Taking a step back
by Katelyn Kalil
The undergrad experience is no doubt a stressful one. There are always numerous assignments that need submitting, tests every other week and practicals that seem to last entire evenings. The combination of this stress with the drop in marks from high school that the majority of us experience, also frequently leads to impostor syndrome. It is no wonder that by the time these three years are finished, many of us send off our applications for honours, take a vacation, and put it to the back of our minds.
I think that this lack of time to ourselves can often be detrimental. Paradoxically, we lose touch with our subjects and how we feel about them because we spend too much time fully engaged with them. My undergrad seemed to fly by. I enjoyed it and loved my majors, but I felt a little confused about where my future would take me or even what options were available.
COVID-19 came about during my 3rd and final year of my BSc undergrad which lead to me moving back home. It quickly became a year that lacked any form of routine, this was very detrimental to my studies at first. There seemed to be nothing but an abundance of time and I could not seem to spend it correctly no matter how many schedules I drew up. Luckily, I got a bit more of a grip on things in the second half of the year and my marks began to improve.
I also began to reconnect with some of my work again. Having some time to assess how you feel about the work you are doing is incredibly important. Undergrads are relatively broad and so when we pick what we want to specialise in it is helpful to have a good idea of the type of work we enjoy and the type of work we are good at and identify any overlaps.
I believe that the second half of the year helped me to do just that and I began to cross-check all of my work against my strengths and likes. Having time to do some of the things I enjoyed again was also incredibly helpful. It is important to not lose ourselves to work but rather to bring our best selves to the table- and that means living an all-rounded life, in whatever way that means to us as individuals.
After my plans of studies fell through due to air travel restrictions and applying for UCT honours and not getting in for the following year, I decided to take a gap year. During this gap year, I worked and completed online courses which have made this current year, doing honours, much easier.
I am aware that I was incredibly lucky with my COVID-19 experience. I had a supportive family and all the resources I needed. While, like most people, it also took its toll on my mental health, it also served as an opportunity to take a breather and reconnect with myself and my work. Although I still lack a clear plan for my future I am confident I am doing what I enjoy and for now, that is enough.