Hello and welcome to my new Varsity Life Series. Growing up I was obsessed with researching everything before I did it. I watched back to school videos and school survival guides in grade 7. I watched countless ‘get ready with me’ videos in the run up to my matric dance. Yet, while preparing for university there was little information on the daily doings and how to manage living away from home ie. how to adult.
I branched out from YouTube videos and decided to check out some blogs but most are catered to American universities and colleges and thus aren’t as helpful as I had hoped. I also discovered through discussions with friends and people I’ve met that many teenagers/young adults (whatever you want to call us) don’t know how to budget, do basic things such as laundry and cleaning and many don’t know how to feed themselves healthy meals (hello first year syndrome). It is for that reason I thought I would record my experiences in first year, having moved to Stellenbosch University.
[Just a quick side note – I attended Vega in Cape Town last year due to a few issues I experienced. However, I am now at Stellies and starting first year again since I completely changed my degree.]
For this post I thought I would focus on O-week and my first 2 weeks living away from home.
Moving out started off pretty stressful. I had assumed orientation began on Thursday so I had planned to move out on Wednesday morning. I forgot to check my PSO (Private Student Organisation) programme and discovered at 11pm on Monday night that orientation actually began on Wednesday. This resulted in a rushed trip to the shops the next morning where I quickly bought all of my bedding and some basic groceries. Then a rush home to wash all of my bedding, pack the car and set off at around 5pm with my dad and stepmom. We arrived in Stellies, quickly set up my room then headed off for a lovely dinner at one of Stellenbosch’s many restaurants.
I quickly discovered that all of my apprehension towards orientation was unwarranted. My mentors, Matt and Elizabeth, are 2 of the loveliest and most helpful people I have ever met. They took time to answer our questions, show us around and were basically just all around great to hang out with.
We attended several socials with other residences in our Cluster (see below for an explanation of certain words). My favourite interactions were probably with Oude Molen and Helderberg. I was frequently warned that people (guys in particular) are a**holes in Stellies but I’ve honestly only met really nice people so far. We played games, discussed social interaction initiatives and played a round of ‘speed-friending’.
We had several mentor sessions where an emphasis was placed on our emotional, mental, physical and social health. My mentor group is awesome and I’ve made several great friendships already. We attended a camp (although myself and 2 other girls ditched before the showering and sleeping could commence) and although we got slightly lost, it was an amazing experience filled with laughs and interesting karaoke performances.
I can say without a doubt that Stellenbosch’s welcoming programme was the most interesting and engaging that I have ever experienced.
So, while welcoming was great, moving out was a bit more challenging. I pride myself on the love I have for my family so being away from them (even if its only 5 days at a time) was pretty challenging for me. I moved into student accommodation and share a unit with 3 guys and a girl. We all have our own rooms with the guys having on-suite bathrooms and the other girl and I sharing a bathroom.
It is an immensely different experience living with 4 strangers compared to my family. They all love partying and going out, I don’t. They all like drinking, I don’t. They’re alright with going to sleep at 3am everyday whereas I prefer being asleep by 10:30 (I know – I’m boring). I’ve been warned that this is how uni life is and I guess I just have to get used to it but it might take some time.
I’ve also discovered that it is very different buying my own groceries. I feel like I have so much more freedom but now I’m stuck on what to cook. My stepmom reminded me to find the cookbook they bought me so I’ll be able to recommend some budget friendly versions of those meals later on in the series. I think it’s rather nice though because for many years I’ve wanted to adjust my diet to decrease red meat and to stick to white meat meals. I think being able to cook for myself will force me to eat better and, as a bonus, I can get back into cooking which I thoroughly enjoy. Fun fact, not many people know that my passions used to be baking and cooking so there we go!
I’m not going to pretend that living away from home is a breeze because I’ve really struggled. Since I moved out 12 days ago I’ve had 2 panic attacks, 2 hour-long phone calls to close friends and family and called my mom in tears on at least 4 occasions (possibly more). It can be uncomfortable and strange living away from an environment where you always felt safe and having to work out how to handle it all on your own. And I know plenty of students have done this and survived but my personal experience so far has been difficult. It doesn’t help that on Monday (28th) my dog died. I always feared something would happen while I wasn’t at home and that fear came true. However, I believe it is just another challenge that has been presented to me and I believe I am coping with it just fine.
So that is the end of my intro to my Varsity Life Series. Be sure to check back for updates and new posts. I’m not sure how often I’ll be posting but I promise to do my best!
To end off: “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like” – Lao Tzu.
Remember to smile!
First Year Syndrome: Much like the ‘freshman fifteen’ in the states, first years syndrome refers to when first years gain weight. Apparently the average is 7-10kg but its all circumstantial.
PSO (Private Student Organisation): approximately 70% of students at Stellenbosch live in private forms of accommodation (ie. non university housing). PSOs were created to give those students an opportunity to take part in socials, events and activities that would normally occur in a residence. It’s essentially everything a res is minus the actual accommodation. Fun fact: I am in the oldest mixed (that is boys and girls) PSO on campus.
Cluster: A cluster is a group of PSOs and residences which allows students a greater opportunity of interaction. There are 7 clusters on campus and I am in VicMeyr cluster.