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Many students regard the first year of university as the most important time of their young lives. You are away from home for the first time. You have grown apart from the friends that you kept for most of your life. Most pressingly, the doors to romantic and sexual exploration are swung wide open and it may feel like everyone except you is effortlessly sprinting through them. If the beginning of your first year feels like a coming-of-age movie with a scriptwriting team that seems to have it out for you, placing you in the most uncomfortable positions imaginable, you are not alone. Almost every student on campus has felt that way at least once in their university career. And while there is no written guide to first-year self-discovery, this article aims to help you navigate sex, love and friendship in a healthy manner.

The popular TV show The Sex Lives of College Girls follows four young women as they embark on their college journey, discovering new things about not only themselves but also the ever-changing environment they now find themselves in. Leighton Murray, one of the main characters, is ostracised by her initial friend circle upon arriving at university, and she finds herself thrust into a new social circle with her roommates. While she is reluctant at first, she eventually considers those roommates her closest friends. Many first-year students will share this experience of being in a new place without friends, feeling confused and alone. Yet, in this new environment, there are thousands of people around with whom you can connect. Additionally, you will find that strong friendships can bloom from the most unexpected of places.

As the title suggests, the show also delves into the details of the girls’ sex lives. Particularly, as they search for sexual partners (and fight them off), decide their preferences and explore their sexualities. An important element of any conversation about sex is consent. Informed, ongoing, and enthusiastic agreement is crucial. Consent must precede any sexual activity and can be revoked at any stage. It is vital to note that individuals under the influence of substances like drugs or alcohol, as well as those under 18, cannot provide valid consent for sexual activities.

It is also important to commit to safe sex practices. Fortunately, there are various contraceptive options available, including male and female condoms, contraceptive pills, and other birth control mechanisms like injections or intrauterine devices (IUDs). In the year 2024, there is a wealth of information about safe sex practices available to those willing to learn. Alongside sexual activity comes the risk of sexually transmitted infections. Student Health Services offer testing on the Mamelodi, Hatfield, Groenkloof, Prinshof and Onderstepoort campuses. The UP clinic also allows for family planning consultations with staff nurses.

With the concepts of consent and protective measures in place, it is important to remember that this is a period where many people explore their sexuality in various ways. Regardless of your preferences, you are living in a city teeming with excited twenty- somethings at varying levels of romantic and sexual experience. It is not a bad thing to want to indulge in that too.

Whether or not you find your very best friends, fall in love or navigate sex like a pro during your first year, there are a plethora of experiences yet to be had throughout the rest of your university years. More than anything, your first year is yours to live, and each decision will dictate how it works out. So your coming-of-age film can seamlessly blend with any genre of your choosing, be it horror, comedy or romance.