by Petra Makua

The journey of moving to Cape Town from another province and another university happened so quickly. I don’t think it has sunk in yet that I’m a postgraduate student at UCT. I never saw myself changing universities to pursue a career in neuroscience. Honestly, I think I spent the first half of this year questioning my purpose and career path.

I could be getting ahead of myself here. Let’s start from the beginning.

Initially, I was excited to be studying a course related to the brain. I went into this thinking I would be pursuing a career in the clinical field, the practical stuff. Little did I know that postgraduate studies required so much reading! For someone who usually works alone, it meant I had to start engaging and communicating with people. To me, that felt like a nightmare. I must emphasize this once more; everything happened so fast! While trying to process this rude awakening, I also had to adapt to the new institution, make new friends, and always remember to carry a jacket with me even when it’s sunny outside because experiencing all four seasons in a day is normal in Cape Town.

I’m someone who prefers comfort and avoids stress, but in retrospect, this situation forced me to step out of my comfort zone. Through networking, I’ve met wonderful people who keep me motivated and are always teaching me new things. Moreover, I started attending workshops that have forced me to speak in public, and that alone has honed me as an individual. Reading journals provides so much satisfaction since you are constantly learning new things! I have also found a sense of comfort in doing lab work; I call it my “safe space.” Perhaps academia isn’t that bad after all.

Through all of this, I realised that sometimes all you need is a little push beyond your sanctuary for you to unleash your potential and grow as a person.

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