A Letter to my First Year Self

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By Phophi Tshikovhi

This article can also be found in the print Edition 1 of VARSITY Newspaper. 


It’s a new year and you have just began a new journey. Everything seems daunting and you have no idea what the future holds for you at this institution. Regardless, these are exciting times! You are enrolled in the best University on the continent and to add the cherry on top, the university is in the Mother City!

High school became a part of you, it was comfortable and the responsibilities were few. You were far from becoming a professional and that was comforting. Your family is thousands of kilometres away and yes, this is what independence feels like, but also loneliness and depression. I know you hate the thought of growing up, but I am going to need you to hold on tightly because you are in for a roller coaster ride.

Do not compare yourself to anyone! Forget the girl who has many flags in between her textbooks and has inundated her books with colourful highlighters as that does not, in any way, represent a colourful academic journey. Forget the guy who has attractive and flexible muscles, ready to raise up his hand and answer what you have no idea about. That does not in any way represent a strong academic journey.

Darling, just as Will Smith said, “be ready to fail and when you fail, fail forward”. You will fail not only the first test, but the second too and eventually the course itself. That is when you will have to regain strength to continue. Our failures do not define us our ability to get up does. The system will have you doubting yourself, questioning your capabilities and determining your ability by how well you progress to the next course. If you can look up, then you can get up.

A Letter to my First Year Self. Image by Thapelo Masebe.

This university is a very political space and we are in a generation that has found the courage to question everything that used to be a “norm”. With that being said, you will find yourself in many spaces where you will have to voice your opinion. Do not conform, it is not wrong to be silent and not voice your opinion. Too often we get excited when given the platform to let out what is on the inside; let it not be a platform for you to be irrelevant.

Be careful of who you allow to feed your mind and take caution to who you spend your time with. Your squad will either break you or make you. Additionally, do not be in a rush to make friends that you end up settling for something that is not you, for fear of being lonely. Real and genuine friendships are not forced.

This university has numerous resources at your disposal and you should use them to aid in your learning. However, do not aim to be book smart, there are some things your textbook will never be able to teach you, but societies, people from different backgrounds, and any other interactions, will.

See that guy in your tutorial group who will only continue to help you if you go out with him? It’s a trap. Do not ignore the red flags, you can find someone else. There are genuine people out there who will help you out of the goodness of their heart.

Lastly, stay in your lane, there is no traffic there. Eventually, you will meet people that you will click with naturally. You will eventually embrace the silent times you spend on your own and that is when you will find yourself. Through these silent times you will remember why you came to UCT and what purpose you still need to serve. You will learn to put on the answer “no” like a sleeve and trust me, you will do it with a smile. For now, relax and focus on going to all your lectures, consistently.

The view is great from where I am standing.

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2 thoughts on “A Letter to my First Year Self

  1. Linyai Reply

    That’s a view of life @ UCT from the top of Table Mountain. Indeed, the view is great.
    What a beautiful narrative.
    When an eaglet is far from mother eagle, venturing out of the nest is an invitation to predators, a fatal risk which calls for courage and determination. I hope you have found your feet. Stand firm. God bless.

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