As I scroll through my past pictures on the wall and sight my old course readers tucked behind my lamp on my desk, I realize how much has passed since my arrival at UCT and how much is to follow. Usually it is a matter of pride that as an UCT student you have prevailed in life-threatening circumstances (happens regularly at UCT!), however we underestimate how much those struggles have brought us to the present. It is a matter of imagination to think success becomes your own idea when you float into the university space. And I was one of those first years… I knew what to do, but did not know what to do at the same time.
It was a scary ride when an 18 year old me rode on jammies crammed to the core, when I worried to arrive late at tuts or lectures, or when I trembled while handing in essays because sometimes efforts don’t result in the desired outcome. I was humbled without ever being stingy on sharing my experiences to others. As a first year it was uncertainty that loomed more than confidence. But I grew to tell myself it was normal, it was all part of a process I wanted to embrace in order for me to reach the present stage I am in. Here is what I’d tell my first year self:
1. Don’t be intimidated.
If you fear what you haven’t tried then you will never know what might have been. And that might be more scary than you can imagine. I had so many opportunities to be in a better situation; to be in more healthy company, to join more meaningful societies and to enjoy my undergraduate journey. It is not that I regret the experiences I had, but rather that I advise my younger self to seize more of the chances I had. Don’t deny yourself a day off if a test went badly, don’t forget to smile when you walk past a familiar face, and don’t forget to ask for help when you do need it.
2. Love yourself.
In this big bad world, you might find more people who dislike you than those who actually love you. So before opening yourself up to others, be kind to your soul and embrace it. Love yourself through your victories, flaws, losses and memories. I always look back to the moments I was unkind to myself and I realize what I have gained is respect in my own eyes regarding who I am, and that I didn’t need to be so harsh on myself.
3. Have fun!
This must be the motto to live by if you’re in first year. You have to put your mind and heart to being you and having fun in whatever you do. Whether it’s going for a picnic with friends at the UCT dam or doing group study sessions in res after dinner, this is your time to make memories. I still remember those bright days where I’d lie in my bed underneath the moonlit window gaze excited to go somewhere with my girlfriends the next day- even if it is on campus! Make the most of it and don’t think twice to make memories (you don’t get to relive these days once you’re out and about in the world).
4. Be healthy.
This does not mean living in the gym for the duration of your degree- this means allowing yourself to be in a safe and happy space and not escape it to fall into a trap of what seems aesthetic. Eat regularly, take breaks, laugh and remember to stay beautiful just as you are.
In the words of the great Bob Marley, “Don’t worry about a thing, because every little thing is gonna be alright.” Because it will be. Have a great 2019!