Being accepted into a tertiary institution is a high point for thousands of matriculants every year. What many of them don’t realise, however, is that the transition from school to university can be a lonely one, fraught with unexpected challenges. MiWay’s MiHeart Project is evolving to prepare learners to navigate this scary time in a young person’s life. Former mentee from Maphutha High School in Tembisa, and a current bursary holder, in her final year of university, Yolanda Mussana tells us how she adapted successfully to university life.
Yolanda is now in her final year of studying towards a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science Degree at Eduvos, a private university in Midrand. She says the MiHeart Leaders in the Making Mentorship Programme helped her to build confidence and self-esteem and push herself harder.
In her words:
The personal mentorship I received from MiWay executives when I was in Grade 12 helped prepare me for university, which is so different from school.
At first, I found university challenging – the classes were much longer than at school, and there always seemed to be too little time to complete the work. It felt a little overwhelming and it was difficult to remain focused in a 3-hour class. I had to adjust and come up with new study methods, and I had to keep things as practical as possible so that my interest level remained at its peak. I found creative ways to figure out how I will apply the things I learnt in in the real world. The emotional highlights and low points had everything to do with the workload. I had to start studying a semester in advance so that when tests came, I wouldn’t have to start studying from scratch.
Shortly after I enrolled in university, the COVID-19 lockdowns were imposed, so we had to transition to online classes. While there were challenges such as finding a quiet place to study at home, I found this easier in terms of time management. The pandemic taught me some much-needed lessons on how to manage my time better. I didn’t have to attend classes on campus, so that worked to my advantage – I was able to study at my own pace and I had enough time to do research on certain topics.
Overall, I think the mentorship and guidance I received as part of the MiHeart Leaders in the Making Programme equipped me with self-discipline, and that helped me to handle the transition to university and then home-based study better than many of my peers.
My advice to Grade 12s who are preparing for university is to enjoy, have fun, and connect with people. You won’t find the workload too much to handle if you choose the right course – something you are really interested in. It’s also important to focus on time management: try to study daily instead of waiting for things to pile up, because that becomes stressful when exam time approaches.
I recently chatted to registered counsellor Jeanette Masina, who works with the MiWay MiHeart Programme. What a relief to hear from her that my story is not unusual – it’s great knowing that I’m not the only one who has found this a bit daunting.
Here’s what she had to say:
“Transitioning from school to university can be a massive change for young people. There are so many adjustments you have to navigate – academically, culturally and socially.”
“Academically, you may be transitioning from an environment in which you were guided every step of the way, whereas you have to take full responsibility for your learning at university. Then you also have to transition to an environment where there may be thousands of students and vast campuses. You also have to deal with the basics of university culture and language, with new phrases, and multiracial and multicultural environments.
“For some, the fear of simply getting lost on campus causes anxiety. Socially, you now need to establish new friendships and fit in with a new environment, with new people and potentially new peer pressure. For many, homesickness and affordability are major problems. It can feel overwhelming.”
I love that Aus Jeanette agrees with me: “Preparing youth to make this change starts with empowering them to manage change. It needs to start with you being in touch with your emotions, possessing tools for self-care on an emotional level. You need to know it’s ok to be sad or angry, but you must also be given tools to navigate this. We need to help our young people redefine ‘a strong person’ and give them the message that it’s ok to be vulnerable and seek help.”
For me, as a young person navigating my way in a new world, I love that Aus Jeanette has adopted this approach in her counselling of young MiHeart Leaders in the Making mentees.
While MiHeart focuses on important basics such as computer literacy, it also aims to boost our independence, skills in self-care, self-management, time management and financial management, as well as stress management. This is important for me as it’s helped me to embrace change and enjoy the university experience.