Conquering FOMO in University

I loved my university experience and I am thankful for the opportunity because I know not everyone gets to go. I had a lot of fun, I did my school work but unfortunately, I spent too much time socialising. In uni I only did what was expected of me. I didn’t push myself academically to perform to the best of my ability and that is one of my biggest regrets. If I could speak to my first-year self, I would say yes going out is fun but applying yourself is true satisfaction.

We’ve all heard the ‘don’t forget you are there for a degree’ phrase, and I didn’t. But what I did lose sight of was that there is so much more to university than just an undergraduate degree. I’m not disappointed in myself, I did graduate within the 3 years after all. But I am not comfortable with the mediocrity of my performance. So please don’t be like me, strive for excellence. Go the extra mile.

Participate in campus organisations like debating or Model UN, do some volunteering (Now, I wasn’t completely selfish, I did some volunteering but it was compulsory to get a credit for a subject so I can’t really say it was out of the good of my own heart but I did connect with those precious children), consider tutoring, trust me, you don’t want to come out varsity with your CV looking bleak.  The reality is South Africa is currently facing the problem of youth unemployment, and so I suggest you do activities that you love and enjoy but will set you apart from other graduates.

Don’t rest on your laurels as you are capable of greatness. You are not only there for yourself, but you are also there for society. South Africa deserves young leaders that are passionate and determined.  I don’t care how smart you think you are, go to class, all of them that is what you are paying for after all.  Use the library more often! It’s a privilege to be in a centre of knowledge. Do your daily homework, going to class isn’t enough, do your readings. Cultivate a sense of self-discipline. Take it from me you will be happier for it. 

I cherish my university experience, I really enjoyed myself. But when it comes to happiness, remember there is short-term excitement and there is long-term fulfilment. Definitively, have your fun. But developing a healthy work ethic is an essential part of #BossingUp. And please, don’t worry about me I have learned from my mistakes. I am determined to wear my gown a couple of more times, #WatchThisSpace.  

How All Returning Varsity Students Should Boss Up

This article is dedicated to those who are returning students, and have a desire to improve their ways. These ways could be academically, physically, mentally and just ones overall health. But of course we can all learn from this, even ‘freshers’ or first year students.

The university experience is by far one of the most challenging and tiresome, as returning students we can all detest to this. I think the most challenging aspect about it is trying to find the balance between everything. You obviously want to do well at school, perhaps you’ve already had these visions about your academic success, and you already know what you have to do in order to achieve your ultimate academic goal. But reality doesn’t always unfold the way we plan it, and this can be frustrating. Well, it is for me. It doesn’t unfold the way we planned for it because we constantly have to remember that we are more than just our academic journey. Perhaps if we wanted to be highly successful beings we’d have to have a plan for our mental health and activity, our spiritual journey as well as our physical health… oh let’s not forget balancing our social life. Oh god how do people do it? How? Please share?

What I’ve learnt from those who are ahead in life than I am is how imperative it is to be organized and the best way to be organized is to possess a diary, and start scheduling. Yes, schedule. Become that girl ‘Oh, I would have to check my schedule/diary and get back to you’ it’s 100% okay. I don’t know why we think that we can remember everything that has to be done, the cool thing about a diary or schedule is that you don’t have to actively remember everything, as soon as you know that something has to be ticked off from your to-do list, instantly write it down and your diary will remember it for you. All you have to do now is be disciplined enough to do what you have scheduled to do when you have scheduled to have it done.

Yes, our biggest friend and enemy at the same time has to be unfriended and unfollowed, PROCRASTINATION. Procrastination is the enemy of progress. Why do we procrastinate? It has been found that one of the biggest reasons humans procrastinate is because the workload seems unmanageable, therefore we opt to do something that does not require as much effort, like watching a series, even if we binge watch, it still does not require that much effort. How can we resolve this? Once, a woman I value to be considerably wise told me that ‘you shouldn’t think that everything has to be done all at once, that is utterly impossible, and that is when you will feel overwhelmed, and the result of that is that you will get nothing done. What you should do instead, is make sure that you do one thing at a time, and no day should pass without you haven’t done anything, even if it’s just one thing.’ What you choose to have done will be what you consider to be the most important things to do on your list. You can judge that according to time, like which is more urgent than the other.

Once you have mastered your academic organization and scheduling readings, writing down lecture notes in your own words, that assignment, and that test you will be able to find time to schedule other things that add value to your well-being, like socializing. Socializing is just as important as doing well at school, the only difference is applied energy, and that is why some people get carried away with this. It seems so much easier to just hang out with friends than it does doing anything involving schoolwork. But this is where your priorities are questioned, which is more important and which is more rewarding? How about going out as a reward, and it doesn’t have to be something big all the time, even if you have completed something minor. For example, ‘okay I’ve completed all the readings I intended to have done and made notes, sure I can meet with my girl for a movie now’. Socializing doesn’t always have to be big and loud either, dinner is a sufficient way to get your mind off many other things.

Exercise! I cannot distress this enough, physical exercise is just beneficial in all ways possible. You gain a feeling of happiness; this is due to a change in hormones.

Side note: the minute you sense yourself slipping into a depressive state just head to the gym or for a walk, put your headphones on and break a sweat.

This extra blood flow and release of serotonin (hormone responsible for happiness and satisfaction) will improve your current mental state. Exercising adds agility and motivation in many aspects than just the physical, which is very useful when one wishes to complete anything.

 There are some things that we are unaware of that we may have to schedule in but are important to our perseverance and ultimate survival, such a thing is your spirituality, it is your grounding element. Whether religious or simply spiritual it is important to have constant retreats where you tend to nothing else but you and your spiritual journey. This is where the source of your doings lie. This is where your journey begins and is where your journey on this earth ends. Therefore, maintaining a healthy relationship with your spiritual self is crucial to your success as a person.

Like I mentioned before the most challenging aspect about all of these is about finding the balance. But as I’ve listed, once you find your academic balance the rest can follow, in no particular order too, it depends on which you find the most mandatory, but all are equally important. Once there is a sense of organization and you find that you can manage your time better, then there is noting that can stand in your way, you could even get a part-time job, take on more responsibility but you shouldn’t reach a stage where you’re choking. Create a healthy balance.

Moulding Your Career While Studying

Amongst other things, the aim of going to study in a tertiary institution is to get that paper. The one that certifies that you are knowledgeable in whatever course you’ve enrolled for. But what happens when 300 students receive that same diploma/degree that you have and graduate along with you? Now that is just considering the students in your college or university. Let’s take that number and multiply it by the number of institutions which offer the same course you just graduated in. I don’t know what the exact figure is, but I do know that it is a lot.

How do you then set yourself apart from the other thousands of students who’ve got the same qualification as you? How do you make sure that your CV stands out and recruiters see you amongst all those who’ve got the same skills as you?

These are the two main questions I think you need to keep in mind while studying. Yes, the immediate need is to submit assignments on time and pass semester tests and exams. But what happens after all of that? According to Stats SA 430 000 people were unemployed in 2017 and 7.3% were graduates. This number of unemployed graduates is horrifying to be honest and begs the question of whether a tertiary qualification is necessary. That, however needs an entire article dedicated to it.

The simplest answer to these questions is this; you need to get involved in things than can assist you to develop your career outside of the formal structures of learning. Do not confine yourself to only learning in lecture halls, find learning and development opportunities separate outside of that. Tertiary institutions are actually structured in aa manner which is conducive to this learning and development. Campus itself is a community of various industries which can assist you in building yourself for after varsity.

Working on campus is a viable option to consider while you’re studying towards getting that paper. Campus radio and newspaper are great starting points for aspiring broadcasters. Do not despise small beginnings because you do not know what they can lead to. A Girl Boss like Hilisani Ravele’s campus radio experience has been a contributing factor to the success of her career. She has co-hosted shows on Power FM and 94.7 to name a few. Even if you do not become a broadcaster, being on radio or writing for the newspaper will develop your communication skills and give you invaluable experience.

Here’s a brief list of other developmental avenues to consider while studying:

  • Internships and volunteer programs – these provide great work experience and also indicate how your able to balance school and work
  • Involvement in SRC and campus societies – these will expose you to how the working world is like through the various seminar/events the society organizes. You can pick a society which is both social and purposeful; for example, being part of the student’s law society as a law student is rudimentary.
  • Part-time work: retail stores/tutoring
  • Campus work: tutoring/ radio/newspaper/ IT services – working on campus is great because you would have access to it easily. There are various services provided by the varsity/college to students which need student to work in them. For example; the IT department helps students with issue they have with their own laptops; these services administered by “student employees”.

See your qualification as the bare minimum requirement to getting a job and work towards making your CV stand out from the rest of the applicants’.

I unfortunately did not have the foresight while I was still in varsity regarding all of this. Do not buy into the dream that all you need is a qualification and for that reason, finding a job will be easy; because a rude awakening awaits. By the time I realised the importance of truly moulding my career while studying, I was halfway through my second year and only had about a year and a half to try and up my game. Had I known the importance of this from orientation week in 1st year, I would’ve been more proactive about giving myself a competitive advantage from the onset.

There’s Something Poetic About Not Knowing What To Do With Your Life

I can’t tell you if I’ve ever certainly known what I fancied as a chosen career but I was however clear on what I wanted to study in tertiary, political studies.  Growing up, I was quite the vocal child, inquisitive and always wanting to know more than what was on the surface level. My second option was Law. To tell you the truth, a friend of mine was so passionate about pursuing law that I figured it was something I could also do, had enough interest in, so threw it in as a second option. I was also interested in an English degree because, quite simply, I wanted to be a poet with an English degree, and I loved reading so why not?

When I was in high school, I was certain that I was going to be a performer of poetry. I wrote a lot and performed my poetry, the way I was so passionate about it made me believe like I was called and destined to light up stages with what I deemed were electric performances. So I figured I would add on English as a major in university and pair it with Politics, which would accommodate my inquisitive and political mind (I just happened to often find myself asking hard and sometimes unwelcome questions that would have whichever elder convinced that I should consider politics as a career path). By the time I was 20 years old and in my second year of university, I had become less passionate about being a performer of poetry and had become more interested in the world of politics. I liked being ‘in the know’, challenging thought processes and arguing over the current state of affairs. I was going to make a difference in my country, as a young woman I was going to stand with men and be heard and bring about visible change in communities, I was feisty! When I got my undergraduate degree it was a done deal that I was going to do my honours degree in politics. By the time I began my Masters’ degree in politics still, I had already started working for a communications company.

During my masters’ degree year, I just remember barely existing, what a lonely and busy year! I worked full time at this communications company whilst enrolled on a full time basis for my degree. My interest in politics waned as I opened up to a world of communications. And how I got into it was quite simple: my boss was enrolled at the same university for a master’s degree in politics too. It had been a while since she had been in school and requested my help with initially getting sources for her paper and then assisting with referencing. I was doing my honours degree at that time and in the following year started working for her. Winile was flamboyant, an impressive lady! She was clearly not just an older student but one who was doing well in business. So one day, I asked her to check with any of her friends (whom I just assumed owned multimillion Rand generating companies), if they needed extra hands to handle some work for them. She immediately requested that I help her with her paper and eventually I got into her company. A year later, and after graduating for my masters’ degree, I left Winile’s company and joined an entertainment company, which converged the world of television and social media. I worked there as a writer: social and online. I created content for websites and engaged audiences on social media pages and ensured that they were kept enticed and talking on the pages till the next episode of their favourite show, and the next, and the next… It was interesting enough until two years later. I then joined a television production company as a writer. When I was called for the job I immediately said I’d be able to do it and went on to speak to friends in the television industry who helped me with putting together a mock script. And that’s how I got in. I became a script writer and when the show ended, I joined another production company as a writer and researcher, still doing scripts but dabbling in other spaces too which has kept things interesting for me.

So that’s how I got to where I am today. I rolled into each job and I didn’t kick and scream my way into each one because I was quite thrilled by the prospect of learning something completely new and deciding for myself what space(s) I’d exist in. I had studied politics and English and went further with politics and that was that. I was never ever gung-ho about a specific career and I have come out pretty alright. Some people discover what it is that they want to do; they embark on that path and stick with it. For some it takes longer, it takes changing courses, changing jobs and trying out different careers to find that one thing that gets them leaping out of bed every morning.

If you haven’t decided on what it is that you really want to do, I say don’t be too hard on yourself. Explore. Move around. Try out new things. And if you have discovered your ‘thing’, if you know exactly what you want to do even for the next two years, do it. But don’t be too hard on yourself either, when you feel things change, when you find you lose interest where you are and develop curiosity over another field. Be open to things shifting and finding your ‘happy’ in a different space. If anything, it’s freeing.

All the best!

Nqobile ‘Billz’ Mkhatshwa