Expert advice

Published on May 4th, 2012
Expert advice

Not sure if you’ve got what it takes to go to university or achieve your full potential after school? Follow Christina Strydom’s example and reach for your dreams…

What is your job and what does it involve?
I am the Professional Services Manager for 3M’s Dental division. 3M is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of dental products – they are sold all over the world – and I’m responsible for the scientific marketing of our products here in South Africa.

Where did you grow up and what school did you go to?
I grew up on a farm in the Western Cape near Oudtshoorn and went to a very small school (Calitzdorp High School – we were only eight students in Grade 12).

What subjects did you take at school?
English, Afrikaans, Maths, Biology, Bookkeeping, Needlework & dressmaking.

What did you study after school?
My school results weren’t good enough to be admitted into a medical/dental degree, so I started off with a BCur (Nursing degree). After that, I did a BChD (dental degree), followed by a BSc Honours in Medical Sciences, an MSc (Masters) in Dental Sciences and a BSc Honours in Psychology.

Looking back, do you think you chose the right school subjects?
Maths was an excellent choice, and Needlework & dressmaking was useful, because I paid a large part of my dental studies by designing and making dresses for friends. I should’ve taken Physics/Chemistry instead of Biology, because Biology is a subject you can learn at a later stage, while Physics and Chemistry are about understanding so it’s better to take them at school level. Although bookkeeping was helpful, it’s also something I could have picked up later in life.

What advice can you give high school learners?
When I finished school, I didn’t believe I had it in me to go to university and study a degree, but I went for it and the harder I worked, the more confident I became – and the better I did! So, my advice to learners is: work hard and take the time to understand what you’re learning. Through my years as a dentistry lecturer, I found that the students who had this attitude turned out to be confident and good at handling patients. Those who had a happy-go lucky attitude – a “it doesn’t matter what my marks are as long as I pass” attitude – struggled to come up with even the most simple diagnosis and their lack of confidence scared patients away.

And when it comes to funding your studies, here’s another piece of advice: money can actually go a long way if you’re prepared to be careful with how you spend it. I’ve often seen how students spend their money on frivolous things (fast food, canned drinks, chocolate bars, unnecessary clothes and so on) and then they run out of study money before the year ends. My advice? Set up a budget and stick to it. Find an evening or weekend job to supplement your study money – it’ll give you less time to spend your money and you’ll gain a healthy respect for money. In my experience, students with a job (however small) tend to be more organised in their studies than those without one because they know and respect the value of time.