Change the world


With graduation season being different this year due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Nelson Mandela University still celebrated its recent graduates, even though traditional ceremonies have not been possible. One of our 2020 Advanced Diploma in Management Practice graduates, Ruschnea van Aardt from Uniondale, has had quite a journey throughout the course of her studies, and she has made us proud.

Ruschnea started her academic journey at the South Cape College in Oudtshoorn, studying Educare in 2014, but it was not something that she was particularly interested in. “My family couldn’t afford other universities, so I ended up going to South Cape College with my sister.” She says. However, Ruschnea attended a seminar at the South Cape College in 2015 where Dr Zeelie from Nelson Mandela University’s Department of Management Practice gave a presentation. After the seminar, Ruschnea and other students met with Dr Zeelie, who encouraged them to apply for Seta funding and at Nelson Mandela University and by the second semester in 2015, Ruschnea was enrolled for a Diploma in Management Practice on the George Campus.

While at the George Campus, Ruschnea became involved in an array of campus activities that kept her busy – from helping and guiding first years by being a How2Buddy, to participating in the Beyond the Classroom Leadership Programme and helping out by promoting the Department of Management Practice at Mandela University Open Days.

In 2018, Ruschnea found out about an opportunity to spend a semester abroad, so she applied to go to Germany and a week later was informed that her application was successful. Ruschnea says “we had the first intercultural week on George campus, which was also an opportunity for us to meet people from Germany, before going to their country. Many of the people, including international students, that Ruschnea met at the intercultural week have become very good friends, and they still keep in touch. In the first semester of 2019, Ruschnea left to spend six months at the Ostfalia University of Applied Sciences in Germany, through Nelson Mandela University’s Intercultural Exchange Programme. Nelson Mandela University has a number of partnerships with other international higher education institutions that allow for student exchanges, promoting an intercultural experience.   

Ruschnea says that the way she was raised and her ability to adapt to change enabled her to adapt to life in Germany relatively quickly, even though she experienced a culture shock in her first few days in a new country. Discussing cultural views and having an open conversation with German students helped Ruschnea to get over her initial culture shock. The German students even made her teach them some Afrikaans!

What Ruschnea has learned from her experience abroad is that it is important to learn from others, and that a balance is important in whatever you do.

“A small act can have a remarkable impact on your life,” says Ruschnea. “If I hadn’t attended Dr Zeelie’s seminar, which enabled me to pursue my studies at Nelson Mandela University, I wouldn’t have put myself out there or gotten the opportunity to travel abroad and see so many amazing places.” While abroad, Ruschnea had the opportunity to travel to Paris, Amsterdam, Belgium, Cologne, Frankfurt, the Czech Republic, and Poland.

While she has experienced some hardships on her academic journey, she still remained positive. Her advice to current students is to never give up, even though there are tough times. Ruschnea says, “a lot of us put so much pressure on ourselves during our varsity years, but all you should do is try and be happy and try and enjoy your time as a student. When you graduate you see that the struggle matters, but you also see that everything you went through was worth it.”

Ruschnea is looking at pursuing her Honours degree in Port Elizabeth next year.

Contact information
Ms Milisa Piko
Communications Manager: George Campus
Tel: 044 801 5098