Adapting to University Life

Hundreds of thousands of students throughout Sri Lanka go through a major transition as they try adapting to university life. Both Asian and western research show that starting university provides a platform for many different transitions: Changes in family relations, seeking independence, new social networks, finding new academic demands and making adaptations to new styles of living. Being homesick, struggling to make new friends, struggling to retain your older identity even as your life is changing, attempting to live more independently while balancing the new found freedom along with the personal responsibility that comes with it, are few of the personal challenges students face during this period apart from the academic challenges such as having to adapt to new learning and teaching styles, language difficulties, lack of connection between the lectures and the students, lack of opportunity to voice out doubts and being in an environment of intense competition and fear (especially high ranked universities)

Many universities across the world have support systems and an extensive orientation period in order to ease the turmoil felt by students during this time with the inclusion of mentors, facilitators, support from senior students, clubs as well as student guidance centers, tutoring centers and counselling. In some of these aspects of supporting students through this important transition, Sri Lanka is still somewhat lagging behind.

To rectify this situation Forté proposes an innovative and comprehensive program based on extensive literature reviews of programs from other countries as well as a thematic analysis conducted on a sample of students from a reputed local university where they answered questions on the issues they faced during their first year of college life related to academic, personal, social and emotional challenges.

This program, called ‘Connecting for Success’, is based on the principles of connecting with oneself, one’s peers, and community and beyond one’s community. The program spans over the course of 6 weeks, during the pre-academic semester of college where the students will meet a main facilitator, and well-trained mentors once a week for 4 hours in batches. During each session the main facilitator will address the many topics of interest with the aid of the mentors who will provide individual support for the students during the reflective, personal activities and discussions.

The discussions include transitioning from school to university life, self awareness and self reflection, dealing with stress as a student, the need for achievement and confidence, independent problem solving skills, grooming for the right attitude and finally goal orientation and preparing for the world of work are some of broad areas of discussion. Each student will receive an accompanying workbook that will further facilitate the learning process. Individuals are encouraged to think and discuss the current situation of their own communities and to identify areas for improvement that can be made. Industry personnel will also be invited on the last day to assess the students on what they have learnt during the program.

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