Journey to Graduation: A Rocky but Rewarding Road

Two soon-to-be-graduates tell their personal stories, offer advice and share words of encouragement to students facing similar struggles.

By Chante Sammering (VARSITY contributor)

The start of the second semester calls for some motivation and inspiration to finish the 2021 academic year off strong. Given the challenges we’ve faced over this year with the UCT Mountain Fire in April and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we should all be proud of ourselves and our peers for having made it thus far. The following stories are from two soon-to-be graduates who have overcome various financial, academic, and personal challenges to graduate from their studies and are shared in the hopes that they inspire and uplift those who need to hear them. 

Dave* had just started his degree in mechatronics in the department of engineering in 2019 when he lost both his caregivers. He soon fell into a depressive state and failed his coursework. He was at the brink of being academically excluded when he sought advice from academic staff members at UCT who made him aware of the effects his personal problems could have on his academics. The staff at UCT assisted him with reapplying at the Faculty of Humanities, and he is now passionately pursuing a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Environmental and Geographical Science (EGS) and Arabic. 

Another student, Kim*, is about to graduate with majors in Psychology, Sociology, and Media & Writing in the Faculty of Humanities. She is in her sixth year of study and describes her academic experience as a “rocky road”. Kim* started off at the top of her class in high school but ended up failing her first semester at UCT. She retracted various majors until she found a cluster of majors which she was truly passionate about. In addition to figuring out the life she wants to live, as any other student, she had financial and mental health problems which affected her ability to excel academically. Kim* was constantly working at her part-time job to fill in the financial gaps and her personal problems took a toll on her mental health. A few months before writing her final exams in her final year Kim* was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) with anxiety and failed her exams. Kim* forfeited her financial aid and became homeless soon after and was forced to take leave of absence.

Both Dave* and Kim* had to navigate their academic career with more difficulty than most have to deal with, but they have almost made it to the end of their journey. Dave* urges others to “accept that difficulty, struggle, and failure is a part of success”. Kim* is still going and is about to graduate from her sixth year of study and argues that reaching out for help and taking time off was the best thing that she could have done for herself. If they can do it, then so can you!

*Names were changed to ensure anonymity. 

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