Picture: Logo of the Psychological Counseling CenterThe Psychological Counseling Center, a service of the Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy, offers support to students and prospective students. In Innsbruck, 1243 clients received advice and assistance in 2013. 

Picture: Logo of the Psychological Counseling Center

As part of our progress report, published on the center's homepage (http://www.studentenberatung.at/fileadmin/redaktion/downloads/Taetigkeitsbericht_2013.pdf), we would like to take the opportunity to share the following thoughts:

Supporting young people during their development is one of the responsibilities of a university

At the Psychological Counseling Center, we advise students on a wide variety of issues. As explained in our mission statement: "Our activities focus on improving students' competences to complete their studies, to choose their academic direction, and to manage student life – all based on the principle of helping people to help themselves."

Student life presents young adults with tremendous opportunities as well as challenges. It's not only about the "right" choice of academic program; it's especially about personality development. The mission statement of the University of Innsbruck also cites this goal: "The University encourages students to find and live by those values that enable them to become independent, open and responsible individuals. Such values should motivate students to remain committed to further personal development, even after their studies."

We know from neuroscience that the development of values is not complete until the middle or the end of the twenties. This means that a large part of our students are in the process of searching for values during their university education, a search that needs to be pursued along with the other challenges they face. 

For many, beginning an academic program requires major adjustments. In contrast to the clearly regulated parameters of school education, young people have to find their way within the open structures of the university. In addition to the new educational environment, young adulthood imposes further challenges and changes on students. Leaving home often means significant change to familiar social networks. Students need to adjust to new everyday structures in an unknown place and need to establish new social contacts. As a result of the many changes, young people are confronted with new independence and responsibility as well as with their weaknesses and fears.

We cannot and should not assume that all of our students are capable of managing these challenges on their own. None of us can master life alone. As social beings, we all depend on each other for (further) development.

Regardless of whether we are involved in teaching, advising and supporting at the University or at the Counseling Center, the question remains: what does this mean for all of us who are in contact with students?

We have an important responsibility. We are not only professors, lecturers and counselors, but also role models for students. We give young adults searching for their identities and values an impression of how life can be lived.

Because not everything is a matter of course, we invite you to give some thought to these issues – issues that are indeed matters of course in our daily work with students …

Mag. Edith Pollet & MMag. Tessa Zeis

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