A Whole New World

by Jesmika Singh

Am I really writing a piece about being in HONOURS? I still feel like I was just yesterday sending in applications for my first year of university. When they say university is over before you know it, they really weren’t joking. Regardless, it has been an exciting ride (even though parts of it have been stressful).

Throughout my schooling career and general social life, I have been someone that gets stressed very easily. I put a lot of pressure on myself to achieve my academic goals. Particularly in the third year of my undergraduate degree in 2020, I felt an even stronger need to push myself and put all my time and effort into my studies since everything was done through remote learning. As a result, the stress I felt during that year was unexplainable. Directly following that, I came into honours with the expectation that my stress would be even worse- I was moving to Cape Town from Durban; gaining more independence; being isolated from the majority of my loved ones and having to begin what I was told would be the hardest year of my university career. Granted, these things have been as challenging as expected, yet, I’m surprised to say that this has been one of the least stressful academic years I have had- perhaps I have gotten used to the stress or lost my ability to stress my usual amounts.

Honours is a year that I was told would push me to my breaking point- granted the year is far from over and there is still plenty of time left for that, somehow I have enjoyed the academic aspect of this year much more than any previous academic year. To be fair, if it were not for online learning, recorded lectures (I don’t know where I would be without these), teamwork and the lecturers, I doubt I would have been able to cope.

Something I have admired greatly about how this course has been run and kept my morale up- is how we are assessed. Unlike previous years, we were allowed (in some cases) to indicate the type of assessment we felt would best showcase our understanding of work and the way we were marked has been one of my favourite parts of the year. From the time I started school if your answer was not exactly what was in the memo, you didn’t get the mark- that was not the case this year. The lecturers took their time with each individual script/assignment to determine whether someone understood the work or not. If we didn’t get the correct answer but showed understanding, we could still do well. This kind of teaching and learning has helped me better understand my work, but more than that, it has helped me grow my confidence. If I had been marked like this for my entire schooling career, perhaps I wouldn’t have been so stressed and I may have been able to retain my work better. Being able to chase knowledge and understanding over answers from an unseen memo, has made a big difference in the way I take in knowledge.

I was also very fortunate to get a very helpful supervisor and co-supervisor this year. Without the constant guidance, kindness and willingness to assist from my co-supervisor, I don’t think I would have managed half of the challenges phased by my project and even the modules. By allowing me to ask questions at any time of the day and equipping me with the ability to solve problems I had myself, she has also assisted in helping me deal with the stress of Honours.

I am very grateful for being given this opportunity to do this incredible degree this year. I have made great friends, met highly accomplished academics, and opened doors for my career goals that I didn’t think possible.

If there was anything I would change about the way I handled this year, I would go into every assessment to aiming show my full understanding of topics rather than just putting down answers I thought were wanted.

To every individual that has helped me along my way through this Whole New World of Honours at UCT- Thank you!

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