[intro]This section of The Journalist has been a platform for new voices since our launch in August last year. This week first year student, Erica Dibela, from the University of the Free State (UFS) shares how she stepped out of her comfort zone and submerged herself into a new space successfully.[/intro]

When I moved to Bloemfontein from Knysna in the South Cape at the beginning of this year I knew things were going to change and that I would have to compromise one way or the other. I was very excited about the new languages and new things that I was going to learn. The first time I got there everyone sounded so different to me and I had to speak English to black students. That was when I decided to make friends who actually spoke those languages so that I could learn from them. Interestingly enough they also wanted to learn my languages which are isiXhosa and Afrikaans. I made friends, some of whom spoke Zulu, Pedi, Sotho, Swati and Venda. So one can imagine the diversity we have within our little society.

This time last year I felt as if all I wanted was for the year to end. I couldn’t wait to leave home and go to varsity. I had stayed in the same place for far too long and the culture was also becoming boring to me. It was about time that I moved to a different environment and experienced new things with new people. My Afrikaans teacher said to me, “Erica, jy kan nie jou hele lewe lank op dieselfde plek bly nie. “Jy is nog jonk. Gaan na ander plekke toe, meng met ander mense, leer nuwe dinge en geniet die lewe, my kind.”

She was telling me if I really want to make it in life and be the journalist I’ve always wanted to be, I would have to be flexible and open minded. I also wanted to know more than three languages and that is why I decided to attend the University of the Free State instead of attending a university in the Western Cape.

In this year, 2015,I went from being a high school pupil to a varsity student, from having curfews, to total freedom, from wearing uniform five times a week sometimes even six times because of Saturday classes, to no uniform at all. All these things excited me when I thought about them. I no longer had to hear the annoying school bell every time we have to move from one point to another.

The lesson that I learnt this year is if one is open minded, you will be making life easy for yourself. I had to step out of my comfort zone and learn new things and different languages. Even though it was not easy, I enjoyed each moment. In making this effort, I find that I have leapt forward. And now for 2016…