Eskom Expo for Young Scientists had a Q&A session with Fiona Khoza, who won an apprenticeship to study at an Academy in Berlin while participating in the Eskom Expo International Science Fair back in 2017.
Khoza, a former learner at Mahhushe Agricultural High School in Mpumalanga, participated in Eskom Expo with an engineering project when she won a three-year Mechatronics/Electronics apprenticeship at the Siemens Professional Education in Berlin worth R1,5 million, sponsored by Siemens. She will write the second part of her final exam in December 2021/January 2022.
After graduation in January 2022, Khoza will return to South Africa. Currently, Khoza is doing an internship as part of her apprenticeship programme at Siemens South Africa to get to know the organisation.
Question 1: How are your studies going?
Khoza: My studies are going well, I just completed the first part of my final exams in March and am still awaiting my results – but I trust I did well.
Question 2: How did you cope with the course work?
Khoza: The course itself was fun, because there were a lot of new things that I learned. Sometimes it was super challenging, but I do enjoy when I work with calculations in electricity. What I like the most is the team-building and how it helps me as an international student to share my life and thoughts with different people, and get to know their cultures as well.
Question 3: What do you enjoy most about studying in Germany?
Khoza: The mobility the city offers. Transport is not a hassle at all, and the fact that it’s so safe and it’s a city that never sleeps! It’s getting beautiful now that it’s spring and everything is green and everybody is just happy and looking forward to going to the lakes and paddle. I also like that I get to see the latest cars that get released and they always blow my mind away, because I just love cars!
Question 4: How did you adjust to studying during lockdown because of Covid-19?
Khoza: In the first few weeks of lockdown, I was excited about the idea of studying at home and doing everything at my pace, but I was totally wrong. Some weeks down the line, I realised that I was struggling, especially missing my classmates because we engage all the time when we are the training centre and that makes things easier in terms of practical learning.
Question 5: How did you overcome the challenges?
Khoza: As time went by, I learned to use my time and study space wisely, so I could prepare for my exams and it has been alright ever since.
Question 6: What are some of your favourite subjects that you are studying, and why?
Khoza: I think everything that has to do with electronics interests me. Mechanics do as well, but not as much as electronics. I also do programming, which is a little challenging, because I attend classes with people who already are more experienced, and I’m still trying to find my way, but my colleagues and trainers are helpful in getting the job done.
Question 7: Have you been home to SA since leaving for Germany?
Khoza: I have been home a couple of times, and it was really nice being around the people I never get to see so much. I’m always home for only a month in a year, or twice. To be honest, every time I have to depart and come back, it hurts so much. But then I just think of all the interesting things I get to learn each time I get back here, and I feel better.
Question 8: You’re returning to South Africa this month (May) to complete your home-country assignment. What does this entail?
Khoza: I will be coming home this month to take part in projects from Siemens South Africa and explore my work space, because that is where I’ll be working. My in-service training will be offering me exposure to the various fields that the mechatronics programme entail, and I am excited that I will be able to gather more experience when it comes to programming, because at some point it will come in handy if I want to branch out into a career in programming in the future.
Question 9: What does your career trajectory look like?
Khoza: I’m focusing on completing my training in South Africa, and will return to Germany to complete the final part of my exams. When I return to South Africa again, I want to study part-time and when I finish the degree, I might look for another country to reside in – and I’m certain it’s going to be Singapore!
Question 10: It is important to demystify beliefs about women scientists. Does your success intimidate others, especially men?
Khoza: I don’t think they are intimidated so much, well just a little bit! After all, this field has been dominated by men, and my class is a clear example, since it only has three females and 10 males. In general, I don’t think my success intimidates anybody, but rather motivates them that anything can just be done if you put your mind and heart to it.