There is no better word to describe my week, but overwhelmed. I don’t know what I expected for my first week of school at UCT, but it was not this.
Starting at UCT, is like being a freshman again – but worse. I rode the bus to campus on Monday excited to finally be going back to school and get to meet people in my classes. My first class was at the opposite side of campus from where the bus stopped which I had no problem with because I thought it would be nice to have the chance to walk campus first thing and experience the full place. I stepped off the bus at upper campus, and my feelings of excitement quickly faded. It took me all of 2 seconds to realize this was not TCU. UCT is at least 3x as big as TCU so when I stepped off the bus I was greeted with herds of students. It felt like New Year’s Eve in Times Square – people moving in every direction, people becoming human roadblocks as they greet each other after the long summer break, people pouring out of buildings after class…
It really did not hit me until this moment, what it meant to go to a school 3x as big as what I am used to. People everywhere. I pushed my way through the crowds and made it to my first class: Empires and Modernities. The professor greets the class, “Welcome history majors, or at least until the end of the year…” Shoot what did I just sign up for? It can’t be that hard right? It is just history. I just have to memorize every fact, and I’ll be good. The class goes on, and I realize that the professor starts his lecture assuming we have an extensive knowledge of South African History – well duh they grew up here, but uhh I can’t remember the last time I saw the option to learn about South African history, so I’m screwed. I go through the syllabus and I see that I have to write 10 papers for this class…what is school… Class one concludes and I’m already so panicked fort he rest of the semester. All I can think is about how much extra work this class is going to be.
But, I have to get to physics…which is over by the bus stop…
I once again feel like a salmon swimming upstream. I swear I pass more people than TCU’s entire population on my way to class. If I wasn’t already overwhelmed and anxious enough, this definitely didn’t help. Frazzled, I get to physics late and rush to a seat. Science, I can do this.
I get home after class, and the overwhelming feeling returns. My service learning class is going to be cancelled because not enough people signed up for the class. This is one of the reasons I picked this program in Cape Town. I can’t even describe how frustrated I was at this point. I couldn’t just drop this class, but I needed to find another class that worked with my schedule and that I didn’t think was also going to kill me.
Tuesday comes. I walk through the thousands of people to history, which once again, I’m scribbling notes of things to look up later. Scramble back to the other side of campus to physics. Then I have an hour before my next class. I walk back to their equivalent of The Commons or the BLUU – Jammie Stairs. There are tons of people sitting there enjoying the weather, the company of others, and lunch. This is the first time that it really soaked in that I was alone. I know a total of 18 other people on this campus of more than 28,000 people. Where were all the familiar faces that I was used to at TCU? I realized I couldn’t walk around and find someone I know to hang out with. I can’t walk through the library and find someone to hang out with. I can’t text my friend and have them meet me for lunch.
I am alone.
This is when it hit that it sucks. I thought it would be more like freshman year – everything new and exciting and you are so lost and confused about what is going on. But as a freshman, you are surrounded by people going through the same thing and your friend group is likely established by your dorm. But, I don’t have this dorm experience and the people around me in classes are second year and up and already have their friends and saving seats in the class for their friends. On top of this, after going through 2.5 years of college, you no longer have the invincible attitude that you can conquer any class, and when people say a class is hard or if you don’t do this you will fail, you take it much more seriously.
I sat on the stairs and just took it all in. I’m so used to being in a routine of knowing people and having a friend group already established. I sat on the stairs and just took it all in. I missed home. I missed my friends. I missed familiar and comfortable. But, this is experience will be what I make it. I will get to know people, it just takes time.
I went to my anthropology class next. Here came the overwhelming and anxious feelings. We spent all class talking about theories and philosophical things and man those just aren’t my forte. I think like a science person not like all these anthropology majors. I left so overwhelmed for this entire semester.
Since then, I have continued to freak out about classes multiple times everyday. Should I take _____ instead and drop ______? How in the world am I going to get all this done? How am I going to survive? How am I going to be able to experience everything South Africa has to offer with all the school? And I also learned that the classes have “Tuts” (tutorials), so even more time I have to spend in class each week.
Shout out to my mom who has listened to quite a few panicked about life phone calls this week. You’ve been a lifesaver.
I wish I could say that I am no longer overwhelmed, but the rest of the semester still has me stressed out with finding a balance between school and experiencing all that Cape Town and South Africa has to offer. The hardest part is just how differently class time is organized and how grades are calculated. The homework is different and almost only readings, and I’ve been told by multiple people that if you don’t keep up with the reading you will fail…. (Yes, I am writing this blog to avoid all the readings I am a week behind doing opps.) I did find a fun class to replace my service learning class – African Instruments. I don’t have a musical bone in my body so we will see how this goes, but all international students take it so how hard could it be?
So I’ve been all over the place this week. But a few highlights from this week to say that yea i am having a great time despite the stress and anxiety of school –
Saturday: I climbed Table Mountain (a natural wonder of the world)
Sunday: I got to visit a church and absolutely loved it!
Tuesday: I climbed Lion’s Head (another popular mountain in Cape Town) for sunrise before class. I also went to the church’s College mid-week ministry which was really awesome.
Thursday: I ventured down to the Waterfront and walked around with a friend for a while.
I am looking forward to meeting people through the clubs I have joined – hiking, gymnastics – and in my classes. I am really excited that I got the chance to get involved with the community and volunteer with SHAWCO Health and get involved at the church, Common Ground Church, that will be my home for the next four months.
And I have some exciting things to look forward to this next week – shark cage diving, a church retreat, and ELLIE IS COMING TO CAPE TOWN!!!!!!!
Hope I survive to update on my adventures 🙂