By Junghyun Song
Who knows UCR better than 6th-semesters? This week, I spoke to some of them to listen to their reflection on the past three years of their university life. Overall, they were happy with their time at UCR. Nevertheless, they had some helpful advice and suggestions for UCR’s future.
More Information about UCR Degree
Planning their future after UCR is one of the top priorities for many 6th semester students. A common course of action for many UCR graduates is to apply for a Master’s. Indeed, my first interviewee, T.E was also one of them. She told me that she spent the whole winter break looking into masters, and over time, she became rather anxious as she discovered that for some universities, especially German ones, she didn’t have enough credits for her field of interest. She commented,
“Unlike other people who did different tracks from different departments, I stayed mainly in my major. I didn’t deviate much. But still, I didn’t have enough credits for some subjects in German universities. I think that is something that UCR could have made more clear (from the beginning), although I think that it is good that we can explore different subjects here.” -T.E, Arts & Humanities major.
More Help With Career and Masters
My next interviewee, V.D, was really frustrated by the lack of help that UCR offers to students to plan their future.
“I can’t believe we are at university and we don’t have a single career coach who helps students to figure out what to do after this. Other universities have that infrastructure or a whole cell devoted to helping students with their masters and career” -V.D, a pre-med student
Indeed, as V.D pointed out, there is not a place that UCR students could go to for advice on their careers. This concern was also echoed by my other interviewee, K.T who commented that UCR does not offer much assistance except for occasional future weeks organized by AAC. Consequently, students are left on their own to figure out their future. One could argue that there are tutors at UCR who can help you. However, from what V.D observed from her peers, that was usually not the case.
“Tutors are not necessarily experts in the field that you are interested in. So if you are lucky, they can help, but if not, you are on your own”.
Furthermore, UCR liberal arts degree is so broad. This has a lot of implications when looking for a future job or Master’s program. With a regular Bachelor’s degree, there is a straight stepwise plan that you can take which you can easily find online. However, with a liberal arts degree, even the internet cannot help, which is all the more reason why UCR needs to step in to help. K.T also drove this point home by saying that we need more information and guidance as to what kind of masters we can do for each track we have completed. Indeed, at UCR, there are different combinations of tracks we can do and yet there is virtually no information as to what kind of masters these tracks can translate to.
V.D and K.T are both non-European international students. This means that if they want to continue their studies in Europe, they have to take finance into account as they are excluded from the benefits of EU student fees. As non-Europeans are a very small segment of the UCR population, it is hard to find the right person (if there is any) to consult, which is a constant source of frustration for both V.D and K.T.
“Nobody here knows how to get an Asian person a scholarship”-V.D
“They should do some info sessions on financial aid opportunities in the Netherlands for international students (for masters)”-K.T, a Social Science major.
V.D and K.T both think that it is imperative that UCR takes action to help students. V.D highlighted the lack of jobs which has led to more than usual competition for Master’s programs as “more and more people are applying as they cannot get a job”.
K.T, on the other hand, highlighted the insane amount of workload of final year students. K.T explained that the final year is so intense due to having to deal with things such as managing applications, writing motivation letters for Masters, getting all your documents ready, studying three courses, and undertaking a senior project.
As UCR does not offer much assistance in terms of career and Master’s applications, students often have to research all these options on their own. As a result, some students who are scared to handle high levels of stress have decided to take a gap year. K.T thinks that if UCR offers enough help, then these students could manage everything in their final year and proceed to Masters right away.
V.D had a very brilliant idea for the immediate course of action that UCR could take. To her knowledge, Utrecht University has a cell devoted to helping students with careers. As such, she thinks it is more than possible for UCR to utilize this resource. She thinks that even online support would be great. Even if UCR cannot find someone who can work permanently for us, in her opinion, UCR can always make use of this resource from UU.
“It is easy for UCR to tie up students with them (UU career cell). Someone that we can reach out to even occasionally for help. After all, it is the same university. I think there is always a way for UCR to do it with a low budget.”
According to K.T, another area that UCR can improve on is course offerings. She was told by UCR last year that she was no longer allowed to take 100-level courses as a 6th-semester student, which immensely puzzled her as she was not aware of that rule. As a result, her course choices became very restricted and there were very limited options which led to her having to decide between anthropology 300 and two courses on data science. However, she still considers herself lucky in comparison to some of her peers.
“Well, I did Anthropology courses before, so I picked Anthropology 300. At least I had this option. But, some of them were forced to take courses on data science without having done anything related to it before because there was nothing else left for them.”
Listening to this, I thought that these restricted course choices imposed by UCR defeat the whole purpose of liberal arts education which is supposed to give students the freedom to explore different subjects. Clearly, in this case, students not only lost their freedom to select the courses but were also forced against their will. As such, I think UCR must consider revising this rule or improving course offerings for the better experience of final year students.
In conclusion, it seemed to me that UCR has a special place in all my interviewees’ hearts, and as such, their advice and criticism come from a place of genuine concern. Of all the three areas highlighted above, I think the career aspect is the most important one that UCR needs to quickly address, as I strongly believe it is the common concern for final year students. Hopefully, we could see UCR improving in these three areas in the near future!
Many thanks to all my interviewees for making this article possible!
Image source: https://unsplash.com/photos/8CqDvPuo_kI