From undergrad struggles to postgrad success
By Miriam Hokee, 24, Johannesburg
‘I’m so proud of you’, were words I heard from my parents consistently and sincerely over the four years that I spent at Wits University. Being the first person with my surname to attend university was a huge achievement for both myself and my family. The day I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts degree was a day that I will never forget, and a large part of it was because of the looks on my parent’s faces as we walked through the corridors of the university to the Great Hall. It was a joyous day filled with love, positivity and high hopes for the future. For myself, and for many of my fellow peers it was the outcome of years of studying and dedication. It also marked the end of a journey that was fraught with financial roadblocks and worries.
At the end of my matric year, waiting anxiously for my results, it felt as though the biggest hurdle was to be accepted into university. After that, the next three years would be something out of a prospectus booklet – or so I thought. Coming from a working-class background, the topic of money had always been a stressful one, and attending university brought a plethora of new financial worries. Registration fees, textbooks, travel costs and university fees felt like constant obstacles on top of impending essay deadlines and exam stress. Seeing my parent’s sacrifices during the three years of my undergraduate degree motivated me to work hard in my final year and achieve good results.
I was fortunate enough to be given funding by Wits and the National Research Foundation during my Honours year, and this enabled me to focus fully on my studies and pass what was a very academically rigorous year. The takeaway from this should not be that my years at university were filled with doom and gloom – in fact it is the complete opposite. I made wonderful memories as well as growing personally and academically. However, it would be inaccurate to say that there were no challenges. Being one of many people that are the first generation in their family to attend university, I am hopeful that this bodes well for a future where university funding is more readily available to those who deserve it, youth unemployment is no longer endemic and ultimately future generations are able to pursue their studies without worrying about any looming financial problems.
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