A Conversation with Minerva Student Rebecca

Meet Rebecca, a student in the Class of 2021 | Dec, 17, 2018

Quick Facts

Rebecca Mqamelo

Mthatha, South Africa


Major & Concentrations

Social Sciences – Economics
Natural Sciences – Physics


Why did you choose to attend Minerva rather than a traditional program?

After high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do. But I had also spent the previous three years traveling the world for speech and debate competitions, where I missed large chunks of school and always returned with a sense that I had learned more from my experiences outside of school than inside. Quite frankly, the thought of traditional university scared me. It felt limiting. With active learning and the global rotation, Minerva offers a completely different approach to education that empowers students to take initiative of their own education.

Tell us about a memorable experience you have had in one of your classes or during a student experience event.

I co-led the Minerva team at the South by Southwest Education (SXSWEDU) conference in 2018 in Austin, Texas. I remember how surprised we all were at the feedback we received from educators and ed-tech entrepreneurs who had participated in our three-hour design thinking workshop. They actually liked it– no, they loved it! We planned the event for six months and it was so heartwarming to hear people in senior positions tell us just how inspiring the experience had been and how much they had learned from it. It was the first time I got a sense of Minerva “from the outside.” I suddenly realized how many unique components make up Minerva which we, students, sometimes take for granted. It was definitely a moment of feeling like I’m in the right place.

Tell us about your experience in San Francisco.

I lived in San Francisco for one year and, honestly, I fell in love with the place. It’s the beginnings of my Minerva journey and my journey into adulthood. It’s a city where there is always so much happening, like hackathons and meetups, and the onus is on you to engage with the community around you to make the most of your time there. San Francisco has a unique cultural history and very strong, active communities that make it such a dynamic place for young people to live in

What do you enjoy most about being a part of the Minerva community?

I appreciate that the community is relatively small. You get to know everyone and you see first hand the workings of a “complex system” and how emergent properties arise in the community. Our friendships form and evolve and we identify as a collective reflecting the city we are in. For example, when I was the Community Development Manager on the Student Experience team in San Francisco, I was heavily involved in community building and got a bird’s eye view of what was happening. At Minerva, students truly define the class. Each of us has a role to play in making this a positive experience for ourselves and everyone.

What would you tell a prospective student who is considering Minerva?

I would tell them that if they are willing to embrace a little uncertainty and the demands of the Minerva lifestyle, they should go for it wholeheartedly. It’s a university experience that will completely change your outlook on life and offer a world of opportunities that you simply would not be able to get anywhere else. I think that the future of learning and the future of work is changing drastically and models, like Minerva, are designed to adapt to those changes — so it makes sense to be a part of that movement from a young age!

Minerva is challenging convention in college education. In fact, it’s turning it on its head. It’s an institution that is truly tailored to meet the needs of the 21tst century by teaching students how to be hands-on, adaptable, and open to risk and challenge. There is a lot of discomfort involved — and that’s exactly why it is so valuable!

How did you get involved with speech and debate?

I have always been a natural speaker. It started in primary school with the occasional school competition and in high school, I joined my school’s debate team, called First Team. From there I made the provincial team, then the national team, and then I participated in international competitions every couple of months. Speech and debate also awoke my passion for writing.

What about speech and debate helped prepare you for Minerva?

Everything! I am quick to tell anyone that I learned more from speech and debate than I did from my first 12 years of schooling. When I was on the national team, we would have training camps from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm, where our day would begin with individual presentations, on topics such as “How the financial crisis happened” or “The role of the African Union.” Then, we would have about four full length debates per day, topped with research sessions. Debate taught me about the world around me and it taught me to always question and challenge it. The ability to communicate well is a life-skill and I’ve seen how it has opened opportunities for me in amazing ways.

Read about Rebecca’s business development internship experience with QUOINE, a cryptocurrency financial technology company in Tokyo, Japan.

If you were inspired by Rebecca’s story and are seeking a college experience that will teach you valuable pragmatic skills that will enable you to change the world, apply to join Minerva today.