University…Should you stay? Or should you go?

Finding yourself sitting in a crowded campus lecture hall, unable to understand the person lecturing you from a vast distance, and thinking to yourself: “What am I doing here?” is unfortunately quite a common student experience.

Many young people can land up at university via auto pilot – it’s so often simply the expected ‘thing to do’ after you’ve left school and before you get a job.  Some choose their course of study with little thought or understanding about what they like, what really interests them and where their strengths lie.  Before they know it, they’re swamped in studies of subjects they don’t like and find themselves studying courses that do not prepare them for success in their future careers. Others might discover that the learning environment provided by traditional universities is just not conducive to their learning and performance.  Large, impersonal lecture halls; limited participation and engagement, and precious little contact with those who teach them can leave students feeling isolated, demotivated, disconnected and adrift.

As you start to grapple with the realisations that your university experience is not what you hoped or wanted it to be, you enter into a high stake, stressful time.  It might seem as if there are only two disappointing options to choose from – stick it out even though you know that’s likely to mean years of struggle; or, drop-out and start all over again.

However, there is a third way.  There are universities offering transfer programmes that open up opportunities for you to quite easily find a more meaningful study path and/or a learning environment that truly inspires and nurtures your development.  Often these higher institutions are innovators in 21st Century education with study offerings that are a highly attractive alternative to those of conventional, even Ivy League-status, universities.

This proved to be the case for SA student, Kalia Barkai who was studying at the University of Cape Town (UCT), one of the country’s most esteemed higher institutions.  She discovered that the traditional university education was not a fit for her. “I could not engage well in content when being taught in a lecture theatre of a few hundred students,” she says, “I felt that a lot of my learning was straight out of textbooks and included mostly cramming before tests and exams by memorising all the content. I lost my passion to learn, while I was trying to pass.”

These frustrations prompted Kalia’s openness to consider something different.  When she learnt about Minerva Schools, an innovative liberal arts education institute with an extraordinary global campus spanning seven major cities, Kalia got insights into a global, 21st Century model of higher education: “I would be in classes of no more than 19 students and have the opportunity to build connections between myself and any one of my professors.  I would no longer have to write exams and could concentrate my learning on understanding and practically using the skills I gain.  And, I would be living overseas, away from my comfort zone, learning how to be independent.  Growing, not just academically, but personally too.”

Through Minerva’s transfer programme, Kalia became one of SA’s first students to embark on a challenging, science-of-learning-based educational experience.  Over four years of study, she will live, learn and earn her qualification across close-knit campuses in San Francisco, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Seoul, Hyderabad, Taipei and London.

Of course, a demanding study experience specifically designed to rigorously challenge future global thinkers and innovators may not suit every student who is battling at their current university.  However, if the conventional route is not working for you, then it is possible that a road less travelled may well be your path to fulfilment and success.

Another South African student, Dennis Antela Martinez will be transferring to Minerva from UCT, he completed his second year pursuing a Bachelor of Business Science specialising in Finance, however when asked why he made this move, Martinez explains, “Even though traditional universities might be able to go more in depth into certain areas of the theory, in reality it is often more important to know how to access and apply the knowledge you have, as well as being able to analyse it in a truly critical way. Minerva creates a community where students gain the emotional confidence to put their ideas and solutions into practice and become the leaders this world urgently needs.”

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