I remember the day I received my matric results. Like most matriculants who have completed Grade 12, I was happy and had stars in my eyes - excited to leave home and finally experience what it means to be away from my parents.
Ready to go to university, I believed that it was the final step that I needed to take to fulfil my desires.
Being the “realistic” person I thought I was, I told myself that although university was going to be academically challenging (meaning that I would need to work extra hard) everything else was going to be fairly easy.
That, I learnt early on, was not the only challenge that I would face as a university student and that I would see that “varsity is an introduction to the real world” as my sister once said.
1. University is expensive
I wasn’t aware that when I applied to study at a University, I would need to consider not only the cost of the institution but also the amount of money required to stay at a flat or residence and the money required to buy textbooks and groceries.
I had underestimated the costs and overestimated my parent’s ability to cover them.
I’d taken for granted that it would be easy for them, when in reality it was quite difficult and required a lot of sacrifice on their part.
I discovered that completing a qualification in the minimum recommended time was indeed “record time” and that this wasn’t easy for everyone to do.
2. Graduating wouldn’t mean my life was set
I was not satisfied with the quiet, unexciting township life that I grew up with.
I told myself that I wanted more and thought that it was going to be fairly easy.
All I needed to do was go to university, obtain my qualification and then get a job in the city.
After being in the city for four years, I have come to realise that city life isn’t as fancy as it is always portrayed.
It is a lot harder and less spacious or comfortable than one thinks.
Without any judgement and with humility in my heart, I see families staying in small flats and people working jobs that they do not want or like in order to make a living.
Despite the simplicity of having a good job and owning a house, these things although common are far from easy to attain.
3. Campus is actually just a microcosm of real life
You shouldn’t trust everything you see.
I discovered that I shouldn’t believe that a well-dressed person is wealthy or that someone who stays in an expensive flat can pay for it with ease.
I realised that not all seemingly happy couples are actually happy or are in a proper relationship.
Seeing that everything is not as it seems and that people can keep up appearances is one of the things I am grateful I learned while on campus so I could better understand and be prepared for our broader society.
4. Employment isn’t guaranteed
I knew why I was at university.
I was there to obtain a qualification and make a better life for myself.
But every now and then when I would hear that a 19-year-old was making money without a tertiary education and in some cases without even a matric.
It would make me question whether obtaining an education and struggling both academically and financially is the only path to success.
I would also hear about people with degrees being unemployed and had to remind myself that the path I had plotted for my success wouldn’t happen without an education.
I couldn’t wait to complete my honours and then start the hunt for a job but even so, after I obtained my final results, I found myself in a state of panic. “What now” I thought?
I had completed my degree and sent my CV to a few places but I did not know the way forward. I had no idea what the future had in store for me and it was slightly traumatising.
No one prepares graduates about the uncertainty of navigating life after university.
I will agree that university is one of the best times in a person’s life however, discovering harsh truths in university was not what I was prepared for.