Sam Hill, a new student journalist at Wits Vuvuzela, reflects on her transition from Pretoria to Johannesburg. 

At the beginning of 2017, I was so sure of myself. I was entering my final year of studying a BA English Studies degree at the University of Pretoria (UP). I knew everything about my campus – where the best place to get an iced coffee was, which was different from the best place to get a hot coffee. I could walk to my lectures without needing to look up from my phone because I was so confident in my surroundings. I would often stop to greet people I knew between classes. I was even protective about my seat in the library, the one that was by the window but missed the afternoon sun so I wasn’t blinded while working my way through Jane Eyre. I wasn’t just visiting my comfort zone, I had pulled up a chair and was binge-watching Netflix in it.

The start of 2018 could not have been more different as I started my new adventure here at Wits. I found myself driving to a foreign campus in traffic every morning. I often had to use Google Maps so I didn’t get lost on my way home. The only time I stopped to chat with someone on campus was when I was asking directions as I often got lost. Wits seemed huge compared to the compact (and logically organised) main campus of UP. In my first week at Wits I saw more of its campus than I saw of UP in my first year. At least my Fitbit was ecstatic that I was making my 10 000 step goal every day.

On top of navigating my way through a new university, I began my honours in Journalism. No longer could I SparkNote my way through tests. Journalism requires you to be in the know and the now. Suddenly I had to consult maps to find buildings in order to talk to people, who even experienced Wits students didn’t know existed. I had to learn to follow up, buckle down and try remember the names of all the cabinet members … only to have them reshuffled a week later. I felt that I was at a disadvantage since almost all of my classmates have studied at Wits. They had already learned where to park and knew what ‘Sakai’ was. I was struggling to build up a contact list while my classmates had abundant sources that they had collected over the course of their undergrad years.

While standing in the line to get a new student card I met a first year and, even though I had already battled through three years of university, we shared similar concerns. I felt 18-years-old all over again, brand new and slightly terrified. The world was too big and I was too small. I had been evicted from my warm and cosy comfort zone.

Now that I am a couple of weeks in, I can find parking like a seasoned pro and I even discovered that WAM (the Wits Arts Museum) makes a pretty great cappuccino. I no longer feel like I’m at a disadvantage. By starting out fresh, I pushed myself to meet new people and gather contacts. I even faced my irrational fear of talking to people on the phone, something that I didn’t need to do in my comfort zone. Although I’ll miss the familiarity of UP, I’m ready to be uncomfortable for a while. Plus, UP doesn’t have Matrix spring rolls.