The long nights and countless hours spent working towards a degree can be painful. The only thing that keeps most students going (myself included) is the thought of finally graduating. Until then, frequent doses of motivation are needed and I find that nothing works better than a good book. I spoke to four recent graduates to find out what they read during their studies and how these texts helped them make it through.
Sharai Mpofu : Dual Degree: Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Business Administration
(IE University, Spain)
The piece of literature that’s affected me most is George Berkeley’s Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge. I studied this philosophical text on exchange at Kings College and it was the most absurd yet important text I’d ever encountered. In a nutshell, Berkeley works hard to convince us that the material world does not exist; the chair on which you are sitting and the screen in front of you right now are really just ideas. He concludes that, as any idea does, our so-called ‘material objects’ cease to exist when no one is perceiving them. This suggests that if you are the last perceiving being to walk out of a room, the objects in the room and indeed the room itself, cease to exist! In studying this outrageous text I was forced to suspend the ‘common sense’ viewpoint and engage sincerely and surely for the first time in true creative thinking.
The exercise of analysing the Treatise and other philosophical texts unlocked a larger capacity for critical and innovative thought in my legal and business studies as well as at work. If you are keen on philosophy or simply enjoy having your world view challenged, I highly recommend Berkeley!
Gabrielle Levey : MA Comparative Literature and Film Studies (University of St. Andrews, UK)
My undergraduate degree guided me through over 120 books in four years of study, yet the only text to carve out a permanent nook in my mind is Atlas Shrugged, by Russian-America writer and philosopher Ayn Rand. First introduced to me by my father at the end of my high school career, Atlas gave me the strength and perseverance to stay true to my principles as one of only three other Zimbabweans currently attending St Andrews. A tale of loneliness, conformism, altruism and gut instinct, Rand’s female protagonist has inspired me to find my own way through my studies, even if it appears harder, longer and goes against the natural flow of my peers and colleagues. Having always struggled to “fit in” I am eternally grateful to Rand’s philosophical guidance for constantly re-assuring me that passion, perseverance and immense self-belief trumps any sort of pre-established route when it comes to how you want to live and love your life.
Tatenda Chirapa: Bachelors in Accounting (University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe)
I believe the road to success is not an easy one and that it is all about how you feed your mind. Poor input and effort will give poor results, something we call “garbage in, garbage out” in accounting. Thus, it is important to feed your mind with positive thoughts to yield positive results. One of the books I read that kept me motivated not lose sight of my greater goal of becoming a chartered accountant was Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. This text taught me that whatever your mind can conceive, you will achieve if you believe that it can be done. You are the master of your dreams; all you have to do is believe in yourself and work hard so that they materialise.
Sue-Shane Tsomondo: Bachelor of Arts in International Relations with a Minor in English (University of Calgary, Canada)
I have always wanted to be a writer. I went to a government school for my primary schooling, and then I went to a private school for high school. In the words of Dambudzo Marechera, “I took to the English language as a duck takes to water” after moving to Arundel School, and, “I was therefore a keen accomplice and student in my own mental colonisation.” The House of Hunger by Dambudzo Marechera was the first piece of Zimbabwean literature I ever intentionally purchased and read. The House of Hunger changed my approach to my post-secondary education and I began to take a lot of pride in African literature. I deliberately introduced post-colonial interpretations to art, culture and politics in my English and Political Science classes. I think there is a widely-held belief that the education we receive from western institutions is impartial, and my desire to challenge that motivated me to advocate for myself in all areas of my life, especially my education.