by Mbalentle Madolo

If someone would have told 23-year-old Mbali, a young budding scientist that had just been accepted into the honours programme of her dreams, that her honours year would leave her feeling emotionally drained, she would have told you that you are lying, but sadly it is absolutely true. Now don’t get me wrong, Clinical Anatomy still remains my passion and the fact that I was selected amongst many who applied to be a part of this honours cohort is something I don’t take lightly, but it can’t be escaped that this year has been one of my toughest years to date.

The academic content covered so far has been extremely interesting but also difficult to grasp. The challenges that I have faced so far this year go beyond handling academic stress and delve into the emotional turmoil that this year induced. As a black woman, I can’t say that I have been able to look around and see a lot of people who look like me in this field, something that has always bothered me when looking at the sciences as a discipline overall (in my opinion of course). It was this year where my imposter syndrome truly kicked in, and this left me feeling as though I was not fit to do this honors programme, like I was not intellectual enough, like I was too old etc. Granted, these feelings were fueled by academic stress and the fact that we are still living through a world-wide pandemic, but they were mostly exacerbated by how I felt that I could not speak to anyone about how I was struggling to adjust or ask for assistance as I felt that no one would understand.

On the bright side, the support that I have received from my mother and classmates has been absolutely amazing, hence why I find myself happier. I find myself going back to that 23-year-old Mbali who was ready to take on the world and, as cliché as it sounds, cement myself in the science community as a force to be reckoned with! This change came about because I decided to reach out to those around me, that included calling my family whenever I was overwhelmed instead of bottling up my emotions. It also included talking to my classmates about my anxiety, or even asking for assistance with understanding course material if needed. Because of that I will be eternally grateful to the Clinical Anatomy Honours Class of 2021. The friendship and support they have given me is unmatched, I discovered that I was not the only one feeling emotionally drained and overwhelmed, I discovered that I was not the only one having difficulty adjusting…. I discovered that I was not alone.

The first 6 months of my honours degree were extremely challenging for me, but I still recognize how much I have grown not only as a student, but as a person. It’s because of this growth that I am so excited for the next 6 months of this year. The rest of this year will be filled with academic success, further growth and blessings…I can feel it in my bones!

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