University Life in South Africa
January 29, 2013
University is a prestigious step in every diligent person’s life. I was fortunate enough to be accepted to the University of Witwatersrand, one of the best universities in South Africa and the world. I always envisaged university as a place where students had fun and never worked, but always passed their courses. That ‘theory’ of university was due to my constant screening of the film American Pie.
In high school, we used to come from the same background and the lines of poverty were almost all the same. Even though we were unique in our own ways, there were always people I could relate to. University proved to be different. The fact that I was the only girl from my school that made it to Wits did not make things easier. I had no friends and only knew two people who were in different faculties and what was worse was that I did not particularly fit in with the rest of the girls, because I was not from one of the best schools in the country.
The first three months were the hardest. Coming from a school where I spoke three languages in a day to only speaking one language which I had little contact with proved to be difficult. I would often stammer and I would get stares, which impacted heavily on my confidence and made me feel inadequate.
The one thing I loved about high school was that we wore uniforms and there was no telling which background one was from. I quickly learned that the clothes that a person wears determine how they are treated. A person is classified by what they wear and how they talk. Being an ‘individual’ runs high and most students attempt by all means to be unique. What struck me was that although they wanted to be different, they all bought the same things just in different colours. The culture shock was enough to send me running to the mountains. I remember telling my mother that I could no longer carry on because the students were all more clever than me and will do better because they came from better schools. Thankfully, my mother reminded me that the fact that I was not from the best school in the country should be a validation of how much I belong there and that I worked hard enough to get an education and that I was not there to fit in with the crowd. Once I had that in mind it was easier to focus on my studies.
Academia is very versatile and offers various challenges, but I don’t think it competes with the characters it produces. Students often come from different backgrounds and how we act is a reflection of what we are used to. I have never experienced such versatility in my life. I have met people who think promiscuity is okay and those that are so religious that they know every word in the holy bible. There are people who study like the world is ending and those who just don’t care about anything. One of the problems I often encountered was knowing how to relate to each person since I am forever in group projects. The person one chooses to be in university is heavily reliant on what one can afford. For me, university was the place where I had to choose who I really was and what values I would hold dear. I chose to live life and study. For me, that meant that I would study hard and remember those who are around me.