Making the big move to the big city

Posted on March 15, 2023

Starting your career as a university student can be a daunting task indeed, given all the adjustments which come with leaving home and high school, family and friends behind. When that new beginning includes a transition from life in a more rural environment to life in a more urban environment, it can all seem so overwhelming, almost too much to handle at one time.

Students like Ngilonde Mngomezulu, however, have proven that you can more than survive such changes to your life and lifestyle. You can come through them a stronger, more confident version of yourself, better prepared to take on the world and anything it throws your way.  Here below is a Q&A account of her story:


Who are you and where are you from?

My name is Ngilonde Mngomezulu and I am 18 years old. I was born and raised in the town of Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal. 

Can you describe what life was like back home?

I was raised by my grandparents and a single mother. I am a first born and I have four siblings. My family did not have a lot, but we never went to sleep with empty stomachs. My mother was working as a domestic helper, and my grandparents were dependent on pension money. We also relied on a government SASSA grant. Life was not really easy. I remember, when I was a toddler, I did not have toys like other children of my neighbourhood because we were struggling with finances at home. My siblings and I would sometimes go to school without pocket money. Still, I was very dedicated to my schoolwork in high school because I wanted to pass and come to university. I was so happy when I passed grade 12, obtaining a Bachelor pass with three distinctions. At home they were very proud of me because I was the first one to go to the university. 

What are you studying at UP?

I am enrolled at one of the best tertiary institutions in South Africa, UP, where I study Theology and Religion, now in my second year. 

What do you want to do when you graduate?

When I graduate, I want to work as a chaplain in the Department of Correctional Services, where I will be helping victims find closure, and prisoners who deal with mental health challenges. 

Where do you stay now?

I am staying in Eastwood Respublica Student Village, thanks to support from NSFAS. 

Can you tell us about your first week in Pretoria, adjusting to life on campus?

My first week in Pretoria was hard. We had no relatives in this city. I was with my mother and by the grace of the God, we were helped by a police woman who took us to her house and we stayed with her until I could settle in. Then I had to get used to living alone without family around me and also adjust to life on campus. Luckily in that first week, I was able to make a friend on campus who was studying the same course as mine.

What has been your best and worst experiences so far?

When I was doing my first year, in the first semester, I failed two modules.  I have to repeat them this year. That was my worst experience. My best experience so far was passing a module with a distinction, which encourages me to work hard in my academics so I can get distinctions for the other modules as well. 

What advice do you have for other students moving from the rural areas to the big city?

You must never forget where you come from and the reasons why you made the big move. Study hard to build the future you want so you can graduate and make your family proud.

Reaching out is an important resilience skill. The Department of Student Affairs is available to help UP students navigate university life.

- Author Ngilonde Mngomezulu and Dana Mahan

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