Excitement filled the air as thousands of first-year students, together with their parents and family members, made their way to the University of the Western Cape (UWC) for the start of Orientation 2015.
The University was a hive of activity as new students explored the campus, attended talks and workshops, signed up for classes and learnt more about UWC's cultural, sporting, social, political and recreational life.
Professor Tyrone Pretorius, the new Rector and Vice-Chancellor, had some words of wisdom to share at the official welcome, "To the commencing class of 2015 – this is truly the spring of your life, a time of new beginnings. And the great thing about new beginnings is that it allows one the opportunity to start over. It allows one the space to put to bed everything that happened in the past. You being here today, the life stories of each and every one of you is in its own way inspirational. We know that for many of you, being here today despite the tremendous odds and adversity you faced in your life represents your own personal triumph. Let me ask you to display that same resilience during your three or four years of studies at UWC."
Almost every faculty (with the exception of the BA programme) at UWC recorded an increase in applications for the 2015 academic year. Of the approximate 27,000 first-year applications received for the 2015 academic year, UWC will register approximately 5,000 first-year students.
Prof Pretorius praised the latest cohort of UWC students by acknowledging the challenges our youth face pertaining to access to tertiary education: "This matriculating class is truly a remarkable group of people. Of the cohort of approximately 1.2 million who started grade one in 2003, you are among 550,000 who have persevered and progressed to Grade 12. Of the original 1.2 million you are one of only 11% who passed with a matriculation endorsement that allows you to pursue a bachelor’s degree at a university... Every one of you that has been selected has stood out and every one of you has great potential. We know that thousands of matriculants all over South Africa, are experiencing deep disappointment at not having secured access to tertiary education."
Vuyani Sokaba, President of the Student Representative Council (SRC), said at the official welcome, "The SRC believes that with your arrival you will be helping in catapulting the already soaring image of UWC, you will be adding to the already overflowing vase of intellectual gratitude, you will be solidifying the exceptional foundation already laid by those before you."
The enthusiasm of the latest cohort of students was infectious, particularly as some students are first generation university students:
Akeela Ras said, "I am very excited and nervous at the same time. I am doing a BA and cannot wait to start, but I think my mother is more excited than I am because I am a first generation student."
Niklas Grabe, a first-year Environmental Science student said, "I am from Germany and arrived in Cape Town two years ago, and so far loving it. I chose UWC because they offered the course I am interested in."
Deepesh Desai said, "I am going to do my first-year in Law and am very excited. I can't wait for classes to start."
Lihlelenkosi Nkala, a first-year BSc Computer Science student had this to say: "I was told UWC is the best uni for computer science."
Nothando Ndlovu, a first-year Nursing student said, "UWC offers great opportunities and is a highly recommended institution. I am very scared and nervous about uni but I will get used to it."
Prof Pretorius urged students to embrace this new chapter in their lives and to make full use of the opportunities provided by UWC to develop holistically: "You are now in the final stage of preparing yourself for your eventual role in society. Your university years are a time of new freedoms and opportunities, freedoms and opportunities to 'create' the you that you want to be during adulthood... This is the period, more than any other, that shapes the future direction of your life."