by Saleha Suleman
When I started my undergraduate degree three years ago, the first thing our lecturer told us in our very first class was that she had reviewed 126 applications from students for the Honours programme in that year, and only 12 were selected. This of course was met by gasps throughout the class, because how could it be that we were a class of over 200, and not even 10% of us would be eligible for Honours? My friends and I knew from that day onwards that we had one goal – to perform extremely well so that we could achieve our goals in science and in research.
Over the three years with our stress levels increasing exponentially, we lost sight of this goal every once in a while, but fast-forward to 2021, here we are, living the goal we had set for ourselves. We all ended up branching out into different degree programmes and different universities, and it was definitely a goal of mine to be accepted into what is considered the top university in Africa.
The content we have been learning from the time we started Honours is honestly extremely interesting, and I have loved that we generally look at recent journal articles to learn our concepts, as it seems so much more real. It isn’t just theory we are learning about what may or may not be in used in the field, but it is actually real scientists conducting very real experiments, sometimes in our own labs. I have also loved working in the lab. The fact that cells have a mind of their own kind of makes it more fascinating to work with them, because they really teach you flexibility! Recently though, I realized that since the course has started, I have barely gotten a chance to appreciate any of this. Honours programmes are hard in general, given the limited time we have to complete everything, however, it feels as though the pandemic has made learning a completely different experience.
On a phone call with my family last month, I casually said that I would rest when I was dead, and this was met with a burst of laughter from my family. It was then that I realized that no matter how much stress we are facing in our daily lives, whether it is just because of the workload or because of the added Zoom fatigue, exhaustion from the pandemic or the grimness of world politics, it is important to just take a moment every once in a while, and appreciate the beauty that surrounds us. That weekend, I decided to go for a hike as my version of relaxation and taking a moment to breathe. I made a resolution that weather (and practicality) permitting, I would go more often than I do now, because it is simply rejuvenating! So even though I have no idea where the first six months of the year have flown, and even though I find myself constantly needing more than 24 hours a day, here’s to hoping that the next six months will continue to be more exciting, but also more mindful.