DANI VAN DER HORST
Starting your first year of university is a daunting endeavour even under normal circumstances, and 2021 carries with it the unique task of studying remotely, away from the university. While this is not ideal and probably not how you pictured starting this new chapter of your life, it can still be an exciting experience. PDBY has compiled a guide to university to help you navigate campus life, both virtually and physically.
Spending your days inside can get lonely – student structures are a great way to meet new people and to get involved with the university. There are many different structures to choose from and a full list of structures and societies can be found on the UP’swebsite. You can even apply to be a part of PDBY.
Even though you may be spending most of your day sitting down and inside, it is still important to stay hydrated. Drinking water helps to maintain memory function and it is important to keep your brain in top shape when studying.
Get some exercise
It is important to keep your body moving. Research has shown that just fifteen minutes of exercise a day can help boost your brainpower. A short walk around your block or even doing a few jumping-jacks is more than enough to do the trick, there is no need to start vigorously exercising if you do not enjoy it. Just keep moving your body a little bit every day. To read about keeping fit at home, check out page 19.
Join peer hangout sessions if they are offered or sign up for a mentor
Some faculties offer peer hangout sessions. Information about this will be communicated to you by your faculty. This is a great way to meet some of the people studying with you. However, if this is not the case for your faculty – you could also check out a mentorship programme like the STARS Mentorship Programme. With the programme, senior students (second year and above) assist the first-year students through the first semester. There are often hangout sessions where you can meet other mentors and mentees.
Ask questions and stay involved during lectures
Do not be afraid to ask questions or to enter into discussions during lectures. University is a space where you get out what you put in and it is more enjoyable if you actually engage with the lectures. This goes for physical lectures and learning online.
Take a mental health day if you need one
The university space is great for an array of reasons, but one of the major ones is that it tends to be a bit more flexible when it comes to your academic schedule. While some degrees will require more of you in terms of practical hours and contact sessions – there are many degrees that are not too demanding about these. PDBY is by no means encouraging bunking, but if you need to take a break day – there is some room for it. Just make sure that you stay on top of your work and do not fall behind.
Talk to friends
It is important to make time for a social life. Sometimes you may feel like you are overwhelmed by your workload and put your social life on hold. This could cause you to feel more stressed and overwhelmed. Be sure to carve out some time during your week for your friends and family. Whether that is phoning someone who you care about to catch up or making time for a quick (COVID-19 safe) coffee. It is about finding a balance.
While you may not be heading to campus just yet, it is still important to have a rough idea of what essentials you should pack when you do end up there.
While this is not something you can pack for campus, it is definitely something to be aware of. The parking situation on campus is disastrous (read some of our previous editions to find out more about this issue), so be prepared. If you live far away from campus, try your best to get to campus as early as possible and give yourself enough time to hunt for a parking spot.
Always pack an umbrella
The weather in Pretoria can be unpredictable (especially during the summer months) and there is nothing worse than getting caught in the rain when you are more than two kilometres away from your next lecture. Pack an umbrella just in case.
Always have a jacket or jersey handy
While on the topic of unpredictability, the UP aircons are always a gamble. Some lecture halls may be so hot that you want to remove all of the layers you came to campus in, and others are so freezing it feels like you are in the middle of a snowstorm. So be sure to pack a jersey or jacket just in case.
Staying hydrated on campus is just as important as staying hydrated at home. Pack in a water bottle so that you can fill it up throughout the day.
Mask and hand sanitiser (for the foreseeable future)
It is likely that when you return to campus, you will have to wear a mask. Be sure to pack in a spare and a decent amount of hand sanitiser.
Download campus maps
Navigating campus can be quite tricky, so download a campus map from the UP website to help you figure it all out. Google Maps can also be useful if you are stuck.