Sources of the socio-existential experience of young university students (Exploratory phase)

Project: Research project

Project Details


The project Sources of the socio-existential experience of young university students (Exploratory phase) has emerged from some observations made in an isolated manner through students' autobiographical exercises on the socio-existential challenges they face, and on the supports that allow them to have in the world, show central elements in the lives of some of them that involve many feelings of loneliness, anxiety, depressive episodes and suffering. We observe the recurrence of unexpected elements to "fill with activities the solitude of their days" (biographical exercise 1, 2019).
The purpose of this exploratory phase is to conduct a study on the challenges that the young university students of the Universidad del Rosario face in their lives. The need to carry out this exploratory phase is to start a relevant project for our students that will allow us to get to know them. The interviews collected in this phase will show us the way in which they face the difficulties that they have and the resources that they have and that they lack to face them.

Through their university experience, young people live a decisive stage in their lives. This experience definitively marks a great number of years of their youth, contributes to their education and autonomy and sets the parameters of their independence. It is common for young people and their families to think of university education as an element of social mobility, of promotion, of social relations: of a future. Therefore, every economic, social and emotional effort of families and young people is directed towards the educational project for them. The strength of society seems to show that this is the way to go forward, the weight of the family confirms it and it is then the student who must face a social test that is twofold: the academic test that is long, repetitive and demanding; and the test of going out
and prove to himself and others that it is possible. This university period is marked by three fundamental elements which are: 1. finding a place in this society; 2. its relationship to the world;
3. Their relationship with themselves.

The proof seems endless. One semester after another, one exam after another, one task after another. The demands are many, the looks of the parents sometimes vigilant, anguished, worried and attentive to the performance of their children as a consequence of that feeling that "what is at stake is the future". That future is also scary. And the previous school experience, at school, was also difficult. Why are young people's school experiences lived with such uncertainty? We believe that the problem is not the school experience in itself, which although it is presented as a difficulty, is not an element that is lived in isolation from other spheres in an individual's life.

The young people of the contemporary world, our students at the Universidad del Rosario, have lived multiple socialization processes, migrations, displacements, travels, divorces of their parents, absence of one of the parents, instability, scholarships, illnesses, changes in the family structure as being only children, technologies that have changed their lives. Each one presents themselves as unique and they represent themselves as unique in the world. In fact, when we look closely at their lives, however similar their processes may have been, they have forged personalities with very different experiences, they have travelled worlds as distant from each other as we can hardly imagine.
So, we ask ourselves how do young people face socio-existential tests in their university experience?
This question has two notions that will be central to answering it: supports and tests. The supports are the means that allow the individual to "face the world" (Martuccelli, 2002). They are the set of elements (material and immaterial) that link the individual to his context and allow him to continue his life. The supports make the existence of the individual possible and allow him to face the trials. The tests are "historical challenges, socially produced, culturally represented, unequally distributed, that individuals are forced to face within a structural process of individuation" (Martuccelli, 2010, p.21). Individuals can neither choose nor escape from the trials. The tests indicate the differentials of the work that the individual does on himself, given that the way in which the individual faces the test evidences his uniqueness, in identity and subjective terms. These notions propose a particular analytical articulation between the great societal processes and personal experiences, between structural standardization and the singularization of experiences.

Personal lives are studied as subject to a permanent set of challenges that are achieved through the narrative reconstruction of individuals. This narrative underlines a unique and social composition of challenges throughout a life.
The understanding of the socio-existential challenges that the young people of the Universidad del Rosario face in their lives implies an approach to the students' narratives through the comprehensive interview. These challenges are often presented as painful and difficult situations, which are perceived by them, who in general act in the face of trials. The narrative reconstruction of individuals underlines a unique and social composition of challenges throughout a life. This investigation of the singular experiences and the identification of the elements that act as socio-existential evidence and supports acquires sociological research relevance, and will allow us to approach the world of young university students, which can sometimes be unknown. The knowledge that can be acquired from this research will be relevant both to the teaching work and to the divisions of university welfare for students.

Understanding the social world of university students is a necessity both for teaching work and for exploring possible projects and aid directed towards them. But especially an understanding of these worlds for the young people themselves is a therapeutic exercise. The relationship between youth and the university experience is an assembly of processes that are charged and perceived as moments of difficulty by them. The students then appear at the centre of a focus of demands coming from institutions, families, teachers, competition with their peers, and a society that demands professional success.

At the Universidad del Rosario, the Student Management and the Dean's Office of the University Environment carry out essential tasks to "encourage and promote academic success through accompaniment, guidance and monitoring in the training process". The Dean's Office of the University Environment is responsible for the overall well-being of the students. According to the Accreditation Report 2018 of the Universidad del Rosario, since 2009 the health services provided to students have been developed. Among these services, it is worth mentioning the authorization before the District Health Secretariat of the psychiatry and nutrition and dietetics outpatient clinic in 2017, the development of virtual courses on integral health and anxiety management in 2108. DMU offers its students services in psychology and support for their academic development. "Regular group workshops are also held, in which aspects directly related to the application of competencies for academic success are worked on" (p. 371).
It is necessary that the professors, from our areas of interest and specialization get involved and contribute to the understanding of one of the most important groups in the university: the students.
The professors, sometimes, have assumed certain characteristics of the students such as their emotional fragility; their ambivalence between autonomy and dependence as marks of their personality. However, it is necessary to study this "student society" through the prism of their individualities in order to understand them beyond their psychology and as individuals forged by society, by the country where they have grown up.
The knowledge that can be acquired from this research will be relevant to both the teaching work and the divisions of university welfare for students.
The sociological perspective with which the problem is approached is original both in its approach and in the importance of dialogue with psychology. Likewise, the problem itself encompasses several central themes in the contemporary social sciences.

Key findings

1. A Scientific Article
2. A chapter for a book on the sociology of the individual (seedbed project)
3. A paper at the Colombian Congress of Sociology 2020
4. Final report (useful for the Universidad del Rosario)
Effective start/end date8/20/198/20/20

Main Funding Source

  • Internal