What a rollercoaster ride!

by Kayla Lesch

In 2021, I completed my BSc degree in Biotechnology at the University of the Western Cape with a Magna Cum Laude and did exceptionally well in all my modules. Although everything was online due to COVID-19 including lectures and exams, it was still tough. Somehow, 2021 was one of my greatest academic years. This was probably due to me working at my own pace and having discipline. It all paid off, as it landed me quite a few jobs and most importantly my acceptance for honours at the University of Cape Town. 

My honours year (2022) has been anything but easy. However, I’m thankful that I’ve been given this opportunity. I’m proud to say that I’m one of four students in the BMedSci (Hons) Biomedical Forensic Science, Department of Pathology, Division of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology. 

Throughout the year, I never thought I was capable of being an honours student. At the beginning of the year, I wanted to drop out, but something told me not to give up. The toughest part was initially the overall workload. I experienced plenty emotions and had a lot of ups and downs with my academics. During this year, the BMedSci honours students done coursework (lectures, tests and exams), assignments, and project-related work simultaneously. We had presentations and assignments due straight after one another. I was afraid that I could never meet any of the deadlines, yet I did! 

Honours was a massive leap from my undergraduate degree. Mainly since my two years out of the three-year undergraduate degree was online-based and this included exams. This year was the first year since 2019 that I wrote in-person exams, and it was tough! I forgot entirely how to study word for word and retain information. However, somehow, I managed to write each exam and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. To my surprise, I happened to get extremely good marks in all my modules.

This opportunity has also allowed me to meet amazing and educated people! The individuals within my honours programme overall were very friendly and helpful. Each individual within my division was extremely welcoming and supportive. Everyone was willing to share their experiences and knowledge. I appreciated how each of them also gave their advice on ways to cope, handle stress, calm the nerves and mentioned tips for growth in the specific Forensic Science field.  I would’ve never thought that my classmates, would now be a few of my closest friends. Honestly, without these people, I don’t think I would’ve been able to cope with this year as well as I am. 

Honours has coached me to be independent and take initiative. It has shown me that it’s okay to make mistakes but learn from them, and that you’re definitely not the smartest in the room! It has taught me that hard work pays off and to always do the that best you can, as your best is enough. It has taught me that I am capable and educated and lastly, it has shown me how strong I am. Honours has also taught me a lot about the research sector and how important research is overall. It helped me focus solely on my education and my goals, and in some strange way, it helped me evolve. Honours improved my reading, writing, my critical analysis, and so much more. I was told by many, that honours are one of the worst years in post-graduate studies, and according to my knowledge I must agree. Even though being in honours is a tiring, bitter-sweet journey, I can honestly say it is worth all the stress! 

Forensic Science has always fascinated me since I was young! I loved the fact that the individuals involved aimed to solve cases for justice. I loved that they aimed to serve and help others. Honours in Biomedical Forensic Science made me even more intrigued, experiencing first-hand how the field of Forensic Science works in South Africa! Surprisingly Forensic Science is way more complicated and diverse than the CSI TV shows we grew up watching. Did you know, Forensic Science consists of science, law, and medical aspects!? It makes me feel so important, to be involved with real-life cases and learn all the things that’s needed as a forensic scientist. In the beginning, we learnt the different disciplines within forensic science which included Entomology, Medico-legal Death Investigations, Genetics and lastly Toxicology which is what my honours project titled “Retrospective Analysis of Routine LC-QTOF/MS Toxicological Screening Results in Post-Mortem Casework” entails. I never knew forensic science was so diverse and that it had so much room for professional development. I cannot wait to one day contribute to this field and positively impact the lives of others.

Regardless of the rollercoaster of emotions I’ve been on during this year, experiencing both good and difficult times, I’m grateful. Without this experience, I wouldn’t have been this resilient and shaped into the woman I am today, and one day will be. I still have 6 weeks left of my honours year and I’m ready to face it head-on!

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