A new programme to prepare college-bound students for independent living will be launched in Dubai soon.

In light of this news, and as students gear up for the fall semester this August, several parents reiterate that living away from home can be emotionally challenging for many students.

More curated programs targeted for university-bound students should address issues like homesickness, stress management, building social connections, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Simple things such as managing finances, budgeting, cooking, laundry, and maintaining personal hygiene are fundamental for students to become self-sufficient and handle their day-to-day responsibilities effectively as they become college bound.

Malaysian expat Siti Abang whose daughter left for the varsity last year says, “One good learning in such institutes could be to help children keep the right focus and strike the right balance between academics and also enjoy life at the same time."

Parents say training programmes that can awaken self-awareness can at times help their wards to be guided in their decisions and actions during their university journey.

Another parent, Madhulika Chatterjee, whose son went to University of Warwick a few years ago, says, "This is a critical phase in most families and each one does it their own way. There are things that not all children know when they are growing up. One of which is cooking. With our son that was never an issue because he has an interest in cooking, but I know of friends for whom these were serious concerns.

"The second thing is you teach them about managing finances. Though children these days already have some understanding of these things but still you need to teach them how to do grocery or laundry among other things.”

She adds, “You can’t always teach your university bound kids all of life’s lessons because you don’t know what they will encounter there. For those things you need to prepare them generally of what they might experience but finer things a child will encounter only when they are there.”

Building resilience is vital

Wellness experts emphasise on building resilience, which is another vital aspect of mental preparedness. They explain that as university life can be demanding, both academically and socially, it is important to develop coping strategies and advise students to seek help when needed.

Girish Hemnani, Life Coach and Energy Healer based in Dubai says, “It's a big step, and there are a few things to keep in mind to support your teen through this exciting time. They might feel excited about the new opportunities but also experience homesickness or stress. It's crucial to be there for them, to listen to their concerns, validate their feelings, and offer encouragement. Your support will make a world of difference.”

He adds, “Another aspect of mental preparedness is letting go of control. Yes, it can be challenging, but allowing your teenager to make their own decisions is essential for their growth. They may stumble and make mistakes along the way, but those experiences are invaluable for their personal development. Trust that you have equipped them with the skills and values to navigate challenges independently.”

Pre-university workshops aim to empower

Meanwhile, Unihawk will launch a pre-university workshop starting June 23 which will be held over one weekend each month, and covers practical topics such as embracing change, goal setting, time management, meal planning, nutrition, and managing finances.

It will also tackle emotional issues such as social assimilation, stress management, sleep, and mental health, as well as subjects that are essential, though rarely discussed at home, like substance misuse and addiction.

Aimed at students aged 16 and over, the programme will be led by several mentors.

Integrated Nutrition and Functional Medicine Health Coach of the programme, Sheetal Ramchandani explains, “The inspiration for the program came out of my own experience as a mother. When my eldest son was preparing to go to college in the US, he had so many questions about the most basic aspects of living alone, such as cooking and budgeting. Once he moved, we saw how the shift, even just in terms of the change of weather, impacted his mindset and wellbeing.”

She adds, “As a professional in the field, I began to hear of other mothers who were facing similar challenges in supporting their child’s transition to university. In response, I started a small group coaching session for girls in the early stages of their college life, when problems with stress, homesickness, peer pressure and mental well-being are common. We wanted to try and pre-empt these challenges by providing students with the tools to deal with such experiences before they embark on university life.”

The program has also been designed based on feedback from students in college, who admit that they only realized when they got to university what they wish they had known beforehand.

Rose, who joined University of Waterloo revealed, “I wish I’d known how to manage my finances and my monthly budget to pay my day-to-day bills, and to save as a university student”.

Similarly, Yash, who moved to the US to study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said, “The one thing I wish I’d known before I came to college is how to manage my time and develop self-discipline to study independently.”

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