Pretoria - A 10-year academic journey through trials and tribulations has given Lehlogonolo Mojapelo more reason to be proud to be referred to as “Doctor”.
The 28-year-old Limpopo-born doctor obtained her Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree, and can finally officially be addressed as Dr Mojapelo. The qualification normally takes six years.
She said her first obstacle had been getting into medical school.
“Competition was high among other prospective medicine students, and while I met the requirements to study medicine, getting into the actual medical school was harder than I imagined,” she said.
She was accepted at both the University of Pretoria and University of Free State to study for BSc degree in 2012.
“At the University of Pretoria there is a BSc that you can do, and if all goes well, you can get into medicine after six months,” she said.
However, everything did not go well for Mojapelo.
“It was very hard and it was challenging. Physics was showing me flames. It was not the one I did in high school that I loved doing. It was totally different when I got to varsity.
“I ended up completing that six-month course a year later, and then I transferred to the University of the Free State on the advice of my dad, to do a year there and try to get into medicine through that,” she said.
In June 2013 her father saw an advertisement in a newspaper on studying medicine in Cuba, and she did not even think twice before applying.
Mojapelo was accepted and given a bursary to study medicine in Cuba, and in December that year she was off to a foreign land.
But, she said she had not anticipated the difficulties, among them the language barrier and the cultural shock.
“Over there, citizens speak and understand no language besides Spanish. Imagine being in a place where they do not speak any other language beside Spanish. I really struggled, as that was not something I expected,” she said.
Despite all her efforts, Mojapelo failed her first year in Cuba, largely because of the language barrier, and to make things worse, she missed home in a way she had not anticipated.
The government would bring the students back every two years, and that hit hard.
In addition, culture and food were not easy for her to adjust to, but through her faith she pushed through, even though at times it seemed all too much.
Mojapelo persevered, because she had always wanted to be a doctor.
“I have always wanted a career in which I would be able to help other people, so I decided that even when it was hard, and when the only option seemed to be coming back home, I would hold on.
“The best thing is to always persevere, and to keep your mind on your goals,” she said.
Her advice to students struggling with their studies is to remember: “You are not the only one. Even though it looks like others are excelling, they also have struggles behind closed doors.”
She said obtaining a degree in any field is not easy, and it will not be handed over on a silver platter, one needs to study hard for it.
The 28-year-old said it all started as a dream that seemed was never going to happen, but 10 years after matric she can finally say that she has made it.