Adapting to the new world, giving up is not an option.

When I moved to Wits University in February 2016 to pursue my Bachelor of Arts (General) degree, I thought I had everything figured out. The three months I had spent at home attending University of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania had made me believe I could handle everything.


I had made peace with myself that I would have to adapt into a new world and culture. The reality, however, was that it has not been easy being an international student.


The hardest thing for me was, not blending in, but it was the academic side of life. Coming from a Kiswahili-speaking country, speaking English was not my cup of tea and the consequences showed through my poor grammar and sentence structure in assignments and tests.


Culture shock and language barrier became a problem. It took me longer to understand what was said. I also had to practise critical thinking to help me become more objective by understanding others’ opinions.


Vocabulary is used differently which meant I had to constantly explain myself further, or to google unfamiliar words. For instance, back home if I wanted ask a person to accompany me, I would say, ‘please escort me”, but I found out that my Wits friends thought this made me bossy, and found ‘please walk me’ more acceptable.


After getting 18% for my first psychology test, I cried myself to sleep. At the end of the first semester, I didn’t even attain 50% average for two of my courses. That’s when I started telling myself that South Africa was not for me, that I should have rather stayed at home.


Thankfully, I decided to put into practice what I had always been taught: “You can never succeed on your own.”, I reminded myself that I had to ask for help with things that I did not understand or needed assistance with.”


Since making friends has never been difficult for me, all I had to do was to ask my friends for help. I learned more about grammar and sentence structure, and got people to show me how they wrote their essays so I could learn from them.


I took advantage of the assistance from the Faculty of Humanities Teaching and Learning Unit and I passed all my courses in first year and second year. Third year was even better, as I motivated myself that I had not come so far only to let hardship to get the better of me. I had to push for degree.


Having conquered my undergraduate studies, I told myself that an honours degree would be easy. Little did I know that every package comes with its own difficulties. Here I am back to square one, finding studying to be harder than before, with no window for giving up.


This year I am registered for honours in Journalism and Media Studies, and there are new challenges. As a student journalist, working on Wits Vuvuzela, I have to uphold professional journalism standards. I have to always double check the information I am given and seek multiple sources for each story, while working to the pressure of deadlines.


I must also separate my personal life from my professional because, as it is drummed into us all the time: “It is not about you.”


Still, I persevere because I have learnt that for every new thing I have to learn, there has to be a sacrifice. It’s a lesson everyone should learn whether they are a foreign student or not. Studying has never been easy for most people and it will never be. Giving up should never be an option until you have given your best.


Throughout my years at Wits, I have found motivation and encouragement in a stanza from the poem, Invictus, by William Ernest Henley:

“It matters not how strait the gate,

how charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.”


To my fellow international students, before you give up, think of why you came all the way in the first place.


FEATURED IMAGE: Rose Shayo posing outside the Wits Great Hall at the end of her graduation ceremony. Photo: Provided