The Stress and Success: South African Shares Postgraduate Experience

A South African shares in relaxed tone, her experience studying for a Masters degree. In Nigeria & else where, the postgraduate research stress of choosing a research topic, proposals, laboratory & field work and many others are very similar. Article was originally posted on Sayas

 After the First Storm

I was born in the Eastern
Cape, to parents that are both educators. Which kind of explains why I love being in the know. They gave me the name Siphokazi, which directly translates to “a very big gift”

Awesome is it not? I guess that is what I am to the Nyeleka family, my clan. Growing up, my siblings and I were not allowed to be without a book (school books didn’t count!) and school was non-negotiable, unless of course we were feeling under the weather.
My parents have always encouraged me to pursue postgraduate studies – following in their footsteps. So by the time I graduated with BSc Animal Production Science, I needed very little encouragement to continue with my studies. I was already hooked by academia! With the final persuasion coming from my supervisor, I decided to enrol for an MSc degree in Animal Production Science with special interest in broilers.

Why broilers? You may ask… Well, back in the day my grandmother ran a poultry farm for more than a decade, but she had to shut it down due to ever rising feed costs. The whole experience was frustrating for me because I watched her let go of something she truly loved, particularly because she used the farm as means to give the village women financial security. So when the opportunity came for me to try and find alternative ways to help people like my grandmother, I grabbed it with both hands. Thus, my MSc research focuses on using alternative protein sources in broiler diets, with the ultimate goal of feed cost reduction.

To my surprise, though, the whole process of developing a research concept has been very challenging for me. Developing a proposal was supposed to be as straight-forward as writing that final exam at the end of the year… What I found to be exceptionally challenging was that I knew what I wanted to do, however developing a research concept around it was very tricky. How could I distill my thoughts into an idea that was testable, workable, valuable, in the space of a single degree…?

What kept me going back to the drawing board was and still is the ultimate goal and that is to make a difference. Giving up would not only be letting myself down, but my grandmother too and that is something I would never be able to live with. I guess it is true that “ Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain, ” because the happiness I felt after an approved proposal is beyond description.

My second year promises to be an interesting adventure, with more trials and some lab work. I look forward to it, really. Do I still think I can solve the world’s problems? Yes! But like RJ Benjamin says in one of his songs “Changing the world, One day at a time…” I guess in my case its one broiler at a time.

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