When Stellenbosch University (SU) alumna Maggie Visser left South Africa for the United States in 1994, she had no intention of not returning.
After completing her BA and BA Honours degrees, as well as a Master’s degree in Town Planning, at SU, Maggie was selected by the then South African Institute of Town & Regional Planning (which has since been amalgamated into the South African Planning Institute) to do an exchange programme at Florida International University.
“When I went to the USA, Cape Town was bidding for the 2004 Olympics and Atlanta was hosting the 1996 Olympics, so my thought was to work in an Olympic City as a city planner and then go back to Cape Town to apply all the experience I gained. Unfortunately Cape Town didn’t get the Olympics, and I met my husband who is American. The rest is history…”
She made a career change into real estate five years ago and now owns her own business, Maggie Visser Real Estate, in San Francisco.
“The biggest challenges during my first year in business were getting clients, and balancing little income with plenty of business expenses. On an ongoing basis, balancing family life and business life continues to be a struggle.”
As an accomplished athlete, Maggie uses the things she learned through running to achieve excellence in other aspects of her life: “Set high goals, do what you love, work hard, associate with those who are successful, and ask for feedback,” is her advice.
Unfortunately, a knee injury is preventing her from competing these days, but until five years ago she participated in road, track and cross country events.
“Nowadays I run five days a week with my Rhodesian Ridgeback mix at an ever-decreasing speed,” she quips.
Maggie doesn’t just live and work in San Francisco – she is also committed to the betterment of the city.
“As part of my efforts to give back to my community, I volunteer at various San Francisco non-profit organisations and sporting events. I also coach the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Moms-in-Training Group. A portion of my commission is donated to the Paragon Community Fund that supports art programmes, food drives, counselling and many other services to make a positive difference in our community.”
This former resident of Villiersdorp still regards herself as a South African and speaks Afrikaans to her daughter.
“I will always be South-African in heart and soul. My entire family still lives there. I visit once a year and leave in tears every time I have to fly back to the States.”
- By Pia Nänny -