Danai Nyagani & Charli Kasumba
First off, congratulations on your achievement. Finishing high school means different things to different people but it’s an achievement that should not be ignored. Many moons ago we were both in this exciting and nerve-racking phase of life, so we’re here to give you the quickest crash course to guide you through it (though you’ll probably learn much of this yourself after the first few weeks of your university experience).
We want you to flourish, to own SU and make it your own because you are valid and you deserve to be there. Don’t let anyone tell you different.
Time to Rediscover Yourself
There’s nothing better than the chance to reintroduce yourself to the world, and university is the perfect place to do just that. As you approach the new stage of your life, take a look at yourself – are you a free thinker? Are you someone who has collected other people’s ideas and adopted them as your own? What are the characteristics that you love about yourself? What are the things you wish you could change?
Now is the time to make those changes happen. You are now your own individual, carry yourself with that knowledge.
There’s always free food, Go to the free food
This is self explanatory. There will always be a Welcoming event, Valentine’s party or a “we like to eat and drink so let’s do that” event – go to them. They will fill you, and if they don’t, file a complaint.
This is the first time you’re going to be academically challenged – your success is determined by class attendance.
Let’s get straight to the point: no matter how smart (or not smart) you were in high school, you will fail something. Don’t worry too much, you will be fine. Whether it’s a test, a module or a year, first year consists mostly of introductory courses where attendance is key to success – make sure to attend at least half of your classes.
Have an open mind
This is the best way to leave your university experience as a well-rounded individual. It’s very easy to stick with your friends from high school, or individuals who look and act like you, but the result of that is not impressive or beneficial.
You will meet many new people – you will completely disagree with some, be intrigued by others and encounter many with different religious beliefs and values. All of this is great. By the end of your degree, you will be amazed at the friendships formed and the knowledge gained from all the folks that you used to think were not your cup of tea.
If you’re not feeling your degree, drop it or change it
As mentioned above, most first year courses are introductory, which means that in second year your courses will increase in difficulty and quantity (trust us, first year is definitely not the hardest year). There is nothing more heartbreaking than seeing friends lose years to degrees that they thought were the right choice, so if you have the privilege of changing your degree, it’s best to do it in first year.
If you are not able to change your degree, try to focus your follow-up years in a field of study that is most interesting to you (fam, your guardians won’t be there to wipe away your tears when you end up with a job that you hate 5 years from now).
Don’t sell yourself short
This isn’t high school where only seniors can lead and don’t let anyone lie to you (yes, first years can run for SRC, House Committee, even president of the country). If you are passionate about what you believe in and believe that you could make a meaningful impact, then get up and lead. If you see injustice, speak up. The worst thing to do is to turn your back and that decision will haunt you. Don’t be afraid of putting yourself out there – you don’t know how you will change someone’s life until you get out there.
Diversify your friends
Friend, read this carefully! The friends you meet on a Wednesday night are definitely not going to be the same friends that sign the register for you at your 8 am class. Friendships made during welcoming week tend to be fake, owing to the fact that it’s a friendship based on convenience (you will be lucky if they still remember your name by March). It is important to realize that different people will like different parts of you (friends for when you’re serious about academics and friends for binge-watching Netflix).
There is more to university life than just studying and partying. There are hundreds of spaces where you can learn about topics like art, transformation, environmental issues, and fashion. The transformation office, SRC, departments, societies, and residences love to host engaging discussions at SU Museum. The Art department tends to host the most interesting events – go learn something! Knowledge does not only exist in the lecture room. And even if you don’t want to go for the knowledge, at least go for the free food.
Challenge your leaders
During welcoming week, your HK (House Committee) members will give off the impression that they know everything and that their word is gospel. For the most part, they do but this does not give them the right to make you feel like shit. Running around campus at night in your underwear is not tradition, it’s a demonstration of toxic masculinity. Downing bottles of alcohol with your seniors egging you on isn’t team spirit, it’s an abuse of power. When you walk into res, you don’t magically lose your voice as a person, so use it. Question all the activities that are done in the name of tradition. Demand to know what happens with your money. Challenge your leaders, because if you don’t, the next generation will have the exact same experiences as you.
If you don’t see it, create it
There are many students on campus and it’s impossible for all societies and initiatives to cater to everyone. If there is something that you’ve always wanted to do and there is no initiative on campus, create it. Get a few friends who share the same vision as you (or do it yourself) and do it. You don’t need funding, equipment, or even a fancy business plan. You just need a platform, confidence, and motivation. If it fails, it’s ok. If it doesn’t pick up, it’s ok. Your desire to create doesn’t end when you fail, you just find alternative ways to create.