Joining university is definitely a momentous occasion. It is an important transitional period but with it comes challenges. Most students are oblivious of what is to come until the reality hits. There are several challenges faced by first-year students at the university in Kenya.
Although this seems self-explanatory, its impact is highly underestimated. It may be the first time that most first-year students get to manage their lives. It is one of the key issues faced by first-year undergraduates. Having to live away from home for the first time, these students become the main, and sometimes only, decision makers.
No one tells them when to go to bed, wake up, eat right, or whom to associate with. This brings about transitional challenges. Students may struggle to develop habits such as financial and time management, prioritization, and healthy feeding habits. Some first-year students may be overwhelmed by this level of freedom and some end up making poor decisions.
2. Forging romantic relationships
In the first few weeks of joining the university, words such as ‘gold rush’, hookups, and ‘friends with benefits’ may start flying around. A lot. Naïve and unsuspecting first years’ find themselves in ‘fairy-tale’ relationships with 3rd or 4th-year students.
Some senior students take advantage of their naivety. Only a negligible number of these relationships last a semester. Unfortunately, some become infected with STDs or HIV/AIDS. The transmission of these diseases is one of the challenges facing higher institutions in Kenya despite the provision of information and free condoms.
3. Peer Pressure
A big percentage of first-year students find themselves trying to fit in since they do not wish to feel disconnected. A girl who once wore Akorino-inspired attire adopts the Kardashian way of dressing. Totally unrecognizable. A young man who has never tasted alcohol or any kind of drug starts to experiment with all sorts of narcotics.
Both female and male students are duped into believing that sex is a basic need. The problem is that naivety makes some to trust too much and end up having unprotected sex. They are left to deal with unplanned pregnancies, drug addiction, and diseases. It is important to note that this is a global challenge facing university students.
4. Compatibility in Social Relationships
It may take some time and effort to comfortably associate with students from diverse backgrounds. Higher institutions of learning embrace diversity and they exemplify this by admitting learners from diverse backgrounds.
In Kenya, there are 42 tribes, at least four religious circles, and a range of social economic diversities. Compatibility becomes a problem when first-year students have to relate with people yet they have preconceived misconceptions about them. Low compatibility coupled with little desire to change their attitude leads to low social compatibility.
5. Compatibility with roommates
Remember that roommate who enjoyed cooking omena infecting every item in the room with the pungent smell? Or that one whose shoes smelt so bad making the room inhabitable? How about the one whose entire village came to visit every once a month? Before I forget, there was that roommate who brought members of the opposite sex leaving you with no choice but to go to exile! These and other issues affected the level of compatibility among roommates. This is definitely a big challenge facing university students in Kenya.
6. Access to support systems
There are many support services available for first-year students. They can visit the office of the dean, career and mentoring offices, wellness, or other offices whose goal is to support students. The challenge? Accessing some of these people is a miracle. You do not just walk into the wellness office and find someone seated and waiting to serve you. The frustration that comes with the limited access to services they rightfully deserve is depressing.
Doing follow up on missing marks is a nightmare in some universities. Some students even re-sit certain courses out of frustrations. Suggestions for challenges facing students in universities? Make support systems available to students when they need them and employ professional staff.
7. Adjusting to the university academic program
I happen to know someone who transferred schools at least four times by the end of their first year. At one time, she had on a lab coat and next time we met she had on a chef’s toque. The transition is not easy especially for those who are undecided about what they want to do with their lives. Some students have difficulties adjusting to the academic program and some end up missing several lectures. For some, it is shocking to share classes with learners who look 871 years older.
The good news is that most of these challenges are temporary. Once they familiarize themselves with the environment, they take charge and start enjoying their campus life.