University is one of the most important stages of an individual’s life with ‘student life’ regarded as the most memorable part of Uni memories. Similar to Melbourne coffee culture, student life is a distinct culture that Monash University translates as: ‘Joining clubs, making new friends, getting involved with opportunities on campus and in general, cherishing shared experiences’. Over tacos and tequila at Sir John’s Bar, I discovered that Uni and the student experience keeps improving with each successive year. Better, in terms of adjusting to the grind of Uni life, starting and submitting assignments on the same day (possible, but not advisable), achieving HDs without a single textbook, laughing at innocent jaffys, knowing the cheapest everything on and around campus… the list is endless. As students, we tend to graciously or sometimes grudgingly accept all that is served on our plate during these 4 or so years. However, I wish to address several niggling problems that lurk beneath the facade of a vibrant campus experience. Let us remove the rose-tinted glasses for a while and explore the academic and non-academic issues that we experience, but rarely ever discuss (Stalkerspace memes do not count as discussion).
Studying at Uni is equivalent to a full-time workload. Lecture recordings are a lifesaver, especially for those who work/cannot make it to class, but even then, the stress of managing assignments is enough to unnerve a fifth year student. Sleep schedules are often the most abused among students because as Aster explains, “one can get so much work done in those hours” instead of wasting time. The casual attitude towards one’s body and its needs frightens me, because we are not as invincible as we believe. A study at Washington State University discovered that 55% of young adults aged 18-29 wake up feeling tired and craving more rest. Along with sleepiness, decreased concentration and subsequently lower grades, sleep deprivation is also linked to increased alcohol and drug use.
Fuelling the sleepy and stressed student culture, is the need to work to survive through exorbitantly priced degrees. Third year Arts/Law student Tash considers this a challenge, “weighing up between doing lots of hours at a job to live comfortably or sacrificing paid work to give myself more time to focus on Uni”. A friend working part-time at an administrative job shares that there is always too much pressure to compromise, either by means of a rushed assignment or taking a day off to study for an exam. We speak lightly of stress, but it suffocates us for a whole semester.
Other contributing factors include a fickle Eduroam, Moodle tantrums, pricey textbooks and parking permits that chew away at our thin wallets. Denise adds that there is a huge gap between lecture and tutorial questions, and having to teach oneself 50% of the unit is not exactly an enjoyable experience. Red Dinosaur considers dealing with inter-culturally incompetent staff as a struggle. Skipping lectures, feeling demotivated and discriminated against are just some of the problems that arise when teaching staff fail to engage in an approachable and patient manner with their students.
Lack of motivation is another common but often overlooked issue. It could occur for a variety of reasons: disliking a course or feeling lost, not feeling adequately challenged, being distracted or facing what I refer to as a ‘Students’ Block’. This is emotionally draining and numbing, because wanting to give up on study amidst the heavy workload is a dangerous phase. A possible solution is seeking professional assistance if need be, but most students choose not to. ‘I don’t think it would make much of a difference’ is a common misconception. Suffering in silence never helps but when the problem itself is not addressed the way it should be, silence is inevitable. As students, easy service accessibility is a primary concern, which is why Monash University’s move to cut counseling services in 2016 faced much flak from the student community. It is hypocritical: extensive promotion of mental health awareness and mindfulness on campus and ‘R U OK?’ Day, all while slashing mental health services students need, but are hesitant to actively seek.
Stressing over one’s ability to find meaningful employment post graduation is almost a rite of passage for final year students. I asked many students what they thought about their career prospects and an answer worth mentioning is – “It takes a lot of time to prepare oneself for a decent job these days”. I wonder if Uni really prepares us for the real world; are we just faces waving the same white paper in an overcrowded job market? A growing proportion of students share the realization that Uni is a dreary cycle of ‘eat-study-sleep-repeat’. Not much is happening on the work front. Sure, we have Career Connect, Career Expo, Career Gateway… yet, ‘career ready’ is not a term in our dictionary. As such, there is a need for more faculty-based networking events and I propose these should not be left only for the final year. Introducing new students to possible options and the right people will certainly go a long way in boosting their confidence, given that we live in an age of ‘whom you know is more important than what you know’.
More surprising is that even with Monash Student Association (MSA) Host Scheme Camps, faculty led peer-mentoring programs and other social events, many students are still not aware of their options. In a Moodle poll conducted last year, several students said they had not heard of Summerfest. This is discouraging given the heavy advertising and promotion that Monash undertook to publicize the weeklong event. Perhaps Monash could benefit from introducing a platform listing all kinds of events happening on campus, which would allow students to be informed about their choices. Seeing the events on offer, it is possible that students will be more likely to attend events which they know are popular among their peers, simply explained through the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) effect.
Much is desired and much can be done. University doesn’t have to be difficult. Student life is to be savored and it is small but significant changes to university administration and policy that can help us make the most of our time here. I can only reiterate what both our motto and Sir John Monash have already established:
We are always learning, and it is our responsibility as students and as staff, to enrich and equip ourselves to ensure we offer our best to one another.
*Names of students have been changed.