I Am UWC: Samantha Waugh’s Winding Road To First Year Success
Nursing student Samantha Waugh was recently honoured for earning the top marks of all 2015 first year students in the Faculty of Community and Health Sciences. She took a winding road to get to that top spot - but it was worth it.
She’s a Capetonian, born and bred - she spent most of her life in the Durbanville area, matriculating from Fairmont High School. Then she took a gap year, working and travelling in the Netherlands, came back to study Human Life Sciences and Psychology for a year at Stellenbosch University, and found the course wasn’t quite the right fit (“I wanted to work with people on a more interpersonal level than the laboratory,” she says).
So she worked and travelled a bit more, including a rewarding stint as a product manager at a tourism company (“It took a few false starts and wrong turns to find out exactly where I want to be”), and finally applied - in secret to study Nursing at the University of the Western Cape, only telling her friends and family once she’d received her letter of acceptance.
After all that, here’s what Samantha has to say about her studies, her secrets to success and her aspirations...
What was it like doing your first year at UWC?
Seeing as I wasn’t coming fresh from high school, I wasn’t confident in my study methods, and I could hardly remember how to use my brain for academics - and the level at which you learn at university is a lot more demanding than high school level. But it wasn’t as big a jump as when I initially started studying the first time: when you move from high school to university, you’re no longer treated as a child, and you alone determine your success. The responsibility of being so independent in such a short space of time can be overwhelming - luckily I got used to it while I was working.
So why Nursing?
I’ve always been interested in the human body and medicine, and completely fascinated by how they work together. In fact, from a young age I collected medical articles - which I still have to this day - and I would spend my spare time reading and re-reading these articles. I also love working with people, and having skills that can improve a person’s well-being. My studies have taught us that treating patients is a team job - doctors working alongside nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, dieticians, etc. We all treat our patients with dignity and respect, and we’re all equally valuable. But Nursing gives you the opportunity to work with patients throughout their stay in the hospital - the smallest things can make a person’s entire experience better or worse, and I strive to be one of those aspects in a hospital stay that makes it a better or easier experience.
So what’s the secret? How did you do so well?
I have no secret - sorry! I just know that I’ve chosen this path for myself. I pay for my own studies, I live on my own, I left my job to pursue this desire I had - and I’ve going to make the most of it. I attend classes, challenge myself to do the work I need to, put in my study time - not all that different from my fellow students, really.
Fondest first year memory?
Well, I don’t think I can single it down to one event - the entire year felt like a never-ending roller coaster of new experiences! The orientation day at hospital was really exciting and extremely daunting at the same time. Nothing could have prepared us for the clinical setting, and actually when it came to working with patients, experiencing doctors intervening in life-threatening situations, watching people suffer through disease, illness or pain. I feel that all my experiences in all the different wards have been the best experience - substantially rewarding or painfully heartrending, and each one making me a better future nursing practitioner or person in general.
So what do you get up to when you’re not studying?
I work part time in the evenings, so sadly I hardly find time for hobbies - unless you count singing along to songs at the top of my lungs while driving… But on a serious note, I like to braai, read, occasionally get to gym - that kind of thing.
Where to from here? Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I have many aspirations; I let myself dream big, as this helps me strive towards completing my studies, and having goals set for myself in the future only helps me to be more determined daily. And as cliche as this might sound, I want to make a difference with the skills I’m learning.
I see so many opportunities to improve the conditions for people who are suffering from disease or ailments in this country. I would like to have my own health-providing service of some sort - perhaps a mobile clinic - or have a project focused on giving support to people who are suffering alone and don’t have a family or support system.
Anybody you’d like to send a shout-out to?
I’d like to acknowledge my mother and family, who have always motivated and supported me with all my endeavours - as well as my partner, Jacques. I wasn’t once told, “You can’t do it”; they’ve always cheered me on, provided me love and support, and said, “You go, girl!” And thanks also to my secret weapon during my studies - Marcella Raimondi, a good friend who’s been a good influence on my studies; we challenge each other in a good way, and we both work hard together on our studies.