Congratulations! You have made it to university, and you are just that much closer to ‘adulting’. The academic year
is about to begin, and there is a lot to unpack. The first, and most important truth that we need to get out of the way is that university life is not like what you see on TV. Popular media often portray university as this dreamy world, where students can balance academics and fun, while somehow managing to hold down a 9-5 job, all because they believe they can. It is easy to get pulled into the fantasy of university life as something that is all about cool parties and dorm life fun. But let’s be honest, that life does not exist, well maybe it does when you sacrifice your academics for it. Though TV shows like Grown-ish, American Homecoming, or even the Sex Lives of College Girls are great for a good laugh and quick entertainment, university is not like that, well at least the University of Pretoria is not. This place requires a special mixture of ingredients; something all your advisors and lecturers will tell you about throughout O-Week. It is no secret that trying to secure a university degree comes with its own set of challenges.
PDBY asked a few students who have walked this road before for some nuggets of wisdom for our fellows first-years,
and as you guessed, the main consensus was discipline and time management. Often, university students find themselves constantly chasing deadlines or spending the entire day, and sometimes night, in the library working. It is interesting though because that aspect of university life seems to be conveniently forgotten or left out for yet another student teacher relationship. The workload at university is no joke; it requires so much of the mind and the body that burnout comes much faster. The media’s portrayal of this is usually only one episode showing the main character learning the value of going to lectures when they end up having to pull an all-nighter to catch-up on a semester’s worth of work, yet somehow miraculously passes their final exams. They do not really show the toll that one month of a semester does to the body. They show the perfect university life. A life which does not exist. The reality of university is that it has a demanding workload, and it is very taxing both physically and mentally, which is why it is so important to prioritise your mental health.
Research shows that over 30 percent of university students have suicidal thoughts in their first year of study, while the reported rate of depression is sitting at 14 percent nationally, an incredible statistic when one thinks about the representation of this phenomenon in the media which usually includes one brief half hour episode on the suicide trend in universities and is never spoken about again.
First-years need to know that they are not alone. The university makes provisions for students to cope a little better
with these pressures. The Student Counselling Unit is there to help and give support; the counsellors work with a great deal of patience and care to ensure that everyone reaches the finish line on time. There are also designated faculty student advisors, who are mentors that work hand-in-hand with students.
University life can be amazing when one can strike the balance between work and play. But we are human beings, and we need to take care of our mental and physical health. So please do not feel bad about taking a break, asking for help, or having fun sometimes.