Many students ask me to advise them on how to navigate life through university without falling in the trap that has made many to perish. In most cases, students arrive at the university having very limited understanding of what a university is and the challenges they are bound to face.
While at high school, they are babied and directed at every stage. The bell is there to signal what they should be doing at every hour. At home, if they are lucky to have strict parents, they are monitored and policed closely. But the university is a totally different cup of tea or if you like, a different glass of wine.
I have always found myself advising the students that once they step at the university, then the only thing that can save them is a heightened sense of self preservation. With this and some discipline, a student can make it through the turmoil of university life.
The university comes with some degree of freedom that requires to be managed. Failure to manage it leads to big trouble. The university students come from different backgrounds. There are those who are naïve, trusting and dignified while we have those who have hard exposure to drugs and all manner of undignified behaviour.
A good number of the freshers’ arrive at the university without having had any experience in intimate relationships. Unaware of dangers involved, a number of them end up getting pregnant in first year or contracting HIV/AIDS.
The excitement that comes with such relationships sometimes sweeps them off the ground and they forget why they are at the university. I have always advised my students not to fall in love, but to steadily walk through it.
Incidentally, research has shown that over ninety five percent of students know that HIV/AIDS exists, but a negligible number think they can be infected. So they believe it is for other people and not students!
All first year university students need to know that there are many hyenas ready to destroy their lives. These predators hover around universities like hawks ready to pounce on a hen. There are those who want to recruit students into all manner of things including drug abuse, lesbianism, homosexuality and other unnatural things.
Drug barons target university students because they are vulnerable due to their age. Sponsors are also on the loose at universities and are ready to spend thousands to attract university ladies.
First year students should understand the basics about life. Some of them will be achievers and others will be failures in life depending on how they conduct themselves for the four or so years they will be at the university.
Some students come from rich and others from poor families. But the worst is to pretend to be what one is not. If your pocket money can only cater for porridge for lunch and githeri for supper, you have to learn to live within your means.
The university provides a good opportunity for students to dream big. It is good to dream. If you do not dream of being somebody of value to society, then you will be wasting your time at the university. When you stop dreaming of being of value to your parents, siblings and society then you loose control. That is why university students should always avoid, ignore and steer away from failure messages and people who do not add value to their lives.
It is important to remember that those who succeed at the university are those who set goals. In fact that is what distinguishes successful students from unsuccessful students. Successful students set specific goals then devise a plan of achieving those goals. They also decide on the price they are willing to pay.
You must think of achieving your goal every day. Not one day should pass before you dream and think about the goal you set. You have to desire and crave to succeed. This desire must become an obsession. This will make you take calculated risks.
I am convinced that the university is the best ground for students to unlock their potential. How can you do this? You have to first appreciate the fact that you do not utilize all your potential. In life, most people only use 10% of their potential. Those who use about 25%, of their potential are called geniuses! Sadly most of us live and die having utilized less that 80% of our potential!
One other thing that university students do not know is how to manage their time. The truth is that you cannot achieve your goals if you do not know how to manage time however good those goals are. Without proper management of time very little can come from your endevours. You must plan every minute and hour of your life at the university and engage in only those activities that grow you mentally, socially, morally and physically.
It is valuable to know that your life does not just “happen.” Whether you know it or not, it is carefully designed by you. The choices you make determine the kind of life you will lead. In your decisions, you are unconsciously choosing happiness, sadness, poverty, success or failure.
You have to step into the university with courage and a desire to learn more. Just remember that every moment, every situation, provides a new possibility. And in realizing this, you get a perfect opportunity to do things differently and produce a better you.
Those who put first things first always succeed. To live a more balanced existence at the university, you have to recognize the fact that you should not do everything that comes along. You have to learn to say NO. Once you learn this, you will be able to focus on your highest priorities. This is what you can call life management and time management
Finally, all first year students need to learn how to listen. In my experience as a teacher for many for many years, I have learnt that students only listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. You listen to yourself as you prepare in your mind what you are going to say and the questions you are going to ask. Students filter everything they hear through their life experiences and frame of reference.
Consequently, they decide prematurely what the other person means before she finishes communicating. It is no wonder most of the university students claim that their parents and lecturers do not understand them! Do not be silly. Learn to listen to wise counsel.
-Prof. Egara Kabaji is the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Planning, Research and Innovation at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST) [email protected]
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