A combination of perfectionism, hard-work, and self-motivation has earned the University of Johannesburg (UJ) student, Rossana Ebraim, distinctions from matric to fourth-year. The 22-year-old B.Com Accounting (Extended Degree) graduate will be receiving her qualification on 1 April 2019 at the University’s autumn graduation ceremony.
She will be the first in her family to obtain a university qualification. Rossana was raised by a single parent, and her older siblings were forced to seek employment after matric to ease the financial burdens on her mother. As the last born in her family, she was the only one who had the opportunity to further her education while her siblings took care of the household.
Rossana passed all her matric subjects with distinctions, earning herself a bursary that funded her studies from first-year to final-year at UJ. Here, she continued to pass all her subjects, from first- to final-year, with distinctions. While it may be hard for some students making it past the first semester at a university, it was a smooth sail for Rossana. Born and raised in Lenasia South, she attended Kiasha Park Primary School and Willowmead Secondary School, both free fees public schools with limited educational resources. Attending such schools puts a learner in a disadvantaged position but she was determined to succeed despite the odds.
“I am not the kind of person who would let circumstances demotivate me. If anything, my community inspired me to work even harder despite the circumstances under which we endured. I did well in high school. This was really a blessing because when I had applied to university, I had no clue how I’d actually be able to pay for my studies,” says Rossana.
She chose to study B.Com Accounting because she developed a keen interest for the subject when she was in grade 9.
“Something just clicked, and I knew immediately that it was the career path I wished to take. I did some research to check subjects that I would have to do in order to work in the field of commerce.
“To my dismay, pure maths was a necessity and at the time it was not a subject that I passed well. In my continued search, I realised that UJ offered an extended B.Com degree that students can do without having taken pure maths, provided that their maths literacy marks were high enough. As a result, I enrolled for the extended course – it is the same course as the regular B.Com degree, but with an extra year at the beginning to help build a good foundation in pure maths.
“I don’t regret making the decision at all. I know that I would not have realistically been able to get good marks in pure maths if it was not for UJ. That extra year really gave me a solid foundation which propelled me to graduate cum laude this year,” explains Rossana.
Besides being a full-time student, Rossana did vocational work when she was a University student. She spent almost every recess working, additional to her tutor duties during the year. “This helped me to pay for the non-academic bills because my bursary paid for the academic ones. I do not think that I am a genius; I believe that I am a hard-worker. I have earned all my distinctions through concerted effort. You may be smart, but if you do not complement that with hard-work, you won’t realise your full potential. I have a very strong work ethic, and that always gives any dedicated person the advantage of being among the top achieving students,” says Rossana.
Her upbringing and humble beginnings came as motivation to her academic journey. “I look at where I grew up, and I know that I want a better life for myself and my family. I expect a lot from myself, and I set very high standards. Intrinsic motivation is important; it is what keeps you going when you feel like giving up.
“I would like to be a chartered accountant in the near future. That achievement will open many doors for me because there are various businesses I would like to venture into as I evolve in my career.
“UJ is a great university. Through this institution, I discovered many other things that I am passionate about. For example, being a tutor has made lecturing as a possibility for me. Doing assignments has shown me that I enjoy conducting research. I think that the biggest thing now is that, after gaining sufficient industry experience, I wish to start my own business to add value to society by creating employment and empower other people,” Rossana elaborates.
She is a tutor to Business Information Systems 2A and Taxation 200 students. “Knowing that I have, in some small way, contributed to another people’s lives is very rewarding. Nevertheless, it is very important to be able to step back from the pressures of life and just relax from time to time,” she says.
Rossana’s journey as a student at UJ was abundant with opportunities and support from the University’s academics. In 2018, she was selected to attend the 9th annual United Nations University Scholar Leadership Symposium in Thailand, which was an eye-opening experience for her. This year, she will be attending a 10-day cultural exchange trip with a specific focus on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, in China (Hong Kong) and Japan. “I am very fortunate to have been able to make full use of all available opportunities,” she says.
Some tips for current and prospective students:
It is normal for higher education and training students to experience challenges academically and in their personal lives. For Rossana, challenges were the same as that of any ordinary student who needed to learn to manage her time well in order to balance her academic and personal life.
“Keeping fit and healthy is quite key.
“I think that the most important thing is to figure out which study method works best for you. How one person studies and retains information may not be beneficial to you, as your study method has to be tailored specifically to your abilities.
“Learn the concepts and content instead of looking at new topics and modules to try to figure out what the test is going to be like, and the best way to pass it. I always try to understand what a particular subject is trying to teach me, how I can use it in my career, and how it relates to the rest of my subjects.
“So, I would definitely say that students should adjust their study goals from studying to pass to studying to learn. Once you focus on actually understanding things, the entire process becomes easier and more enjoyable.
“Stay motivated – being a University student is certainly difficult, but it doesn’t have to be unbearable.
“Manage your time well, keep healthy, both mentally and physically, take breaks and don’t be afraid to ask for help”