Alexandra van der Spuy is studying mathematical sciences

27th January 2021


Alexandra van der Spuy is studying mathematical sciences at Stellenbosch University. She attended Bloemhof Girls’ High in Stellenbosch.

‘Achiever’ is really such a wide term. I think anyone with enough perseverance and luck can be an achiever — the key is to try again and again, until you’ve achieved something. I think as long as you don’t give up, the mere act of trying already makes you an achiever.

Tell us a bit about your school?

I went to school at Bloemhof Girls’ High in Stellenbosch, Western Cape. We were academically very strong, which I’m quite proud of, and we also performed well in sports (though I am less familiar with that part!). I really enjoyed my education there, since the teachers were all very passionate and adept at their subjects. I made a lot of friends and had many amazing experiences in Bloemhof’s hallways.

Why do you think some people have a problem with math and science? What would you do to solve the problem?

I think maths and science have very intimidating reputations, which can be daunting for people who don’t enjoy the subjects or struggle with them. Both are also seen as being very necessary components of your education, which only makes it worse if you fail at them. I think, ironically enough, if the importance of maths and science was less emphasised, people would perform better, since that performance would no longer matter as much. Another solution is teachers who really enjoy the subjects and who teach their students to enjoy them as well.

Why did you enjoy science and maths?

I really enjoy logic and solving problems, which made both subjects quite attractive to me. My teachers in these subjects at high school were very inspiring and they really caused the love I have for maths and science.

What inspires you?

So many people around me inspire me, to be honest. At the forefront of these is my sister, who is a smart and kind individual whom I love very much. She has just completed her BSc degree in mathematical sciences, though her focus is mathematical statistics rather than computer science. So, in a sense, I am following in her footsteps! She is definitely part of the reason I am where I am today.

Why did you choose the course you are studying?

I had known that I wanted to complete a degree in science for a very long time, because of the love I had for physical sciences. I chose the mathematical sciences because I enjoyed maths and understood it very well, and I specifically focused on computer science because it is such an exciting field with a wide variety of options to choose from.

A message to South African youth?

Education is so, so important. It is so easy to overlook your youth and wish for adulthood, but being young is really precious and the best investment is to educate yourself. I wish every South African youth a very bright future!

Any tips for learners in grades 11 and 12?

Really just do your best. For exams, my go-to tip is to work out tons of previous papers of the subject you’re writing. It really prepares you for what you will be tested on, and is a good indicator of your level of knowledge on the subject.

What advice do you have for matriculants who have to apply for places in higher education institutions?

Apply for as many higher education institutions as possible — as we all know, it’s better to be safe than sorry. However, if you still don’t get accepted, don’t worry. You can use that gap year as time to gain valuable experience, and apply again for the next year.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

Nothing is set in stone, but I would hope that, by then, I’ve finished my time at university and that I have completed both a bachelor’s and an honour’s degree. I think I might also like to complete my master’s degree. I would have a job that I find both challenging and fascinating. I also see myself being the owner of at least one dog!

Understanding excellence – what makes an achiever?

‘Achiever’ is really such a wide term. I think anyone with enough perseverance and luck can be an achiever — the key is to try again and again, until you’ve achieved something. I think as long as you don’t give up, the mere act of trying already makes you an achiever.