ZOË CURRAN Advises Arts and Social Sciences students to get out of their comfort zones. Photo: Supplied

Final-years Say, ‘We’ve Been There, so Just Trust Us.’

BY ALISON HERMANUS

So, you’ve just started your first year at Stellenbosch University (SU), now what? Your first year at university is a time filled with new classes, new faces and a completely new environment. Whilst this can all be very exciting, it can also be quite terrifying. 

You may be thinking that you are experiencing this fear alone, but all the older Maties have been in your shoes before. Students who have completed their first year know how it feels to be new to this whole “being in university” thing, and the people who know it best are final-year students. That is why Die Matie has asked final-year students from various faculties to give some advice to all the incoming first-years. Take these words of wisdom from those who have experienced first year before. 

Arts and Social Sciences

First on the list is the Arts and Social Sciences faculty. This is one of the biggest at SU with many students opting for it. It is a broader faculty, with students going into many different post-graduate studies and a wide variety of career paths. A diverging road with so many different paths may seem a bit overwhelming, but fear not because final year BA (Humanities) student Zoë Curran has some helpful advice to share on this topic: 

“Don’t walk into your degree blindly. The university offers sufficient information regarding every degree in their calendar, so be sure to check it out before the academic year starts so that you’re clued up on what’s coming your way.” 

She also finds it important to add “Pay good attention to your ‘introduction to referencing and plagiarism’ lesson,” and “BACK [UP] YOUR FILES!”. 

Curran ends her advice by saying, “You’ll undergo so much [growth] in your student life and [should] never be afraid of this growth! It’s such an amazing experience.” So, go forth and remember that growth cannot happen without change.

ZOË CURRAN, BA (HUMANITIES)
Go out of your comfort zone! Make friends with people you never thought were your vibe. This is the time where you make most of your lifelong friends so don’t be shy and always be yourself! Never be afraid to drop a module. This isn’t high school anymore and no one is going to judge you for your choices ! Remember your mental health comes first over anything and if a module becomes too demanding to a point where you can no longer prioritise other modules anymore, make the necessary change to put your peace first. 

Law

Next up is law. From case studies to studying the constitution, law has it all; but, while this degree can be quite exciting, it is also extremely demanding. Heavy workloads and late nights trying to get through long lectures and even longer case study readings are normal to an SU law student. Bernard Oosthuizen, a final-year BAccLLB student advises that you put in the effort and actually do the work. 

“If a lecturer suddenly prescribes a case not on the module framework, study it; it might be a 17-mark-long question,” says Oosthuizen, who speaks from personal experience. He adds, “Attend all the lectures—yes, also the 16:00 ‘Introduction to Law’ on a Friday,” which he notes is very important. 

Oosthuizen then ends his advice by saying, “Don’t believe anyone’s horror stories; it’s not as bad as it sounds (if you attend class),” which can apply to all faculties.

BERNARD OOSTHUIZEN, BACCLLB
1. If a lecturer suddenly prescribes a case not on the module framework, study it, it might be a 17 mark long question. 
2. Attend all the lectures, yes, also the 4 pm Introduction to Law on a Friday. 
3. Don’t believe anyone’s horror stories, it’s not as bad as it sounds (if you attend class).

Education

To all the first-years who are about to start studying a BEd, well done to you! One day, you will be of great help and guidance to the youth, but first you need to make it through your time at university. Don’t worry about all the awkward group tasks and language modules that you may have thought you would never have to do again after high school because Cerèt Goosen, a final year BEd (Intermediate Phase) student has been there, done that, and would like you to know something. 

“Some advice I can give you as a new first-year, specifically for this course, is to manage your time well. Studying education is very demanding academically because there’s always something that needs to get done,” says Goosen. 

As with most things in life, putting in effort and giving it your all is so important with this degree. If Goosen could somehow go back to her first-year self and give her some advice it would be: “Every bit of effort you put in counts towards the next three or four years you’ll be at this university. Set yourself up to achieve greatness from the get-go.” Unfortunately, first-year Goosen is not able to hear this motivational advice, but you are.

Looking back at my first year in 2019, it was a bit of a rollercoaster. One thing i was sure of, was that BEd Intermediate Phase is what i want to study. Some advice i can give you as a new first year, specifically for this course, is manage your time well. Studying education is very demanding academically because there’s always something that needs to get done.Some advice i would’ve given myself then now that i look back is every bit of effort you put in counts towards the next 3 or 4 years you’ll be at this university. Set yourself up to achieve greatness from the get go. 


CERÉT GOOSEN, BED (INTERMEDIATE PHASE)
Looking back at my first year in 2019, it was a bit of a rollercoaster. One thing i was sure of, was that BEd Intermediate Phase is what i want to study. Some advice i can give you as a new first year, specifically for this course, is manage your time well. Studying education is very demanding academically because there’s always something that needs to get done.Some advice i would’ve given myself then now that i look back is every bit of effort you put in counts towards the next 3 or 4 years you’ll be at this university. Set yourself up to achieve greatness from the get go. 

Engineering

Hello to the future engineers who will already come to know the meaning of hard work in their first year. Engineering can be a very demanding degree, but it can also be very rewarding. This degree will have you going through all five stages of grief before your morning coffee. To get through it, all you need is enough motivation, willingness to try new things and a good grasp on maths and science, of course. 

“It’s a journey that builds a character, so one must pay close attention to detail about their character,” says final year BEng (Mechanical) student Yinhla Makondo. He has been through it all and has learned that “your character complements your success as an engineering student.” 

He later adds, “One other thing: learn to be comfortable with not being comfortable—that’s the holy grail to being disciplined—and enjoy the journey. It’s important that you do.” 

You don’t have to be too afraid of what lies ahead of you as an engineering student, just take it one step at a time and enjoy the journey.

YINHLA MAKONDO, BENG (MECHANICAL)
In this engineering journey, acquiring the engineering skills is as important as building character. It’s a journey that builds a character, so one must pay close attention to detail about their character. Your character complements your success as an engineering student. There are certain traits you’ll have to leave behind, traits you’ll have to adapt to, you need to be aware about them at all times, that’s how you are built in to being an engineer. 
One other thing, learn to be comfortable with not being comfortable. That’s the holy grail to being disciplined. And enjoy the journey. It’s important that you do.

Music

Now for the talented musicians, the unsung heroes at SU (no pun intended): whilst this degree may be enticing and fun at times, it also requires passionate and driven students who are willing to put in the work. Just like most degrees within the Arts and Social Sciences faculty, there are many different career options in your future when studying within the music faculty. These different career options may, again, seem very overwhelming, but final year BMus student Aidan Forbes says not to worry. 

“Don’t feel pressured to know what you want to do with your degree going into it. In studying music, numerous different paths are put before you—whether to go into performance, education or composition, etc.—and it is so easy to forget that that choice will only have to be made in the distant future,” says Forbes, who hopes first-year music students see the beauty of this course as he does. 

Even if you are not sure what you want out of this degree right now, don’t worry; you have time. Forbes went through the feeling too, “And, if you’re like me and you only find out what you want out of this degree by third year, rejoice in knowing that you were open to take the journey and were granted your destination.”

AIDAN FORBES, BMUS
My bit of advice to newcomer music students is this: don’t feel pressured to know what you want to do with your degree going into it. In studying music, numerous different paths are put before you – whether to go into performance, education, composition, et cetera – and it is so easy to forget that that choice will only have to be made in the distant future. 
It took me a whole degree change (B.A. Music to B.Mus.) and a change in specialisation (performance to composition) before I realised what I wanted out of my degree, and what my degree wanted from me. Take your time and explore the fields of music and yourself as a musician. And if you’re like me and you only find out what you want out of this degree by third year, rejoice in knowing that you were open to take the journey and were granted your destination.

Finance

DANUSHA ABRAHAMS, BACC
This is a big transition and it’s natural to feel a bit anxious about it and feel fear for the unknown. Things are going to be a bit confusing in the beginning, you might not know exactly how your modules fit together, or how to divide your time, or which study methods work for you in certain scenarios. But with time, it gets better. 
So be patient, cut yourself some slack, be open to failure, and just hang in there. You’ll do great!

Drama

Lights, camera, action! It’s time for the thespians to shine. First-year drama students, an exciting world awaits you. It can be fun; however, it is still hard work. You have to put in the time and effort to succeed. The main point is to enjoy every part of it—the fun parts as well as the difficult ones. 

“Three years go by so fast. I know it sounds clichéd, and you probably hear that a lot, but it’s so true. Make the most of everything,” says final-year BA (Drama and Theatre Studies) student Anri van Helsdinging. 

“Get out and meet as many people as you can, and do it with an open mind—you’ll be surprised. There is so much you can learn from people.”

ANRI VAN HELSDINGING,  BA (DRAMA AND THEATRE STUDIES)
Three years go by so fast. I know it sounds cliché and you probably hear that a lot but it’s so true. Make the most of everything. 
Get out and meet as many people as you can, and do it with an open mind – you’ll be surprised. There is so much you can learn from people.

Theology

Next is the first-years who are interested in learning more about religion: the theology students. Theology is a fascinating field for curious students. It is a degree that takes you on quite the adventure as you are faced with many questions about the world. It can be tiring and difficult, but it teaches you a lot about religion and humanity. 

“No one can tell you what it will be like to study theology because God alone will determine the nature of your journey,” says Irving de Swart, a final-year BDiv student. 

De Swart says to trust in a higher power for your journey in studying religion. “My experience testifies [to] God’s intellectual miracles. It is an honour to examine God’s majesty and experience His presence for a living,” he says as an end statement.

IRVING DE SWART, BDIV
No one can tell you what it will be like to study theology,  because GOD alone will determine the nature of your journey. However, you can be at peace and excited for it is precisely GOD Who calls you to study theology. 
My experience testifies about GOD’s intellectual miracles. It is an honour to examine GOD’s majesty and experience His presence for a living.

Science

Here’s to all the BSc students who are about to learn about what stress really means. Strap in because you are about to go on quite a ride with this degree. The workload may seem to be never-ending with this one too; however, it will all be worth the work in the end. You may find that you are enjoying yourself along the way. 

Gretchen Jefta, a final-year BSc (Molecular Science) student, knows about this stress all too well. “I feel like I was very stressed out because everything I needed to do was all on me so I would say [to the first-years], ‘try to be okay with not having things all figured out to the tee. No one really has everything figured out’,” says Jefta. 

“The workload initially feels like a lot to manage, with multiple deadlines all at once, but if you work through / read through [the] module content daily, things tend to fall into place.” 

If the workload seems like too much, take it piece by piece, and remember your module framework. “The module framework is your best friend; it gives you structure and compartmentalises the content which helps a ton,” says Jefta as an extra piece of advice.

GRETCHEN JEFTA, BSC (MOLECULAR SCIENCE)
I feel like was very stressed out because everything I needed to do was all on me so I would say try to be okay with not having things all figured out to the tea. No one really has everything figured out. 
Also, the workload initially feels like a lot to manage, with multiple deadlines all at once but if you work through /read through module content daily things tend to fall into place. 
Lastly, the module framework is your best friend, it gives you structure and compartmentalises the content which helps a ton. 

Commerce

Lastly, there are the driven BCom students who know how to work hard at achieving their goals. This degree takes a lot of brain power and energy but is also worth it at the end of the day. Take it from a final-year BCom (International Business) student, Grace Dewrance, who says, “Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice (mentally, financially or even just in terms of uni work). Uni work and life in general [are] difficult, so don’t bottle things up. Most students actually go through similar situations (even if it doesn’t look like it) and really don’t mind helping, so don’t be afraid to reach out!” 

Dewrance then ends her advice by advising students to “actually study!” because, as you will soon learn, university is nothing like high school. Your time at SU will teach you a lot, not just about yourself but about the world in general. There are so many wonderful opportunities that will lead to new experiences; all you have to do is take the leap. There are highs, lows and everything in between. It helps to remind yourself what you’re working towards. Your end goal will show you the path to success; and remember, this is just the beginning.

GRACE DEWRANCE, BCOM (INTERNATIONAL STUDIES)
Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice (mentally, financially or even just in terms of Uni work). 
Uni work and life in general is difficult, so don’t bottle things up. Most students actually go through similar situations (even if it doesn’t look like it) and really don’t mind helping, so don’t be afraid to reach out! 
If you can help it, don’t fall behind on work or assignments. If you do, catch up as fast as possible!
Actually study! Uni is nothing like high school 
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