Stellenbosch University
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'I seized the opportunity'
Author: Othmar Vorster
Published: 20/06/2022

Othmar Vorster

SciMathUS class of 2017

Degree Programme: BScHons in Earth Sciences 2021


I am Othmar Vorster, originally from Kakamas, but moved to Aggeneys in the Bushmanland region of the Northern Cape at a young age. I was always an achiever at school.

I participated in the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists International Science Fair for three consecutive years where I obtained a bronze and a silver medal in my second year of participation. I was also selected as part of the top performers in my province to participate in the Hope@Maties programme in 2016.

Everything changed when my parents divorced. I was just not the same student anymore and my grades dropped as a result. In my matric year, my results for Mathematics and Physical Sciences were not up to standard and I was unable to apply for the MB,ChB degree at Stellenbosch University. I felt that I had not only disappointed myself but also my parents and teachers who believed in me.

My former Maths teacher told me about SciMathUS. I seized the opportunity and never looked back. I was difficult for me to see many of my matric year class and some of those who were part of the Hope@Maties programme on the Stellenbosch campus, but that made me more determined to make a success of my SciMathUS year.

SciMathUS gave me the opportunity to consider many career choices. We were also informed of the pitfalls of studying at university, for instance the issues that previous students had encountered, and what they did to overcome their challenges. This made me more determined as someone from a small town and very far from home, not to fail in any way. The experience broadened my vision and at the end of the year I knew exactly what I wanted to become one day.  

My attention shifted from the MB,ChB to Geology. The Department of Earth Sciences is located across from the Education Faculty and I often popped in there to find out more about the course, lecturers and qualification requirements. At the end of my SciMathUS year, I decided to rather apply for a BSc in Earth Sciences (Applied Geology). And I did not regret my choice, as I immediately felt at home where I was. I completed my degree and postgraduate degree in the minimum required time. All thanks to SciMathUS who introduced me to the various offerings at Stellenbosch University so that I could make an informed decision.

My message to students who feel they have failed, or disappointed their parents, is a motivational quote that stood out during my year at SciMathUS: “You have not come this far, to only come this far."

Whenever you fail or stumble, just remember that it's not the end. You did not get so far only to give up everything. You are not a failure. There is something inside you ready to take on the world.

Without SciMathUS and their support, I would not have known what was inside me. They helped me gain confidence and to pursue my dreams to the best of my ability. I am grateful to SciMathUS and their team for helping me realise my dreams. The insecure young man who joined your programme is now a man who has the world in his hands. I will forever be grateful to you.