More than just a degree: the best and worst of university life

By Roxanne Daniels

The Worst

‘The worst’…what a terrible phrase to describe a moment of learning. I would rather go with, ‘most difficult’. I do not hesitate at all in giving my answer. The most difficult learning experience at Rhodes has certainly been learning to grow up.

‘What, I can’t live in my fantasy world where everything is rosy and there is no violence and crime and poverty?’
No. definitely not.
‘But why?’
Because denial of how people live their lives is a denial of how I need to take my place in among the people in this world.

This lesson most definitely reached its height during the ‘Representing Violence’ course in my second year of studying journalism and media studies. This course was filled with several compulsory viewings of films that dealt with violence. And oh boy, I was faced with the violence I have only read or heard about, but never truly seen in its raw form. How raw the violence I saw really was. Movies? They cannot only be for pure entertainment, they became an education and confrontation. An education about how evil humankind can be, and an education about how people respond or cope with violence. An education about my own boiling anger at people, at life and at, at…at something-I-don’t-know-what! An education about my desire for the new earth to be now, for heaven to be close right this minute… Where there is equality, love and no thought of violence.

But what do I do about it now? That’s why the lesson has been so hard to learn, because there is no textbook, there is no answer for everything and there is certainly not enough manpower in me to muster up like Superman or Spiderman. No, we need something or someone much much greater than a Marvel or DC superhero.

The Best

I came to Rhodes to get a degree, more specifically, a degree in Journalism and English and then a qualification in teaching. I have loved learning about different authors, various eras and genres of literature and narrative theories of journalism, or the art of being a journalist in society. Yet the most fantastic learning experience while trying to get that degree has been that I cannot possibly leave Rhodes and just say ‘I got a degree there’. Yes, I’ll get my degree (I WILL, after thousands and thousands of rands worth being spent on it!), but I will have gained so much more.

I will have gained beautiful memories, wonderful connections and incredible heart-song.

I sat, listening to the morning birds sing while the sun crept over the horizon to light up the whole of Grahamstown. I looked at the obvious division between the east and west.  I realised that there are thousands of people in the east, living and getting by as they can each day, while the west enjoys luxuries the east only dreams of. My gratefulness came not from my financial situation in that moment, but from the people I was sitting with. Friends that have become family, that I will love always. I tried to imagine the road that my home church in Grahamstown was situated on and thanked God for its incredible contribution to helping me call this town home. I thanked God for all I had learned there. I had learned about myself; my own unfaithfulness and lack of discipline as a person and my desperate need for a saviour and loving, sacrificial and perfect Father. How faithful He has been to me these three years. This does not mean He’s provided a smooth sailing path, no. It has been really tough at times, but who is the constant? He is. What a great lesson to learn.

I have gained so much more than just a degree. I have gained so much more that no one can take away from me. For who can steal my heart away from Christ and who can take my love from me?

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