Native of South Africa pursues degree at WWU

When William Woods junior Jessica Bargate speaks, people have a hard time placing where she is from.

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Jessica Bargate

“England, Australia, New Zealand are the main ones people think we are from,” Bargate said, laughing. “And then they get kind of inventive — Germany, Switzerland once, Greece — they get desperate!”

Bargate is a native of South Africa. Her thick accent accentuates every word she speaks. When she was 13 years old, however, Bargate and her family moved to the United States because of her father's job. After a brief stint in Florida, the family moved to Jefferson City where her father's company was headquartered. Ironically, Bargate probably has lived in mid-Missouri longer than many of the students who attend its universities.

“They brought us up during Christmas, and we had never seen snow before,” Bargate said. “And that's all we wanted to do was to see snow. And I remember we were over at the mall, and it started to flurry. So we all ran outside with our shopping bags and tried to catch the snow in our mouths. I'm sure people thought we were mad.”

The city grew on her and her family.

“What struck us about Jefferson City is that everyone is so polite and willing to help,” Bargate said. “I guess it's just a Midwestern culture. And it's really, really safe, and that was a big thing coming from South Africa.”

Bargate was homeschooled throughout high school. When it was time to choose a college, the decision overwhelmed her. But when she saw William Woods, the decision was made. Bargate had taken classes during high school with Professor Terry Martin, who ended up being a big influence on Bargate.

“He's one of the main reasons why I chose William Woods,” she said.

Martin's patience and knowledge are two traits Bargate thinks are in a lot of other William Woods professors.

It's really funny because it's a liberal arts college so you have students who have to take some sort of arts credit,” Bargate said. “So you have the jocks and the business majors and people who have never touched a paint brush in their life and he is just so encouraging with them.”

Bargate is majoring in graphic design with a minor in studio arts. Advertising or illustrating children's books are two careers she could envision pursuing in the future.

Bargate said she could see herself returning to South Africa, a country that values design, to work in the future. The high level of crime pushed her family away from the country, but she said there is a relaxed mindset in Durbin, the city where she is from.

Bargate is part of the Multicultural Affairs Club at William Woods. She hopes to raise awareness about diversity and the world in general with the club.

“I think it actually becomes dangerous when people aren't aware of what happens outside their campus or their little world,” Bargate said.

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