“The Residential Semester has helped us to socialise with our peers. We have learned how to adjust in an unknown environment and help each other,” shared Shuchok and Sadia, students of BRAC University, about their unique experiences from attending the residential semester three months ago.
Lately, a growing tendency towards browsing through social media and electronic gadgets on their phones and computers has been observed among students. Although it enables them to establish vibrant communications with each other virtually, it cannot dim the importance of maintaining direct interactions with their peers. Direct interactions broaden a person’s outlook and give him/her a more credible idea about society. Again, one notices that a large portion of students are unaware of the national and international news and events. As students carry on their daily activities, they seldom pay attention to issues that have impact on their surroundings and society. Moreover, the over-usage of social media has a deleterious effect on people’s ability to communicate directly with their fellow human beings. Keeping such realities in mind, the Residential Semester has been designed for the students of BRAC University, with an aim to bring about qualitative improvement in students' social skills.
It is a unique programme among the private universities of Bangladesh, that provides students with opportunities to meet and closely interact with people from diverse backgrounds. Each semester, some 500 students spend about three months at the BRAC University residential campus at Savar, living in dormitories, attending classes, taking their meals, and participating in different co-curricular and social activities. Each of these daily activities give them the chance to communicate with each other and thus, improve their interactions with people, aiding them in acquiring communication skills that will give them a competitive edge in the job market.
RS, which is compulsory for all students of BRAC University, is a requirement for the fulfilment of their degree. It aims at improving students’ communication skills, leadership skills, patriotism, morality and global competitiveness. Kibtia, a former RS student, observed that the residential semester improved her sense of responsibility towards herself and others. While living at the campus, she learned to take responsibility for seemingly regular tasks like locking her door, switching off the fan and light in her room, preparing herself to get ready on time to attend classes and a range of works that she reminisced, never noticing so minutely before. Surely, at different stages of life, everybody needs to learn how to develop themselves as a mature and responsible human. However, in our social system, as long as we live with our parents, we seldom face the necessity to take responsibility for our own actions. It is only when we live away from home that most people in the society learn and develop certain social skills which are expected from responsible human beings. RS strives to provide this opportunity to the students of BRAC University and aims at shaping the students into responsible human beings.
Rayon, another former RS student, observed that the residential semester has provided him with the unique opportunity to see the life of other people closely and refrain from being judgemental about others. Simultaneously, he realised that all jobs in the society are important and that, people need to respect one another, irrespective of their social standing. This, he felt was the most significant leaning from his experiences from the Social Learning Lab program. During the course of the semester, every student participates in the social learning lab, a unique learning program where the students take over the responsibility of running the residential campus for an entire day. They not only take over the role of the administrative officers, but also work as cleaners, gardeners, chefs, cooks, labourers, and so on. Rayon admitted that he did not hold much respect for these people, but ever since his experience at RS, he has learned to appreciate the people working in these professions. He realises that these people are an integral part of society, they deserve to be respected; the value of their work must be recognised, and all must contribute to creating a congenial working atmosphere for them. Rayon, like many other RS students, has learned to be empathetic towards people belonging to all walks of life.
RS is a pool of students coming from a wide array of backgrounds and possessing different habits, and they all need to co-exist in a residential life. Their daily practices are often absolutely opposite to one another. For instance, some like to keep the light on while sleeping while others prefer to keep it off. Jefroon shared her RS experience in this regard that living with people of different kinds of practices actually helped increase her tolerance level and learn how to negotiate with each other. Such social skills, like learning to co-exist, would not only help them in their everyday life as a student but would also contribute to their professional and social lives, later on.
After the completion of a Residential Semester, positive changes are reflected in the behaviour of students that set them apart from others. The experiences they share about their stay in RS and its impact on their life, assert that it has played a vital role within the university education system in building future leaders of our country. We hope that more students will benefit and learn vital social skills by being a part of the Residential Semester and shape up to be great leaders.
The author is the Campus Superintendent of BRAC University, Residential Semester, Savar Campus.