In collaboration with our students and the Division: Student Affairs, we have embarked on a project to tell some of the stories of SU students and their challenges with trauma, and mental and psychological health. Below, students convey their experiences in their own words, in the hope of helping others.
I am from a small town in the Eastern Cape. I completed my undergraduate degree at the university back home and am proud to now be doing my postgraduate degree at SU, one of the world’s top-ranking universities. At the beginning of the year everything was new to me here… new experiences, new people. Everything was fine until I failed an exam. I've never failed before. It felt like my world was coming to an end… it felt like I'm nothing but a failure. I was so disappointed and felt that I'm not good enough. Also, I didn't have anyone to talk to. It was so overwhelming – there were negative voices running in my mind telling me I'll never make it. Until one day when I decided to seek help. And through talking to someone and also reading my Bible and praying, I started to deal with the failure. These things helped me to bounce back and gain strength again. I've learnt that failing is not the end of the world but a learning experience. Do not allow one or two failures to define you. Failure is part of life and is an opportunity for growth. If you fear failure constantly, you might miss out on opportunities for learning and developing. My route to success was through failure.
After years of trying to find a job, I took the decision to go back to school. However, that did not come without costs to me. I had to write my NBT admissions test on an empty stomach, as there was no food at my place. I only had taxi fare for going to the assessment centre and had to walk all the way home after. When the time came to go to Stellenbosch as a first year, I faced further challenges. I had no bus fare money nor did my mother. Nevertheless, I was not going to let that discourage me to go to university. I decided to hitchhike without even a cent to buy myself food on the road. I managed to arrive at university after three days on the road without having had something to eat. In my first year I especially struggled. Eventually I had a conversation with a psychologist at the CSCD. This helped me so much. I could start speaking about problems that I have never spoken to anyone about. I realised that I am not alone and that there are many students who struggle financially at Stellenbosch. I think what helped me was asking for help and getting support. I saw that when I reached out for help, people were willing to assist. Next year will be my final year.