Hello SmartGirls & Guys!
I'm pleased to let you know that I've officially made it through my first week of university (phew!). Unlike my other blog posts, this is just a little update on my life (not much advice, but an opportunity to share my experience).
These are some of my highlights from the first couple of weeks including: my first varsity cup rugby game (we won!), the o-week closing function at the botanical gardens & a trip to the pulp film society (a student-oriented movie cinema) with some of my friends.
For those of you who are new around here, I'm studying a BSc in Theoretical Physics at Stellenbosch University (WC, South Africa). I moved into my residence 2 and a half weeks ago on the 23rd of January. I am living in a university res which so far has proven to be a very positive experience for a number of reasons:
The res leaders (known as HKs) are held to the university's standards, making it harder for initiation practices to take place. (I had an incredibly positive o-week experience - I felt so safe & looked after at all times. The HK did an incredible job of making sure that each student felt safe & was included. On top of this we were all allocated mentors within our residence... Mine has been amazing! Little things like coming to say goodnight to me & checking up with me regularly really helped to make res feel like home).
Making friends... In order to be placed in a res, you need to meet certain academic standards in your high school results. My personal experience is that this narrowed down the types of students with whom you live, and while there is an incredibly diverse & interesting group of women at my res, I felt that this helped me to meet more like-minded people. Additionally, the various university residences seem to be well networked. Our o-week contained multiple social activities (such as games nights, culture evenings, community service days & coffee dates) with other residences, enabling us to network & make friends outside of our own residence.
Convenience (and this is a big one!). The university residences (generally speaking) are more centrally located to university buildings (Stellenbosch is a college town & has an open campus). Additionally, access to the residence is controlled by your student card (one less thing to keep track of) and you're able to book meals on your student account (which is great because is goes to your parents' account rather than having to pay for meals out-of-pocket). The residences also have printing & computer facilities linked to the university network.
Inclusivity. Some of the private accommodation options are substantially more expensive than living in university accommodation, meaning that they do not have the same student diversity as some of the residences. Additionally there are strict language policies in place at the residences to ensure that everyone is included (although Afrikaans is widely spoken in Stellenbosch, English is the primary language used at residence to ensure that everyone is able to participate in communication).
One of the things I was most apprehensive about before leaving home, was having a roommate. I have never had to share my space with someone before & I had no idea who I would be placed with, on top of this, you only meet your roommate on move-in day, so there is not time to get to know each other before you start living together. Luckily our residence HKs went to great lengths to get to know us before we moved in (I had to do everything from writing personal letters & CVs to taking personality tests so that they could match us up). So far my roommate seems lovely! I really feel that the most important quality in a roommate is respect. My roommate is so kind & respectful & her family has been lovely to me too (she is from the area, so her family visits relatively frequently). I'm from Johannesburg (a 15 hour drive from the university), so it means a lot that they've taken time to look out for me.
My classes officially started on Monday (a week and a half after moving into res). For the first semester I'll be taking mathematics (predominantly calculus), probability theory & statistics, physics, computer science & science in context (a general course aimed at equipping students with computer, comprehension & scientific literacy skills). I'm loving all of my courses except for computer science (mostly because I have absolutely no background in coding & am feeling somewhat overwhelmed). However, I am incredibly lucky to have access to tons of academic resources on campus (and have already booked myself a computer science tutor for Monday). I unfortunately have a very intense schedule (classes from pretty much 8am to 5pm every day), so I'm really going to have to learn to manage my time & be efficient this year.
Also, as I'm going along, I'm realizing that I have different needs in college to those that I had in high school (some of which are more related to living on my own for the first time than they are to university), but anyway - just a heads up that I'll be starting to share some of the free templates that I've created. The first one is a 'fresh food tracker' - I realized that I would open a block of cheese & then put it back in the fridge, covered in clingfilm, but I would have thrown away the expiration date. This handy little template will help you to keep track of the expiration dates of your fresh produce so that you can use it up before it goes off (avoiding any pesky wastage which college students simply cannot afford). I'm also rapidly learning that I need to work on my budgeting skills, so stay tuned for some handy budgeting tools coming soon. Also, if you're a college student & have suggestions for templates that you'd like me to create - feel free to share them in the comments below xx.
Some lingo that might come up in future posts... There are 2 broad categories of students: res students (students living in accommodation provided by the university) & PSO or private student organization students (students living in private student accommodation or at home who travel to the university). Reses & PSO are grouped in clusters based on their geographical location. Within my res, which is not particularly large (just less than 200 women), there are 6 sections (different corridors) each section has a name & the res occasionally hosts inter-section activities & socials. Being an historically Afrikaans university, some of the university buildings still have Afrikaans names... The library is referred to as the bib (short for biblioteek) & residences are still affectionately called koshuis.