[University] Half-Year Reflection

by Matt de Neef  |  IndeterminateBlog Team

It's a slight change of track from the previous uber-tech articles, but hey, our name does include indeterminate for a reason. (that's "unbounded" or "unlimited" in case you haven't caught up.) This is not an opinion on tech article, it's a personal reflection adding some tips to hopefully allow you some insight into studying engineering. If you're older, wiser, and maybe even graduated, or you're in first or second year but hold the "acclaimed genius" title, then you have two options. Firstly, just scroll down, you might like our OS comparison or Android insight articles. Or secondly, you could hit the forum and post helpful tips in General Discussion, or comment on this article to correct the possible rubbish you may have spotted in this piece.
Onward to the reflection then....



Don't blame the guy...
Engineering in and of itself is not easy. That's about as "doh" a statement as anyone could make. Claims have been tossed around about how it's harder than studying medicine (I say it is...[waits for firestorm...]) and how high the failure rates have been, and the single-digit percentages detailing the number of graduates who make it after 4 years doesn't help the cause. However, people still enroll. They still have a passion for doing it, and they still want to graduate in their fields. I am one of those who signed myself up for punishment in 2012. Now I am certainly not going to say I'm a high achiever. Those accolades go to the 96%+ aggregate holders among us, and to those people who are naturally brilliant, you don't need tips because you've got it down already. And that's fantastic. But for the majority of us here, it's the refreshing the Student Central page at the end of the semester with shattered nerves waiting for that all-important "Pass" code to appear next to your modules that sums up our engineering experience. Sups come, and go, and now it's holding onto the last little piece of holidays that we start thinking about how we got here. Maybe it's just me doing that thinking. Anyway, here's some random observations from this past semester which may or may no be of value to you.

  • UKZN-Specific: You'll get harassed by some or other admin staff member during the year for something or the other. Like submitting certificates, paying fees, submitting tuts, pracs, reports, whatever. The best thing you can do, is try find a contact for each university life aspect. What I mean is, get the number or email of the person who knows what's happening, say in finance. Get contact details for the Engineering academics people. Your head of discipline for your courses, get his/her email, it's the best thing you can do. 'Cause when the time comes and you need to contact the right person, you've got people who know to help you, and you won't get sent from one office to the next, from one phone-centre back again, up and down and all over the place as is UKZN's custom. Tip: Got details for the right people?  Post them in the forum, please do, you'll help everyone out!
  • Lecturers nag about coming to lectures. Do it. Yes there are some modules which it's pointless going to lectures (here's looking at you Fundamental Crim, why do we need this in CompEng??) and in that case, skip those and get work done from the more important modules. Personal note: I generally skipped my humanities elective to focus on the course which, if I failed it, would prevent me from doing most of next semester's modules.
    Good filing system? That's how I roll....
  • Bothering to have some kind of a filing system helps. That might sound dumb, and for some of you it might not work, but seriously, try it. Personal note: I found it useful, when studying for tests, to write study notes in a book instead of on exam pad paper which got lobbed in the bin anyways. The book really helped by exam time because it pretty much summed up the content to learn.


  • You'll probably have less of a social life than you did last year. Apparently you can say that at
    No words necessary.
    any year during a BSc Eng. That's how it is, sadly. If you chose Engineering it means a) you really want to get your degree or b) your time management is good enough that you can manage social living and engineering simultaneously. Now I'm not saying have no life, sure, have fun and do stuff, it'll make sure you don't lose your mind. Nobody can study all day every day. But if you constantly have a good time, and leave studying as an afterthought, your mates won't be impressed if you suddenly want to plagiarise all their work so you can pass. If you don't pass and you tried hard, then we have compassion. If you fail cause you were stuffing around, say cheers to your parents' money and stop complaining. 
  • There's a fairly good reason why UKZN wasted time and money and people setting up ASAP (the Academic Support people). They do extra tutorials, one-on-one help and mini-lecture sessions if you're stuck with stuff. Personal note: I put off ASAP because I reckoned I had it all covered. When I did end up going to an ASAP session I realized how helpful they were, but that was near the end of the semester. Get started earlier, obviously!
As much as you hate the module...
  • As lame as your current modules might seem or as unrelated as they appear to your particular field of study (Chem for EECE?) try to knuckle down and get through them anyway. You need the credits and you might learn something. Okay so that last part probably isn't true, but hey, you need the credits, right?


That about sums it up...
  • Group projects, ahh who knows why exactly they were invented. Just do your part is about the most useful advice I can give you. If your group members are being adult about the whole thing, you'll have a pretty good project. If they're not, you might have to resort to submitting your part alone, and explaining to the lecturer why the rest isn't there. I've managed to get lucky with my group members that they all pulled their weight, but it probably isn't the best idea to try do everyone else's work: failure on someone else's part to submit reflects, more often than not, on their mark. Certain scumbag lecturers may get all high-school on marking everyone down though, so gauge your lecturer's attitude accordingly.
  • If, like me, you enjoy tech, suppressing that is useful when you're trying to study. You know what you have to do, I won't say it, but rather leave you to stew. Personal note: Open your Android Facebook App, navigate to App Settings, and uncheck "Push Notifications." Enough said. For all you BlackBerry brethren, I'm sure you'll be able to ignore the "f" icon under your clock for a little while longer?
As the second semester gets ready to inflict more pain--uh I mean, work, on us, I'm resolving to follow my own tips better. There will have to be certain sacrifices, but all in all graduating at the end of my study period is the goal I'm going for. Having fun along the way shares a joint first, but it's toned down appreciably.

What about you? Have any more tips to share? Disagree with me on anything? Let us know in the forum or the comments. Thanks for reading!