Samantha Smit, who finished with a BCom Law (with distinction) from the University of Johannesburg (UJ) this month, has an intense passion for justice.
Samantha stated that her passion for the law stems from the support she received from her father, Clint.
A Father’s Inspiration: Samantha’s journey to success
“My dad started working in the mines after high school where he received a bursary to study engineering and his focus is occupational health and safety. It is from this background that he taught me the importance of the law and what an important tool it is, especially the Occupational Health and Safety Act as it affects people’s lives and the importance of ensuring people’s safety and eliminating fatalities in the mining industry,” Samantha said.
The 22-year-old added that this, accompanied by her work ethic has been the reason for her success-a life lesson she also attributes to her father.
“From a very young age my dad instilled a passion for studying within me and told me that if I wanted to achieve my goals, I had to work hard for what I wanted. From a young age he supported me in every dream and endeavour. He also believes that one should lead by example, so he taught me how to manage my time and study effectively. We all need someone to look up to and who can counsel us through difficult bumps in the road,” she said.
Overcoming Language Barriers
The road to academic success wasn’t always smooth for Samantha. She shared that one of her major challenges in the beginning of her academic journey was working in English. Coming from Krugersdorp North, Afrikaans was the dominant language, and the only language she’d been taught in.
“Coming to university it was quite an adjustment to speak English as I am from a predominantly Afrikaans speaking community. In the beginning I was a bit self-conscious and I would sometimes sit in class and take down words that lecturers used so that I can go and look them up. I realised that the only way that I would be able to improve is by practicing and speaking as much English as possible. As time went along this improved substantially and I am grateful. But it took a lot of effort from my side and I think so many students face the same issue of English not being their home language and then when you get to university you are too proud to admit that you do not know the meaning of the words used by lecturers,” she said.
How did she overcome this? A lot of self-study and looking up of words that her lecturers used and she didn’t quite understand. And this is something that she hopes will inspire other students to see that they are not alone. She also credits moot court, a practical legal activity by law students, for helping her gain confidence.
To recharge, Samantha enjoys spending time with her family, where she is the older sister to two brothers. If she’s not catching up with her loved ones, she’s a binging on a good series. She is currently split-watching Greys Anatomy and For the People, and says in general these are her favorites when she takes a break from the intense law books.
On what the future holds for this legal eagle, Samantha said she is now studying towards her LLB degree at UJ, and hopes that she will continue studying to Masters in Law to eventually become an academic. In this way, she will have fed her love for law, and making a positive change in the lives of young people.
Embracing Diversity at UJ
When quizzed about why she chose UJ, Samantha said not only was she attracted by what the university had to offer, but also that the university is hope to a diverse student population.
“When evaluating universities, I wanted to choose an institution that did not participate in bad social behaviours such as being taught exclusively in Afrikaans (my home language), amongst students who did not reflect a true South Africa. UJ has such a diverse student population and I appreciate the opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life The language of the working world is among other English and as such it was important for me to transition to studying in English and equip myself with the skills I need to be successful one day. Not only did UJ satisfy this important personal requirement, they have one of the best Faculties of Law and they challenge me every day to step outside of my comfort zone,” she said.