I take out a few plain worn t-shirts and faded blue jeans from my washing basket and load the hollow washing machine. Unconscious of a pair of eyes on me, I hear a girl’s voice suddenly asking me, “Is that all you’re washing?”

Without thinking, my immediate response is, “I don’t have many clothes.” Looking rather surprised she points to the two machines in front of her loaded with clothes, saying that those are hers. Suddenly feeling conscious of my appearance I fake a smile and walk away.

It is very easy to get side-tracked along the way as you embark on your university experience in a new world filled with students and complete freedom. You are on your own, like a baby bird learning to fly for the first time in the real world, unknown to what is out there.

As I walked up on my very first day up the famous Jammie steps, I heard loud noises of people chanting. I assumed that there must be some sort of protest or strike taking place, but as my journey up the steps came to an end, I saw a huge circle of students with blue T-shirts dancing and singing. I also noticed a sign that said ‘Welcome to the humanities faculty’. But I did not feel excited, I felt overwhelmed as I have a phobia about large crowds. Eventually I found a spot in the corner and watched as new students entered the circle and joined in the singing and dancing.

My first week was quite overwhelming – there were so many events planned for us first year students. I settled into my residence and tried to adapt to my new surroundings and to sharing a shower with other girls. I also had a roommate who is an albino and speaks Xhosa. My residence is very diverse in culture and languages and this was a new experience for me, and I worried about whether I would adapt or fit in. I had to find myself in this new environment which was very challenging for me.

I have a hard time socialising or being in a crowd so I was prone to stay in my room which made me feel extremely lonely. I watched as other students made it look so easy to make new friends while I sat alone in a corner and ate my dinner. I began to feel depressed and down. Coming from a poor financial background, I did not have trendy clothes to dress up like other students and this made me feel different and insecure.

Standing in the line among other students waiting for the Jammie bus so early in the cold morning, dreading being awake so early, I would notice the latest fashion trends worn by other students. It was like a window display as you walk through the mall shops where fake models are used to gain buyers and I wondered if the purpose was the same here.

Their hair fresh out from the salon, their trendy dresses, accentuating eye makeup, and accessories from their stiletto heels to their classy hair accessories. I began to think of myself, my simple style of blue jeans, T-shirts and the same old sneakers. Do the clothes you wear reflect the person you are? As Shakespeare once said, ‘Clothes maketh the man’. But I read somewhere once that ‘the prettiest fish is hidden under the ugliest rock’. Therefore never judge someone according to their appearance because they might be the most beautiful person you could ever met.

Even if I stood there in a tight mini skirt and wore makeup to accentuate my eyes I just would not be Felina. I realised that I would rather not fit into the social norms of fashion but rather be comfortable in my own skin. The famous saying ‘birds of the same feather flock together’ are indeed visible in my new surroundings among students, but I am not about to change who I am to be socially accepted. I would rather be accepted for who I am and have no friends then be who I am not and have millions of friends. It is not worth losing yourself.


Have you had any similar experiences? Tell us what you think.