It’s an unusually quiet afternoon as I head down the flight of stairs to the basement of Thomas Pringle. These are probably ideal conditions for someone like Gail Ingle, a top student in the Res, to work and study. I already have a mental picture of her room; neat, clean, organized, a good environment for someone who has done so well academically this year achieving five firsts last semester.
“Please excuse the mess.” Are the first words that I am greeted with when I quietly knock on the door, and I am faced with a completely different image than what I was expecting. At first glance Gail’s room looks like a typical student’s room, there is washing that needs to be packed away, an unmade bed, and there is several weeks’ worth of notes strewn haphazardly across the floor. Immediately I feel more relaxed because beside all the mess, Gail’s room feels more ‘human’ than I thought it would be, not at all like the surgically clean space I was expecting, “I live in organized chaos, and there is a system below the surface.” She explains.
The first thing I pick up on is that Gail is very modest about her achievements and at times even shy. She loved school and all her subjects and managed to get seven A’s in Matric. But besides academics Gail excelled in other areas as well, she was made a prefect of her hostel, played hockey for the first team and was head girl in Matric.
‘I really enjoyed school; I had some great times that I will never forget.” She fondly says as she shows me some of her school photos, most of them with all her friends.
But school and university are two different worlds and learning how to cope in a new environment can be difficult and one thing that Gail notices is that there seems to be less time in the day to get everything done. A new timetable means finding a new balance and the best way that Gail has achieved this is taking things week by week rather than planning out the whole year.
At the end of the first semester Gail was offered a scholarship from the Allen Grey Orbis Foundation, which is only offered to first year BSC or BCOMM students that have achieved an aggregate of more than 60% and nothing below a C. When I asked her what actually drives her to achieve so much she simply commented, “I have no idea, but I have always been an overachiever and I’m never really satisfied because I feel like I can do so much better.”
Gail comes from a very supportive family who are very proud of her academic achievements but also of the fact that she seems to have found the balance of experiencing the student life, and handling all her work extremely well. “It’s always been in my nature to do well, my parents have always encouraged me but I’m my worst critic. My dad always laughs when I complain about my marks and never shouts at me, when I asked why he didn’t he told me that I reprimand myself enough.” She says while picking up a rather large biology textbook and flicking through the pages.
Rhodes has been a big change for Gail, as it is for any first year, but moving into Res was one of the few changes that she has enjoyed. The freedom that comes with moving away from home and experiencing a whole new social life is quite daunting at times, especially when you have no one around to tell you what to do and how to spend your time, but Gail maintains that keeping a balance is crucial to having a good experience at university and to keep up with the work. “I like to go out but at the same time I’m really lucky to be here so my main goal is to get a degree.”
And that’s what the university experience is all about, it’s about finding a balance in your life so that you can do all the things that Rhodes has to offer but at the same time excel in your work.


  1. Cal said...

    Gail is portrayed as a hero because, despite the pressures of first year and the difficulties that a young woman entering a world unknown to her experiences, she has managed to excel in every aspect of her life during her year at Rhodes.
    Measuring Gail against the character roles put forward by Propp, she can be seen to fill the role of hero as she has succeeded in almost every way that she could have. According to Todorov’s model, Gail’s equilibrium state of being a school going teenager was disrupted by her move to Rhodes. Through adjusting to her new lifestyle and achieving what she has achieved, she overcame the disruption and turned it instead into her new equilibrium.
    The writer sees Gail as a hero, and this is made clear by the way that she has portrayed Gail. She looks up to Gail and values her work ethic and success.  


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