“The importance of goals cannot be underestimated,” says Darren Diergaardt, a 23-year-old who grew up on a farm in a small town called Rehoboth, in Namibia.

The town where he lived had almost no development; there was violence, no jobs and therefore barely any progression.

His goal in life was to make something of himself and get out of Rehoboth.

Darren is incredibly smart and ranked first in his country when he was in grade 10. Two years later, in grade 12, he placed seventh in his country. Darren’s wit gave him the opportunity of a lifetime as he was given a bursary where he could study at any university – fully covered.

“I was very fortunate and grateful, because now there was no financial burden on my parents.”

With this bursary opportunity came funding for Actuarial Science, the discipline that applies mathematical and statistical methods to asses risks in insurance, finance and other companies. This caught his attention because he loved maths.

But studying Actuarial Science meant that Darren had to leave home and study in South Africa at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

“I wanted to get out, get a different perspective and to get a better awareness and understanding of other cultures.”

The transition from Namibia wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. Culture shock was something Darren experienced. Learning how things operated, being on his own for the very first time, being away from home and missing his family were some of the things that he went through.

The degree that Darren undertook was challenging and required so much hard work and determination. In order for Darren to hold onto his bursary he was expected to produce exceptional results.

“I had a lot on my plate, started questioning my own ability. There’s a lot of external things that are out of your control. We had to deal with the protests which was for a good cause but academically it shook a lot of things and many people weren’t able to adapt.”

During those moments of questioning whether all this effort and strain was worth it, he kept pursuing his goal of leaving the town where he was from. Holding onto the hope that things would be different for him, that he would be an example for his younger sister.

Darren was not only working hard to make himself proud, but also his parents, his biggest supporters.

“My parents were super supportive. Always made sure that I had what I needed, listened to me, encouraged me, prayed for me. Basically anything I needed, they were there. They taught me the value of hard work and also being kind to others. They led by example and showed me the way, not just told me what to do.”

Darren emphasises the importance of faith and goals.

“My family tried to emphasise that the faith be above the religion, so that your faith and your relationship with God take prominence, take the most important position in whatever you do.”

The farm was always looming in his mind. The reminder of home was always there. Yes he grew up there, his family was there, but he longed for change, he longed for growth.

“Take things step by step, those small efforts build into something bigger because it is easy to get discouraged, but if you look back at the small steps then you’ll see how far you’ve come. The most important thing is a belief in yourself.”

Despite him growing up in a tiny town with little development, he remembered that it’s important to surround yourself with people that you can rely on, people that you can trust, people that you can grow with because whatever you encounter, there’s something that you can learn from.

Failure is part of life; we learn from it, we grow with it. Darren points out how failure is not something that should be seen as negative because it’s from this experience that we learn more.

Darren is currently back in Namibia and working for the company that offered him the bursary. He enjoys his job and learns from it each day. He can now finally reap the rewards of all that hard work and he doesn’t have to financially rely on his parents; he finally gets the independence that he always wanted.

Darren’s words of encouragement are that despite the obstacles you face in life, “Have hope, there is a silver lining. The most important thing is a belief in yourself.”

Read about one person overcame hardship to become a university lecturer here

Tell us: What is it that keeps you motivated?