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Teaching beyond the classroom

There is more to college life than academics and the classroom. Whether it is cultural or technical events, sports or competitions, these activities are a platform for students to exhibit their skills, talents and creativity in addition to providing a much-needed break from the classroom routine. NT KURIOCITY interacted with some students and professionals to find out their views on the topic and the importance of participating in these events

Maria Fernandes|NT KURIOCITY

All college students will agree to the fact that college is a transformative experience. This transformation applies to many areas in a student’s life which includes personal, cultural and social, besides other areas. The transformation is more evident in students who regularly involve themselves in activities beyond the classroom, such as organising cultural or technical festivals that demand much from them and also reward them with skill development in return.

According to the Student Involvement Theory published in 1984 by Alexander W Astin, a leading authority in the field of higher education who has also authored 20 books, “The greater the student’s involvement in college, the greater will be the amount of student learning and personal development.”

College festivals and events offer a platform for such an involvement; the outcome of these are learning skills that are beyond the realms of the classroom and textbook. Leadership, persistence, crisis management, time management, multitasking, and public speaking are just a few of the areas in which students learn and hone their skills. “When I joined college I was very reserved and shy but since my course involved taking part and organising various activities and events, I was able to overcome my initial shyness,” says Sheldon Barros, a student who has just completed his BBA.

Like Sheldon, Juhi Sheikh made a conscious decision to use the college events as a platform to transform her ‘supremely shy’ self. A student of economics, she volunteered for one of the many festivals that her college hosted. As a part of the organising team, her duties included meeting with companies to get sponsors, coordinating with suppliers, updating the social media feed and ensuring everything went about smoothly. “At first it was not at all easy,” she confesses, “but over the three years in college I managed to finally break out of my shell. Today I am bolder and can talk to people without breaking into a sweat like I use to.”

Organising an event or festival does not guarantee only positive experiences. Sometimes students have to face unexpected learning experiences that teach life lessons. “A few years ago we went to Belgaum for a competition and due to rivalry we were ragged by a big group of students from that college. As the team leader, I was responsible for the safety of my team, most of whom were still learning the ropes of event organising and management. However I surprised myself when I stayed calm and managed to get out of the very sticky situation. It was scary but I learnt something about myself that day; that I could handle such a situation without losing my head. No amount of practice or training could have prepared me for what happened during that trip,” sayes Amey Bhide.

Employability too is enhanced with participation in college events and festivals. “The experience of organising college festivals inter-state as well as at the national level gives students exposure to skills that are useful in their careers. It is not just soft-skills that are enhanced but also technical skills like project management, coordination, finance, marketing, sales, logistics, and public relations are sharpened,” says Sonia Angle, course coordinator for BBA at Dempo College, Cujira.

For Ayaz Shah, volunteering for the college festival’s organising team was a conscious move. “I want to work abroad and I know for a fact that organising and participating in events can help me especially when I will be interviewed by potential employers. This way I can showcase my abilities and also talk about it when required,” he says.

“Interpersonal skills are the most important skills for any job interview or any kind of work. Employers today are not only looking for academics and technical knowledge but for other skills as well. Events and festivals become a training ground for participating students,” says Shwetha Pinto, image consultant and soft-skills trainer.

People with such experiences have usually gained preference over others as far as placements go. At the end of the day, it’s not about what’s on your resume, but what you have learned from that experience.

Kiran Chari Shah, chair person of Live Life, a training organisation, vouches for it. “Companies are increasingly looking for candidates who have a well-rounded profile in academics, extracurricular and sports. Your percentage and academic projects are not the only deciding factors when it comes to short listing candidates. When candidates participate and organise college tech or cultural festivals, they get exposure to management skills from the ground level. They get to work in teams, apply their analytical mindset to solve problems and take real-time decisions,” she adds.

The most important benefit of such an involvement, perhaps, might be best experienced during the college years itself. “College life, managing academics, projects and exams are inevitable causes of stress. Without a proper support system, a student who may not have done well in an exam may spiral into depression. Being involved in extracurricular and co-curricular activities helps avoid it,” believes psychologist Godeliva Rodrigues. Vinayak Chari a TYBA student agrees wholeheartedly and adds, “For me college events and festivals are a break from monotony as well as a platform to exhibit my talents. After organising a few events in college I have realised my skills in public speaking and today I am called by friends and family to host small parties. If it wasn’t for these college events, I would never have discovered my hidden talent.” Rianne Lobo, a SYBCom student says: “Besides becoming confident and improving my communication skills, my friend circle has grown tremendously. Networking today is very important and these events help to network on a large scale.”

The fact that gaining technical or subject knowledge is the main purpose of college education cannot be denied; however for this knowledge to be more effective and real-world worthy it may need to be packaged with the right skills. The onus hence lies equally on the college to create opportunities for such skill-development activities while making students aware that these do not compete with their academic pursuits but rather, enhances them.

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