It was love at first sight. Boy meets campus. In 2019, Franco van Dijk visited the North-West University (NWU) campus in Potchefstroom as part of a tour by his school choir.
“We saw a lot of the campus – it almost felt like an open day. I really liked what I saw and decided that this was where I wanted to go,” says Franco, who matriculated from the Ligbron Academy of Technology.
Franco, who was born in Bethal, Mpumalanga, will be turning 19 in May and is enrolled in his first year of working towards a degree in Electromechanical Engineering.
“It is a difficult course, but I am enjoying it immensely. I have also made some good friends and my roommate and I are particularly close,” explains the resident of Caput men’s residence.
“I was in a hostel in high school too. The difference here is that I have a lot more freedom and there is a real sense of camaraderie here, a brotherhood. At school I went home every weekend, but now it will be more like two or three times a semester. I am really enjoying the freedom, but there are also a lot of obligations. There is a big emphasis on taking initiative. You must determine how much time and effort you want to put in. Studying takes up a lot of my time, but I am also involved with sêr and debate competitions at Caput.”
Franco was born with bones missing from his legs as well as other complications, resulting in both his legs being amputated when he was eight months old. “I cannot participate in certain sport, but otherwise it has not been a hindrance during my life.”
Using prosthetic legs has been part of his life for as long as he can remember.
“As I got older, I had to get new prosthetic legs all the time, but now that I have basically stopped growing, the legs will be replaced a lot less. The legs actually last a long time – it is only the carbon-fibre feet that give in after a while. Maintenance only requires the components to be checked every two months to see if they are working properly.”
For the next few years Franco will be focused firmly on achieving his career aspirations.
“I hope to get into the automotive or the aerospace industry.” The latter especially excites him. “I would love to be part of the rocket development revolution that is currently underway.”
Ad astra, Franco. To the stars.