Tebogo Masebe, a Masters student from Rhodes University who hails from Polokwane, has never been overseas.

And now she sets sail to close to as far as one can possibly go: Antarctica. W24 managed to get a quick chat with her in between her manic preparations before stepping onto the SA Agulhas II earlier this week.

Why go to Antarctica?

Antarctica is the ultimate travel destination for someone who loves adventure and exploring new places.

Not a lot of people go there because it’s too cold, or too remote or too expensive, and that makes it even more appealing to me. 

What kind of responses do you get when you tell friends and family that you are going to Antarctica? Do they think you are crazy?

They are so happy for me and commend me for my braveness.

"Some do think that I’m crazy and they say things like, “make sure you don’t freeze over there.”

I get responses like, “I wish I had done geography in school or hadn’t dropped it.” A lot of them say that “I wish you could take me with!” 

But yes some do think that I’m crazy and they say things like, “make sure you don’t freeze over there.” 

But ultimately, they are all very happy for me.

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"I’ve been watching videos of people in Antarctica, talking to those who have been down there, talking to my friends about it, and thinking about the environment there."

How do you prepare yourself, physically and mentally, for a trip like this?

Physically, I’ve occasionally been going to the gym and trying to eat healthy food to stay fit and just recently, I’ve been training with my team members and my supervisor.

Mentally, I’ve been watching videos of people in Antarctica, talking to those who have been down there, talking to my friends about it, and thinking about the environment there. For instance, I’ve now made peace with the fact that I won’t see any trees there.

What do you hope to gain from this experience?

Academically, I hope to get a deeper understanding of the environment in Antarctica and yes, produce a thesis that I will be proud to look at in 5-10 years’ time even though, by then it might be outdated because research continually produces new knowledge.  

Personally, I hope to grow even more as I push myself to new borders. I hope to get a greater appreciation of the world I live in and to not take things for granted. 

"they shouldn’t be scared to fail or ask for help or ask questions along the way. After all, that’s how we learn and grow. "

What should young South African women learn from your journey?

Young South African women should learn that they shouldn’t be afraid to dream.

Yes, dreams do change but they shouldn’t stop dreaming and setting goals for themselves. They should learn that whatever they aspire to achieve, they can get if they don’t doubt themselves.

And they shouldn’t be scared to fail or ask for help or ask questions along the way. After all, that’s how we learn and grow. They should learn to believe in themselves and their dreams, no matter how crazy they seem and they shouldn’t allow circumstances or their backgrounds to hold them back. 

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There are those who say Antarctica is no place for a woman. What would you say to them?

Women are very strong, brave and courageous people. I believe that whatever a woman sets her mind on, she can do and achieve. Gone are the days where women were not allowed to do things because of their perceived frailness. As the saying goes, “whatever men can do, women can do better”?

"I get to explore and learn about Earth processes from the landscape around me to the chemistry of the Earth and the weather. "

How did you end up in geomorphology?

I’ve always loved the natural sciences and studying geography has allowed me to focus my interests in geomorphology because I get to explore and learn about Earth processes from the landscape around me to the chemistry of the Earth and the weather. 

What are you looking at in your field of research?

I’m looking at how changes in weather patterns affect ground temperatures and in addition, I’m trying to see if data measured at Vesleskarvet, where the South African base is situated (my main study site) can be used to evaluate ground temperatures of other areas in the region not far from my study site.

* Geomorphologists look at landscape processes and how the land gets to be the way it is. They look at what shapes the Earth, what impacts do certain agents of change have on the land/environment and how the Earth responds in turn.

Watch Tebogo's full interview here:

All images: Hanlie Gouws/ Netwerk 24

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