Reflecting on university: hard work required for success

The American marathon runner Alberto Salazar proved that with sacrifice comes  greatness. Photo: Rob Croes / Anefo [CC0]

I have been a student at University of Rwanda since October, 2017. I can recall the thirst I had for university, in 2016, when I was in my last year of high school. “When I reach university, I will…,” we were used to starting our conversations with such words. Sometimes, the phrase came as a relief when we were tired of reading novels, plays and poems, or when we thought of the unfairness of living in a boarding school.

University was around the corner. We had just to pass the national examinations. University, as we thought, had no such amount of work – and if it had, one would cope with it. It would be bearable, or so we thought.

Fast forward to today, the second year is over; I am about to begin my third year at the SJC. And I can tell the university is not the destination we had in our minds in high school. That was imaginary. Here, there is a lot of work and it requires much effort. At university, we are expected to study hard to gain knowledge – not as in high school where we tended to value grades.

At university, we are expected to study hard to gain knowledge – not as in high school where we tended to value grades.

In the beginning, lectures seemed easy and were interesting as well. In November, 2017, we had an interesting module. Joseph Njuguna, our lecturer and then Dean of School of Journalism and Communication, introduced us to the key aspects of journalism and communication. He told us how journalists are usually hired in his home country of Kenya. He said that when media houses want a business reporter, they hire a Business Studies graduate and train them as a journalist. (I am told Rwandan media is not far from that.) “Is that good news for you?” he asked rhetorically. Of course that wasn’t good news, but the former Dean’s point was: To become competent in journalism, we had to visit the library and read a lot. Stressing the importance of volunteerism, he said that we should start writing for the school newspaper as well as other newspapers to improve our skills.

Later in November, our class had another interesting module: News Writing and Reporting. We read news articles and studied how to write journalistically. I was interested in writing articles. My group and I were assigned to write one about The Kaminuza Star, the student-run newspaper. In March 2018, I became one of the writers of the newspaper.  I had begun reading and writing articles to get practical experience. However, I still struggle to prepare my future career and work. Slackness is the enemy against which I’m fighting.


It is fascinating to read “Slackers”, the article by New Yorker’s writer Malcolm Gladwell, about Alberto Salazar, a famous American distance runner. Salazar had won the New York City Marathon three consecutive times in 1982, when he was twenty-four years old. Gladwell tells about the courage of Salazar and how he endured an exhausting race.

“A kind of weariness sets in and you lose the will to fight. What I could do is simply push myself through that exhaustion,” Salazar told Gladwell.

Courage, however, drove Salazar to surrender his body. He ran so fast that his body collapsed. He got Asthma. Salazar finished his career in his mid-twenties. Had he maintained fitness, Salazar could have run more races. But Gladwell argues that Salazar had to push himself to the limit.

“Salazar could have had a longer career had he pushed himself less. But what kind of career would that have been?… A moderate Salazar might have run happily and successfully into his thirties. But a moderate Salazar might never have won the New York City Marathon three times,” he writes.


As a 22-year-old student of journalism and an aspiring writer, I find it exhausting to read as much as I should, invest my time in much practice, write articles and attend seminars. I think there is more time; I am still young. But what kind of journalist will I become if I keep being lazy? What kind of writer do I aspire to be, if I get sick when I am assigned to read a 200-page book? I might well become a journalist or writer if I work moderately. But I won’t have an outstanding career. Claiming commitment is meaningless when we do not push ourselves far enough. I might not succeed in my career when I mix work with slackness.

“Hard work is a successful strategy for those at the bottom because those at the top no longer work so hard,” Gladwell writes.

The words of the former Dean still hold true. The School of Journalism and Communication should encourage students to work hard and remind them that their success will be determined by the knowledge they acquire beyond their class lectures.

Moise M. Bahati is beginning his third year as a student this November at the School of Journalism and Communication, University of Rwanda.