First day, first year, first tear.

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Four years later and I made it! So will you!

Eish. I remember by first day of varsity all too well. I wouldn’t say it was very pleasant. I was absolutely terrified. And I pretty much came home and cried after the day was done. And sitting in morning AND afternoon traffic didn’t help matters either.

My first lecture was English literature and I recall sitting right at the front (why I did that I still don’t know!). Let’s just say I FULLY believe that the lecturer assigned to us that day was PURPOSELY placed there by the department to terrify and horrify the living daylights out of us. Firstly, he spoke in the language of Academia, which to this day I still don’t understand, and I’ve just graduated with English and Journalism Honours. Secondly, he did very little to calm our nerves. He immediately began telling us about test dates and essays, and then proceeded to launch into an “explanation” of the book none of us had even purchased yet. I was traumatised. Oh and not to mention the fact that he never once took off his sunglasses (?) throughout the whole lecture. He must’ve picked up on the fact we were a bright bunch …

BUT. Let me get to the heart of this post: English literature was my first lecture and as traumatizing as it was, it was my last lecture too, 4 years later! So the purpose of this post? To tell any first years reading this post that you’re GOING TO BE OK! Trust me. If I, a self-confessed sufferer of severe anxiety, can make it through varsity – then you definitely can 😉

The trick is not to give up. Don’t do it! The first few days and weeks of varsity are ridiculously overwhelming! Notes, readings, textbooks 10 billion pages thick, lectures, new people (and if you’re a Witsie, pigeons … TONS of them – look out for the ones with one eye or one leg, they’re insane and will try to eat your croissant) – you have A LOT to adjust to. But the simple thing is, you will adjust. I promise.

Here are some lessons I learned (the hard way) while at Wits. I hope they’ll help you some way!

1) You’re overwhelmed and it’s crazy and growing up is hard! But give yourself time and space to adjust. You’ll start to navigate your way around campus and get used to being in lectures and managing the work. It really is just a matter of time. And looking after yourself in the process. Do things you love – it’s important. Don’t give up on sport or a hobby just because you feel varsity work is hectic. You WILL manage and you NEED a break.

2) Suss out which lecturers and tutors you like and ask them for help, advice and support. If you’re not coping or feel overwhelmed, tell them. They’ll help you. I have first-hand experience of this. It’s ok if you’re not managing and need an extension. Life happens and you’re important.

3) Campuses have great support systems available – especially psychologists and counsellors on hand. Use them if you need to. They are mostly free and can give you valuable advice and insight.

4) Varsity is all about learning what you like. You might pick a subject and hate it or find you’re not so great at it. And that’s totally ok! I dropped out of second year Maths. Why? Because I realised I just didn’t have a passion for it anymore and it became frustrating to study for a subject I just wasn’t into (and really didn’t get. That is some logic and thinking on another level entirely). Maths was actually painful. I’m just going to put it out there. So I dropped it and picked up an extra subject in third year – a subject I absolutely loved and one that complemented my degree. Moral of the story? You can CHANGE your subjects. You can ALWAYS make up your credits someway. Even if you fail. So be it! (I once got 10% for a Maths test. I laughed it off. From 90s in Maths in high school to 10% at varsity … What had the world come to ;)) You’ll make up those credits and find what it is you enjoy. Be motivated by your passion. Don’t drop out because you’re failing but you love your subject. Drop a course because you realise it’s just not YOU.

5) Enjoy the varsity experience. You’ll have some good days, bad days, rainy days (make sure you have an umbrella ;)) and sunny days – but all in all, each day will make up your varsity experience. And just remember – it’s YOUR experience, no one else’s. You do what YOU love. You will always get someone who wants to put you down. But this is YOUR life, and you choose how you want to live it.

From a Witsie graduate (who still wants to do her Master’s and PhD), I wish you everything of the very best for this exciting new time in your life. If you have any questions or comments, I’d be so happy to help or get back to you! My email is TraceyRuff@hotmail.com

Look after yourselves. YOU’RE the important one in all this.

Live. Love. Laugh.
Trace