of friends and family.
The 30-year-old, who hails from Port Elizabeth, says that even though it took her a while to figure out what she wanted to study, her mind is made up now that Social Work is the career for her. She intends to do her Master's degree next year and eventually practise social work.
“My Master's research topic is about measuring and building resilience in disabled persons," she says.
“I am very passionate about social work and enjoyed my training. I also did various additional things besides academics, which contributed to the richness of my academic journey. These included a summer school in Belgium, completing some short courses and giving a presentation at a conference."
She says graduation signifies an end of her undergraduate career, and although she feels a bit sad it also gives her a sense of satisfaction. Potgieter says she believes in doing things to the best of her ability. “I am passionate about everything I do.
“SU is a resource rich environment that offers many opportunities such as summer schools and short courses. I used these opportunities, which brought me to where I am today."
She says her degree course focused on practical education, where they were taught the theory, but were also expected to demonstrate in reports how they applied this theory in practice. “This means that SU social work students graduate with theoretical as well as practical experience, which makes them well-rounded professionals."