Youth connect Education

Unspoken struggles

Staying visible One of the pressures of college.

Staying visible One of the pressures of college.   | Photo Credit: Yogesh Mhatre

Being a college student is not easy — the challenges and struggles are real; and systems to help one deal with them should be put in place

Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook messenger…smartphones, tablets…travelling to different destinations, eating at new restaurants, wearing branded clothes…big dreams, high consumerism, instant gratification — the life of today’s youth is filled with multiple choices. Some take the lead and use the platform to showcase their expression through dance competitions, music festivals, art shows, debates, whereas many struggle to find their rhythm amidst the chaos.

Pressure to be visible:

The need to be seen doing cool things or trying something new has become tremendous. I was eating at a restaurant with a few young students, when one of them started clicking and posting photographs. Surprised, I asked, “What’s going on?” and the immediate answer was, “I need to click quickly before someone spoils the plate, and share on Insta with my friends.” There was less focus on all of us who were there and more attention on being visible externally.

Not easy to make friends:

The campus, teachers, and students are nothing like Rahul and Anjali of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai or Ro, Abhi and Shanaya from Student of the Year. Some get into relationships to either look cool, or hang out to cope with the pressure. “It takes time to make friends after the comfort of familiar faces from school, since college has a medley of cultures. Sometimes, it gets lonely,” said one student. I was surprised to learn that making friends is often challenging.

New-found freedom:

There are no fixed hours, no uniform, no restrictions — there is freedom to come and go, and no one to watch what you are up to. College life is a big shift from the sheltered and structured environment of school. Often, clothes and accessories become a statement of identity. Drinks, experimental drugs, and smoking become easier to access when there are no boundaries.

Peer pressure:

The pressure to live up to an image adds to the academic stress. Students look around to see how to fit in, how to feel safe, who to talk to, or what to wear. I have met many students who are on a variety of diets or fitness regime to look good. A few years ago, I was conducting a leadership workshop at a leading management institute and the students would nudge or look at each other before responding to the questions. Not wanting to look bad or fail in front of their friends held them back from voicing their thoughts.

Pressure to get a job:

I have worked with students who have great ideas, but limited patience to study and plan their path to success. They are impatient and want to become successful entrepreneurs overnight. Once, when teaching a course in leadership at a leading management institute in India, what stood out was that only 2% of the class was there to learn, the other 98% was only keen to know interview hacks and get a job.

Possible solutions:

This generation is our future and we owe it to ourselves to provide them with tools to grow into resilient and responsible human beings. Each student has different capabilities, intelligences and capacities. While many colleges conduct personality assessment tests, it would be helpful to make students understand and apply that knowledge to appreciate diversity and harness their potential. Having counselling centres at colleges to offer a safe space for students to share their fears and speak vulnerably to deal with the social pressures, will help. Also, creating social interest groups would be a great way to contribute to the society and channelise their energy.

The writer is a Leadership Coach.

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Printable version | Jul 6, 2020 12:47:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/unspoken-struggles/article29414984.ece

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