From bad time management to graduating in good time – meet the UP alumna who started slow but finished on a high

Posted on June 13, 2023

“My first-year self would be shocked to see that I graduated within the minimum amount of time, let alone with distinction!”

These are the words of new University of Pretoria (UP) alumnus Yijen Hsieh, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Food Science, cum laude, during the 2023 autumn graduation season. 

“I was regularly disheartened because initially, I was underperforming in many of my assessments,” says Hsieh, who is enrolled in an honours degree in the same field. “I did not have much hope that I would pass my first year. But I am proud of myself for not giving up and not letting negative thoughts get in the way of my progress.”

For Hsieh, the difficult transition from high school to university could have contributed to her self-doubt.

“I had to learn to adapt my study methods and improve my time management skills to be on top of my studies,” she recalls. “I realised I could no longer be as carefree as I was at high school. I had to keep pushing myself to do well despite feeling exhausted.”

She says her biggest challenge was managing her time.

“I wanted to balance my time among my studies, family, friends and myself,” she says. “There were many moments when I felt burnt out, because I’d spend most of my time on my studies, rarely taking breaks to rest. I was able to overcome this thanks to reminders from my friends. I also took up hobbies such as reading books and magazines during my breaks.”

Above it all, she says the education she received at UP is top of the range, which is why she decided to further her studies at the same institution. Hsieh believes that alumni have a role in bettering their alma mater by providing financial support for improved infrastructure and services that can help enhance the learning experience of students. This financial support, she says, can also contribute to funding the tuition fees of underprivileged students. 

Hsieh attributes her achievement to her parents. She looks up to them because they faced many obstacles when they emigrated from Taiwan to South Africa in 1987.

“They worked hard to adapt and make a decent living in a foreign country,” says Hsieh, who was born in South Africa in 2000. “I want to be as resilient and ambitious as them. For the most part, I had a pleasant upbringing because my parents always tried to provide the best for me, even if it meant rarely taking a break from work. That is why getting my qualification with distinction was such a big thing for me – because not only did I make myself proud, but I made them proud too.”

Upon completing her honours degree, Hsieh plans to get work experience in various fields in the food industry, such as quality control, food safety and product development.

“After some time working in the food industry, I would like to also pursue a master’s degree in Food Science at UP,” she says.

- Author Xolani Mathibela

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