Curwyn Mapaling 

Curwyn Mapaling is currently an author for The Student Hub Online (pty) Ltd. He holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology and Community Counselling from Stellenbosch University.  Curwyn, a Mandela Rhodes Scholar and a member of the Abe Bailey Fellowship, is passionate about improving education and community mental health in South Africa as a servant leader. 


I had initially aspired to become a medical doctor, because ever since childhood, I had always wanted to help people. I would not admit this to myself at the time, but I wanted to become a doctor for all the wrong reasons. In retrospect, this was ignorant and self-serving. I desired the prestige and money associated with those in the profession.

On the other hand, I had recognized that I, in actual fact, loathed mathematics and physical sciences despite my resolve to pass Grade 12 with these subjects. Needless to say that as I grew up, I learnt that being a doctor was not the way I wanted to go about helping people, and that psychology was, in fact, better suited for the person I wanted to become and the impact I wanted to make.

As a result of this maturity and personal self-awareness, I decided to apply to study psychology after high school. I guess I could say that in many ways psychology has molded me into the selfless, servant leader I was meant to become.

I completed my undergraduate qualification at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) where I obtained a Bachelor of Psychology (B.Psych) for professional registration as a registered counsellor. The road to my undergraduate graduation in 2015 was laced with its fair share of trials and triumphs.

Due to high residence costs and a lack of financial aid, I did not live on campus and I commuted daily from my home town of Uitenhage to Port Elizabeth (PE).  This commute took me approximately two hours to get to campus and another two hours to get back home. Every morning I walked 1km from my house to the corner of a street where I waited for a taxi that took me to the train station. I then boarded the train in Uitenhage which took me to downtown PE. From the train station in PE I then had to take another taxi to campus. Despite this time and travelling constraint I still managed to juggle my high-level academic commitments along with my multiple commitments to community outreach and my various leadership roles in a busy co-curricular schedule.

Furthermore, throughout my undergraduate university years I had sought my own personal counselling on three occasions to address issues of career direction, a family challenge, and to deal with the death of my next door neighbour who tragically passed away in my arms while we were transporting him to the hospital. On every occasion, I found the short-term assistance helpful in allowing me to process and healthily deal with the relevant issues. These therapeutic encounters have, in turn, influenced my thinking as a person and as a budding psychology professional. The issues of career direction were sparked following a first year lecture wherein we were told that the youngest to gain entrance into the Master’s class for the past few years was 27 years old. I then already decided that I was not going to wait until I was 27 and that I would get accepted in the year I turn 22.

I value all relationships that I have formed as I consider them all to be meaningful. I especially value those with my family, friends, and my mentor. These individuals provided me with continuous emotional support throughout the year, year after year, through the good and bad times. I also relied on my spiritual leaders for emotional support. I realise that psychology is a profession that requires one to constantly give of yourself. This journey has demanded that I remain committed to my mental and physical health through regular therapy, exercise, and relaxation. My commitment and appreciation of human relationships and Ubuntu was recognized when I was selected as the student ambassador of the value of Ubuntu at the NMMU. A promotional video was made which can be viewed at here.

I am of the opinion that psychology is about relating to people, understanding how their minds work, and their motivation or lack thereof to do certain things. Delving into someone’s mind, with their permission, requires trust and sensitivity. One of the ways to hone in on and perfect these skills can be through interacting and relating to various people. Psychological theory has made me want to refine who I am, so that I can hone the way I treat others.

I had always thought I would prefer working in a clinical, psychiatric, hospital setting with a multidisciplinary team of health professions working together to provide a thorough and well-rounded treatment for each patient. For these reasons I chose the clinical psychology registration category.  Following a stressful period of three selections processes and two acceptance letters, I ultimately decided to leave the NMMU and pursue my postgraduate training at a different institution.

In December 2016, two weeks before my 24th birthday I graduated with a Masters in Clinical Psychology and Community Counselling at Stellenbosch University, as a Mandela Rhodes Scholar. Through psychology and servant leadership, I firmly believe that I can effect a positive change towards unity in South Africa and in the world by starting at home, in my community.  My hope is that my pursuit of professional and ethical approaches of achieving greater equality and justice for all citizens of our heterogeneous society effects change in the world.

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