Oprah's girls opt to study at the coast

THEY could have chosen any tertiary university in the world, but instead of Harvard in the US or Oxford in the UK, three Oprah Winfrey Academy graduates chose the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU).

Dulce Mbiza, Ndivhuwo Tshiila and Lindokuhle Nkosi started lectures at the university this week.

Mbiza and Nkosi said they had decided to study at NMMU because the university embodied the same set of values they had been brought up with at the academy and they wanted a new experience.

"I chose this city because I wanted to be away from everyone and do something different because everyone at the academy is going to Johannesburg or Cape Town. I wanted something far away from that. Like a fresh start," Nkosi said. "And the beach was a refreshing bonus."

Nkosi, who has been in Port Elizabeth for a week, said she was learning to live in less-structured accommodation in Govan Mbeki Avenue after years of living in a strict boarding school.

The Bachelor of Human Settlements Development student from Nelspruit said she would do her best in studies because she and her friends had a responsibility to the academy.

"People have certain expectations from us because of where we come from. We carry a certain name and brand and that comes with a lot of weight. Because we are from 'that' school, we are expected to be high achievers."

The 18-year-old Nkosi and Mbiza said they also tended to expect a bit much from themselves.

Mbiza, a BCur nursing student, said they had certain standards to live up to and had chosen a university that had the same set of core values.

"This university is almost the same as the academy because of the values they look at. The only thing is we are not at boarding school anymore – we are living on our own, so there are no more strict rules.

"I guess this is the point where we have to apply the skills we have learnt at the academy practically.

"These include leadership, responsibility, service and ubuntu and if you look at that list, it is the exact one they have at NMMU." The teenagers are getting to know the city.

"We went to the beach, the Boardwalk, and we are loving town where we live. The people here are so nice.

"We know it is known as the Friendly City and the people are exactly that. People actually smile at each other when they are passing," they said.

Mbiza said the greatest challenge facing the newly liberated boarding school pupils was learning when to say no or yes to going out.

"Like on Saturday, some of the students we live with wanted to go out to Parliament Street and you have to decide whether you should go or stay.

"I wanted to see what happens there but I was also scared. But we are surrounded by people who care so the decisions will get easier."