As Arab universities and schools welcomed students in the new academic year, heralding a new stage in Arab students’ academic path, we try to put together some important tips and resources that will help students achieve a fruitful educational experience.
Over the years, Al-Fanar Media has provided hundreds of news stories about higher education in the Arab world, including tips for students, academics’ and experts’ discussions in many subjects, a free scholarship database, and news of new courses and programmes at Arab universities.
We have also published articles about ways to connect students and graduates to the labour market, and the skills you need to secure a future job. In this summary, we review some of the most prominent issues that have been put forward, to serve as your guide to a fruitful academic year.
A Study Plan
Good study planning makes education an enjoyable journey. Your plan begins with your awareness of yourself, your understanding abilities, time management, your university lectures, school lessons, and setting a time for research and study.
You need to do all this without forgetting your own time to reward yourself, practice the activities you love, and balance your school day and personal life, without having any aspect dominating the others. Personal time may include dedicating some time to social media.
You can also set times for studying for exams, besides other practical activities. Use time-management and task-organisation platforms and applications on your computer or mobile phone to stick to your schedule. You can even use sticky-paper notes if you love to write on paper.
Mental Health and Well-Being
Whether you are in a politically stable country or a conflict zone, maintaining your mental health remains a paramount concern for many students in the Middle East and North Africa.
You may not be able to control your study plan or achieve your goals. Pressures may surround you, but it’s important to remain calm, talk to others about issues that worry you, and realise that you don’t have to carry it all alone. There are mental-health support units in universities and specialists in schools. Talk to your family, seek to consult a mental-health professional if necessary, and don’t succumb to stress alone.
Also, remember to engage in physical activity daily, even if it is just a stroll. Exercise in a gym or sports center also helps to maintain both physical and mental well-being.
And don’t forget to engage in leisure activities such as attending a concert, watching a movie at the cinema, or going to an art exhibition. Having hobbies and traveling whenever possible also have stress-reducing, restorative benefits.
Before enrolling in a university and choosing a major, it is useful to engage in some self-assessment to determine what you want, what are you really capable of doing, and which path you want to take.
If you want to specialise, you should talk with other students or professionals who are studying or practicing this major, to get a better understanding of the skills you need to have, and the high-school grades you need to join that discipline.
You should also think about what jobs are available for graduates in the future, and what makes you special in the eyes of employers, in order to guarantee your place in classrooms and the future job market.
Skills and Knowledge
Education is no longer limited to gaining theoretical knowledge, it includes developing your skills and practical experiences in your academic field. Moreover, your skills should go beyond the technical ones needed to perform a particular job. International reports and specialists stress that you also need “soft skills” to thrive in today’s competitive labour market.
For that reason, many Arab universities are working to provide these skills to students, most notably critical thinking, teamwork, resilience, presentation skills, communication, the use of technology, mastering languages, and problem-solving.
Companies also provide regular training in soft skills, and there are dozens of platforms that provide specialised courses to help people build effective soft skills.
You must realise that you are not alone in this world. We all face many common challenges, perhaps the most prominent of which are climate change and other existential threats to humanity. The future of work and the skills gap crisis are also issues of global concern.
The World Economic Forum has talked about the latter, warning that automation may replace 85 million jobs by 2025, while some 97 million new jobs are likely to emerge, if the necessary skills are available, and the existing skills are modified and developed.
It’s hard to keep up with the pace of change, but you should always be on the lookout for updates, skills requirements, employment trends, and new academic disciplines.
There is a growing emphasis on the benefits of travel and study abroad in preparing to work in a global economy. If you are interested in an international study experience, start by exploring the requirements of scholarships. Talking to students who have already won such scholarships can help you. Try to apply for them, and if you don’t succeed the first time, try again.
You will reach your goal, and you will find in that experience many benefits in terms of building your personality, getting to know different and new cultures, and obtaining an accredited educational certificate, which opens the doors to prestigious jobs in the labour market.
Last, but not least, I invite you to explore the Al-Fanar Media website in its new guise, to enjoy a unique browsing experience that will enable you to search for topics of interest.
You can also take advantage of our free scholarships database, and subscribe to our e-mail newsletters, to receive all higher-education news in the Arab world, international university rankings, and everything new in scientific research.
Mohamed El Hawary is Al-Fanar Media’s editor-in-chief.