‘To graduate as one of the top students in your class, is an honour. I cannot thank my family, friends and educators enough,’ said an elated Ms Amy Roseanne Russell who was one of the top students in Speech Language Pathology. She also scooped the School of Health Science’s awards for the top student in clinical and community work.
From a young age, Russell had two major passions – people and the performing arts. ‘Speech Language Pathology provided me with the opportunity to help people with communication and/or swallowing difficulties/disorders whilst still allowing me creative freedom to utilise my performance skills on a daily basis in my therapy,’ she said.
‘Studying at UKZN was never boring! I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and am grateful for the education, memories and skills that it gave me.’
Russell is currently taking a break from her performance dreams while she completes her community service at Newcastle Provincial Hospital. ‘However, the energy of performance and music continues to resonate in my therapy room. This year, I plan to complete my course to become an accredited lactation consultant and to begin brainstorming for my master’s degree which I plan to register for next year,’ said the 23-year-old.
While studying Russell faced two major challenges. During her second-year, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. ‘Throughout my life, my family has been a major pillar of support and strength. During my mom’s fight, our family endured a huge amount of stress, anger, sadness and uncertainty. It was incredibly difficult to not only complete that year’s workload but to keep up with our family’s new roller coaster lifestyle. However, we managed to overcome and end this chapter by working together. Today, we are all happy and healthy,’ she said.
Her second major challenge was an internal battle. ‘In 2015, at the end of first-year, I was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder. This played a major role in my studies, bringing some cons but also many pros,’ said Russell.
‘It was only through the help of my family, friends, classmates (and hot chocolate) that I was able to overcome this challenge and complete my degree (with only a few grey hairs),’ she added.
Her hobbies include singing and acting. ‘During my studies I was fortunate to be able to start my own vocal studio and continue my professional career in the performing industry,’ she said.
Words: Nombuso Dlamini