University life: a dream or a nightmare?

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The Academic Experience Project

Whether in a public or private institution, university life has the ability to play a huge role in shaping the lives of students. Photo: Ranak Martin

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Whether in a public or private institution, university life has the ability to play a huge role in shaping the lives of students. Photo: Ranak Martin

The Academic Experience Project is a teacher-student collaborative effort to gather information about the experiences of tertiary-level students. Every Friday, The star of the day publishes an editorial outlining its findings. Today is the third article in the series.

University life is going to be the best time of your life! We often hear this growing, and yet when we reach this level, we find that it is not at all what we expected. So what exactly did we expect and why are we not satisfied?

The Academic Experience Project, which grew out of a class project, showed that the quality of life on campus and that of academic programs jointly contribute to determining whether students end up being satisfied with their university life. The students come from a variety of backgrounds. While this can provide an exciting socializing opportunity for some, for others it can be a stressful experience. With their newfound sense of freedom, participating in club activities or spending time together after class is something many students look forward to. However, introverted students and those who come from diverse neighborhoods often suffer from anxiety as they fear being accepted in their new surroundings. The high cost of education, especially in private universities, can also weigh on the minds of many. Those who come out with flying colors from their pre-college exams and are admitted to a public university worry less about these costs.

Then there are those who struggle with the demands of their studies. Many come to universities hoping to learn exciting new things and grow with the challenges they expect to face. The lucky ones even find help in the form of like-minded and compassionate peers or elders. Some participate in debates and contests in addition to classes. A large number of students end up having to deal with the same traditional method of learning – memorizing materials that are not even updated in the context of a rapidly changing world. They start wondering what they are even learning in college and wondering if their academic experience will really help them in real life, especially when looking for a job and building a career. They fail to experience and enjoy a rich learning process and end up being miserable and unable to associate positively with their educational institution.

Some students seek campuses with open grounds and gardens, while others seek state-of-the-art lab facilities and extensive libraries. There are still others who come with big dreams of doing something exceptional, for the benefit of society and the country as a whole. They expect the university to be where they will find the big idea and expert guidance to move this initiative forward. Many universities fail to meet these expectations.

So what can universities do for the multitudes who feel miserable and continue to struggle through their undergraduate years and beyond? This is a question that needs to be addressed at many levels: from educational planners and policy makers to university administrators, faculty members and even students themselves.

For starters, universities can draw realistic pictures of themselves during the orientation program so students know what they’re signing up for and what kind of expectations to set. Universities could also organize interactive and fun sessions to help students settle in and socialize. In addition, they can adopt a more accessible and responsive attitude towards student complaints, seeing them as areas for improvement.

Whether we want to face the facts or not, the fact is that the educational experience of students allows for very little exploration and self-discovery, especially in terms of extracurricular activities. While it may be difficult to adapt this option to primary and secondary education levels at present, universities can play a huge role in introducing their students to a range of people from backgrounds, experiences and interests and taking them beyond book knowledge. Lecturers, artists, social workers, and a plethora of professional, social, and even political figures can be invited to campus to engage and enlighten students.

It is also high time to move away from the mentality of “only doctor-engineer-entrepreneur is acceptable” to accept the fact that students can have a passion and talents in areas other than these traditional professions. Researchers, painters, filmmakers, adventurers, musicians and writers can all get their start in the coveted “university life”. Authorities will also be pleased to find that with the right platform and support, students will come forward on their own to form clubs, find activities to participate in, share ideas they have burst out presenting and even find funding for various after-school programs. Activities. Additionally, faculty members might also have a lot to offer beyond the typical classroom slides and lectures.

Whether in a public or private institution, university life has the ability to play a much greater role in shaping the lives of its students. They are not robots that can generate productivity on demand. As human beings, their productivity will always be linked to happiness, the search for motivation and pleasure. Students and authorities must work together to transform university life into an enriching and diverse experience where one can add the highest value to oneself. And together they can become the most important co-creators of a better nation.

Sifat Zereen is working on her MBA at IBA, University of Dhaka. Syed Saad Andaleeb is Emeritus Professor Emeritus of Pennsylvania State University and former Vice Chancellor of BRAC University. The article is the result of his collaboration with IBA students to shine the spotlight on higher education in Bangladesh. For more information about the Academic Experience Project, contact Dr. Andaleeb at [email protected]

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