I was born on 4 June 1995 in Parktown – a South African with Portuguese heritage. I grew up with a single sibling, my older brother Marcio, who I always looked up to. Looking back, I think it was his intelligence and ability to teach me right from wrong that I most admired. I so badly wanted to be like him.
When I started high school (Edenvale High), I really had no idea what I wanted to become or do, apart from playing cricket for the Proteas. In grade 10, I hit a growth spurt, started running in the morning and changed dramatically from a short, overweight boy to a tall and rather slender young man. I distinctly remember that my Principal came to me, one day, asking who I was. I told him my name and he was flabbergasted to find out that I was, in fact, the same student that had been in his school since grade 8. I was very timid, and all the attention was very new to me. That same year I chose my subjects: maths core, physical science, accounting and geography. Geography was by far my absolute favourite, there was no doubt. My teacher, Miss Joelene Augustine (who I still keep in contact with) had a profound impact on my life. She was certainly the best teacher I had. Apart from her teaching ability, she would always look out for me, was always kind and would also let us watch the cricket world cup on a tiny TV in the corner of her classroom during break.
In grade 11, we had the opportunity to go to Bali (yes, Bali Indonesia) on the school’s geography field trip. We organised fundraisers – I have never washed so many cars nor baked so many cupcakes in my life – but it was all good fun, and we reached our collective target. Our trip lasted two weeks. The very first morning after arriving at the inland hotel, we woke up at 4 AM to go on a hike up Mt. Agung, an active stratovolcano. Our local field guide spoke very eloquently, and I remember being at the front of the group with Miss Augustine. After we reached the summit, to a breath-taking sunrise over the Lombok Strait, I turned and looked directly at Miss Augustine and asked: “Is this what Geographers do ma’am?” She simply smiled and replied that you can do literally anything with geography. From that moment onward, I decided that I would take up geography at university. It was a “no-brainer”.
The last evening of our Bali field trip in 2012. I am sitting in the foreground on the front step, right from centre, next to Miss Augustine.
I have since completed my Master of Science degree in Geography at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. I am currently enrolled as a PhD student and I have received an incredible opportunity to work with the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project, during my research. I have some new heroes, now: my Masters and Honours supervisor, Professor Chris Curtis and my PhD supervisor Professor Jennifer Fitchett. My dream is to work as an academic in the field of geography. I am looking forward to the day I get to wear that red gown!
Conducting fieldwork in the Drakensburg during 2016
Someone once told me that the smartest people in the world are the ones who surround themselves with people who are more intelligent than they are, and I absolutely agree. I think we can add something to that, though. You do not have to surround yourself solely with the smartest people, every opinion loud or whispered is important and certainly valuable. I have inadvertently lived up to exactly that, as I am most certainly not the smartest person in the room, but will connect myself with people who are open to sharing their views in the hopes of learning from one another.
During our Honours year, we wrote several blog posts as part of our assessments, an exercise that I thoroughly enjoyed (see mine here). Thank you for the opportunity to write about my personal story and share my own experiences, something that we do not indulge in often, as students who constantly have to cite others.