For as long as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to the world of science and technology. The willingness to understand the world around me, the philosophical significance of science that gave somewhat of a meaning to life, and just a general appreciation and fascination of the universe in all of its intricacy and beauty all fueled my attraction towards the scientific world.
I grew up hearing the words “Go big or go home” from my father. I think it instilled the pressure to always dream big. The sky was not even the limit; I had dreams of becoming a pilot, a neurosurgeon, an astronaut too. And on days I could not decide, I dreamed of being the first woman to clip an aneurysm in space!
Whilst I don’t share the very same enthusiasm and ambitions as I once did, becoming an astronaut is still a dream of mine. One that, with little doubt, I can say will never fade.
I know now that my interest was more than just some obsession. I would do a Solar System Mobile for almost every Show-and-Tell during my primary school years (just a simple shoe-box frame with colored cardboard circle cutouts for planets hanging by a thread). It helped that I changed cities and attended three different schools – giving me an excuse to make as many as I wanted!
When Show-and-Tell’s ceased I would incorporate some element of science into my orals and creative writing pieces (where Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot speech featured in some form almost every time). And then I was old enough to discover and experience the Discovery channel in all its glory. Mature enough to engage with scientific literature from Stephen Hawking to Carl Sagan. And after months of whining and nagging my father bought me my first telescope .
I can still remember the first time I viewed the moon from the lens of my telescope.
After 3 nights of failed attempts at locating it and figuring out how to focus the telescope, I was in complete awe of the stunning detail I could see of our moon for the first time. In awe of the fact that beings of my species had once ventured to this piece of rock, and amazed with the knowledge that the moon is just one of the many beautiful stellar objects out there in our universe.
On that specific night, under the majestic stars that lit up my view above, I felt truly aware of my place in the universe; knowing that there’s so much out there to discover, waiting to be uncovered, admired and appreciated. What started off as a hobby grew into somewhat of an obsession.
In all that time I still did not see myself taking up a career in Astronomy or anything related to it – mostly because I was not aware of the study and job prospects available in South Africa. It was only in my Matric year that I stumbled upon the Astronomy degree.
It’s a funny tale in hindsight: The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits University) were among the first universities to open up their undergraduate applications. I had the option of choosing three possible degrees to study at Wits. To my surprise there was a Bachelor of Science in Astronomy and Astrophysics degree, and I selected it as my third option, more as a joke (to myself) initially as I had very little faith of even getting accepted. I ended up applying for it at two other universities as well.
And before long, my first conditional letter of acceptance arrived. I had originally applied to every university I could think of and tried my hand at every possible degree (mainly health sciences such as Pharmacy and Medicine), but this letter was for acceptance to study Astronomy and Astrophysics at Wits. It was at that point I started doing my homework on the field, speaking to other Astrophysics students and professors.
Two years later, I’m a 2nd year Astrophysics student & Witsie living the dream with no whiff of regret. I probably should add that it is also my second year living away from home (Durban) and the comforts of my awesome family and friends, in a city that more than makes up for it – Johannesburg!
That brings me to the next part of the story. My life as an Astro student and more importantly how I met the talented creator of AstroSisters and best friend Emily.
It was only a week since I moved to Johannesburg and my second day ever at Wits (the first day being Open Day). Not a familiar face in sight and I had to conquer my first day (!) at orientation week. I remember waiting outside the computer labs in anticipation of my very first task as a student – a computer literacy assessment.
Whilst waiting for my session, I met Emily and within the first minute of our very first conversation we discovered that we were both in Astrophysics, and the next minute began the first of many Carl Sagan fangirling sessions – which could very well be the best way to initiate a friendship that has grown stronger ever since. This friendship was and still is nurtured and strengthened by our love for science, and more importantly our willingness to share its magnificence with the rest of the world.
It is for the very same reason we wanted to start this blog. We think it is the ideal platform to share our experiences as Astro students and Executive Members of the Wits Astronomy Club (an awesome club founded by Astronomy students in 2015 at Wits which focuses on public education and outreach, stargazing, and other Astronomy-centred activities).
This blog will feature our thoughts, be a means of scientific outreach, offer advice, start our careers as science communicators and, most of all, be a place to have fun. We are looking forward to seeing where AstroSisters takes us to next!