Mduduzi Back on Home Soil After Finland Stint
Bachelor of Theology student, Mr Mduduzi Khoza, recently returned from Finland where he spent three months at Abo Akademi University as part of an exchange programme.
Khoza, who holds a BCom degree from UKZN, excelled while at Abo Akademi, receiving five distinctions in subjects he studied as well as learning basic Swedish.
‘Finnish and Swedish are the languages used at the University, so most of the courses for exchange students are self-study,’ said Khoza, who initially battled with the language barrier but soon learned some basic Swedish and was able to ask for directions and how to find places of interest.
He fondly recalls exploring the city of Turku. ‘Seventy percent of the country is covered in forest which I appreciated as I am someone who loves nature. Finland is such a beautiful country - everything is green and the rivers running through Turku are all clean and attractive.’
Khoza said there were only three hours of sunlight a day during winter in Finland! ‘It was amazing to wake up and go to school at 9am in the morning and come back in the dark at 4pm,’ he said. ‘There are no problems with security so walking at night is very safe.’
Originally from Sunduzwayo, a small rural area with a reputation for violent conflict in Umbumbulu in KwaZulu-Natal, Khoza has had to overcome the tragedy of his parents and four of his seven siblings passing away. ‘The only way to survive is through education and then leaving home for better opportunities in the city,’ said Khoza. ‘My family background has always served as motivation for me to educate myself for a better future, despite the challenge of unemployment in South Africa.’
Commenting on interacting with different cultures while in Finland, especially as a South African who was born during the height of apartheid, Khoza said: ‘In South Africa, racial divisions are huge and play a major role. In Umbumbulu, I never had to interact with other racial groups so living among people from different races in Finland was intimidating at the beginning of the semester,’ he said.
‘I was the only Black person among more than 200 exchange students from different countries. The issue of race became real to me as I had to deal with feeling different among other students. For the first time in my life, I had to make friends with people who were completely different from me.
‘It taught me to forget about my appearance and race and to look at other people as human beings.’
While living in Finland, he missed South African food and learned to survive the cold weather conditions and cultural differences. ‘Coming from a relaxed culture where we shake hands and hug the social situation was a challenge for me…I had to adjust from a communal society to an individualistic society where you have to respect other people’s personal space.’
Khoza plans to be a community leader in religion, business development and clinical pastoral education and to put his theological and business degrees to good use. ‘Studying at a secular university, you get to learn how to apply theology to real life ethical and moral challenges. You also learn to apply your knowledge on contemporary economic and political issues,’ he said.
He is looking forward to making a difference in the communities around him once he completes his degree.
Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer