22 SES 12 B, Comparative View of Extra-Curricular Activities: Transitions to and from Higher Education
This research focused on the process of student transitions from education to work from a comparative and biographical perspective. 42 topical life history interviews were conducted with final year students in England and Romania about their reasons for opting to study at university, their experiences of being a university student, and their future (career) plans. This paper focuses on students’ motivations for engaging in extra-curricular activities and the perceived role of these activities in their education-to-work transitions. Extra-curricular activities are divided into two main groups: I. activities connected to the department: university projects, active participation in the student organisation, doing an additional internship and going on a foreign study experience. II. activities not connected to the department: engaging in full time work, part time work, occasional work, holiday work or unpaid work, doing a second degree at another department. Several authors (Wolbers 2003, Robert and Saar 2012) discuss the non-sequential characteristics of education-work life-events and point to the fact that students increasingly opt to combine learning with work and that they are in fact ‘busy’ people (Holdsworth’s 2010, p. 4) as they experience multiple work and learning positions whilst at university. Students in this research were deliberately seeking different activities to engage in, within or outside of the department, connected or not connected to their studies, either paid or unpaid. They mentioned realising that these experiences were beneficial for their present and future careers and they also enjoyed the experience as they experimented with various different fields and job types. The social networks that they developed as a result were furthermore mentioned as one of the beneficial aspects. The findings support Brooks and Everett’s (2008, p. 383) prediction, that this strategy of ‘fishing for’ activities or engaging in ‘multiple status positions’ as defined for the purposes of this research, would become the contemporary student experience and mode of learning. This is also connected to the idea that the race for qualifications becomes an opportunity trap (Brown, Lauder & Ashton 2011, p. 12) that forces students to engage in different extra activities to boost their credentials and earn an edge in the labour market. Students who engaged in activities that provided them with opportunities to apply the knowledge received in the ‘real’ world highlighted their sense of fulfilment, satisfaction and were overall happier with their studies and university experience.
Brooks, R. and Everett, G. 2008. New European Learners? An analysis of the ‘trendsetter’ thesis. Journal of Youth Studies, 11 (4), pp. 377–391. Brown, P., Lauder, H. and Ashton, D. 2011. The global auction. The broken promises of education, jobs and income. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Holdsworth, C. 2010. Student Volunteers: A National Profile. London: Volunteering England & Institute for Volunteering Research. Pascarella, E.T. and Terenzini, P.T. 1991. How college affects students: findings and insights from twenty years of research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Robert, P., and Saar, E. 2012. Learning and Working: The Impact of the “Double Status Position” on the Labour Market Entry Process of Graduates in CEE Countries. European Sociological Review, 28(6), 742–754. Wolbers, M.H.J. 2003. Learning and working: double statuses in youth transitions. In: Müller, W. and Gangl, M., eds. Transitions from education to work in Europe. The integration of youth into EU labour markets. Oxford: Open University Press, pp. 131–155.
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