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South Africa. Costa Rica? Princeton!
Avthar's Weekly Wisdom #63 (09/19/2021)
🔥 I’m Avthar, a South African technology entrepreneur and learning enthusiast based in New York City. This digital letter is where I share practical wisdom about self-mastery, entrepreneurship, health and happiness, all to help you live better.
My guarantee is that you’ll discover one thing that will help you change your life in every edition. As a reminder, you can find all previous editions of this newsletter in the archive. And you can find more of my writings at avthar.com.
Here’s what I’d like to share with you this week:
My most personal essay yet
How to learn something new in programming
One of Charlie Munger’s best speeches
South Africa. Costa Rica? Princeton!: My educational journey as a global citizen
I’m often asked, “How did you go from being a public school student in South Africa to graduating from the number 1 ranked university in the United States?” Today, I’m excited to share a new long form essay which answers that exact question.
It’s the most personal essay I’ve ever written. It recounts my journey from Pietermaritzburg, South Africa to Princeton, USA and the lessons I learned along the way. I hope my story inspires you to stay true to yourself and embrace forging your own path as you strive to achieve your goals and pursue your purpose.
You can read the full essay on my blog:
If you’re wondering what the story is about, here’s an excerpt:
As a child born into post-apartheid South Africa, I could never have dreamt of attending university in the United States, let alone graduating from the #1 ranked university in the US. People like me didn’t do things like that. And yet in 2018 I did just that, when I graduated Princeton University with a degree in Computer Science and Entrepreneurship.
However, unlike most international students at US colleges, I don’t come from wealth. I didn’t attend private schools growing up, nor did I go for SAT prep classes or work with a private college guidance counselor. My journey involves a science Olympiad in Nigeria, a debate tournament in Slovakia, moving to Costa Rica without knowing a word of Spanish, and making friends with young people from over 100 countries all over the world.
This is the story of my journey from Pietermaritzburg, South Africa to Princeton, USA and my education as a global citizen.
A photograph with my grandparents before my freshman year at Princeton University in 2014 (top) and on my first day of primary school in 2002 (bottom)
1.Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
I was born and raised in Pietermaritzburg, a small, quiet town in the Kwa-Zulu Natal province on the east coast of South Africa.
I do not come from wealth (my parents are both public servants), but I most certainly do come from privilege. I was privileged that my parents instilled the value of education in me from a young age. I grew up with a love for learning and school. As a child, I loved school. I didn’t miss a day, even if I was sick.
My maternal grandfather (“Nana” as he was affectionately known) instilled in me a love for reading. He was a retired high school principal and would routinely give me books from his collection that were meant for people more than 10 years older than me, since the age of 7 or 8.
As a result, I excelled academically through a combination of natural talent and lots of hard work - another value instilled by my parents since my early days. I watched them both sacrifice for my sister and I and even reject promotions and career advancement in bigger cities so that their children could enjoy an uninterrupted education.
When I began high school, my academic journey was going about as good as my parents and I could’ve imagined. I won an academic scholarship to attend a well-respected public high school in our city, and I was on track to making my family proud when my matric exam results were published in the local newspaper when I finished grade 12 (an annual tradition for high school seniors in South Africa).
Unfortunately, I never ended up finishing high school in South Africa, all thanks to a fateful week in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria...
Tweets of the week
First, from me on bearing your burdens alone:
Second, from Nader Dabit on learning something new in programming:
Video of the week
🙏 Thank you again for reading and for your support! I wish you a week of happiness, success and peace!