Starting a university career is stressful enough, given the increased academic responsibility, newfound independence, and being thrown into a new environment with many unknown factors. Many students face the added pressure of expectations from family members that they worry they will fall short.
Thando Wolf is the creator of a TikTok video that went viral in August 2022, where she partook in a trend “introducing her classmates and their problems.” The next day, her mother made her record and post an apology video wherein she can be heard saying, “How many times did I tell you about social media? I told you this phone is for you to do your school work.” This sparked a conversation amongst young adults in South Africa about whether or not Thando’s mother had reacted appropriately to a seemingly innocuous video. On various social media platforms, many commented that they could relate to the humiliation that the TikTok creator was subjected to. They, too,
had disappointed their parents at some point and felt the same shame that Thando probably felt from being reprimanded.

Leaving high school and embarking on a new journey brings up many feelings regarding the expectations of family members like: the overwhelming concern that they will see things they do not like, worrying about how they will react, and the fear of disappointing them. While many people will not face as public a reproval as Thando Wolf did, it evokes the same emotions. How does one cope?

Realise that coming to university allows for a new experience and try to open up to it. Living with the expectations of parents can be frustrating and may leave you feeling impotent. For many people, even though university offers a new environment and an opportunity to become a different person that they are excited to grab with both hands, it can be hard to reconcile the old version of themself with the new one. The fresh out of high school version with unbridled excitement and many hopes, with the first-year version of themself that will change continuously throughout the year.

Acknowledge that sometimes, disappointment is inevitable. There will be a lot of bumps in the road in your university journey, ranging from unsatisfactory marks and hanging around “the wrong crowd” to not calling home as much as you were instructed to do. It requires patience and adjusting from family members when expectations cannot be reached, which can be preceded by disappointment. Will the disappointment that others feel toward you stifle your growth and experiences? Not if you do not let it.

Remember why you are at the university and prioritise your academic performance first and foremost. There are a lot of exciting new things to be experienced as a first-year, but it is possible to achieve and maintain a sense of balance.

Multiple resources are set up to help facilitate the best first- year experience possible. Consult Faculty Student Advisors or the Student Counselling Unit if in need of assistance or guidance from trained professionals.


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