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Special episode of De Facto Podcast: counselling at FSV UK

3. 1. 2024

Did you know that FSV UK offers several types of counseling, namely psychological help, counseling for students with specific needs and career counseling? In the special episode of De Facto Podcast, we talked to the faculty employees who take care of students with specific needs and those who need career guidance. If you want to learn more about psychological help at FSV UK , you can read an interview with our psychologist Anna Maria Pospíšilová here.

The first part of the interview concerns students with special needs and we are talking to Michael Podsedník a Lucie Pištěková from the study services department.

So who exactly is a special needs student? They are probably not only the students that we typically imagine, for example students with physical disabilities.

That’s right, there are six categories, according to the methodology of the Ministry of Education and Culture. Under a letter A, there are students with visual impairments, divided into visual users and tactile users. Under category B we have students with hearing impairments, where we have users of spoken language or users of sign language. Students under category C are students with motor disabilities and divided to those with disabilities of the lower limbs and those with disabilities of the upper limbs. Under category D we have students with specific learning disabilities, under category E students with autism spectrum disorders, and under category F students with other difficulties, i.e. psychological difficulties, or somatic chronic difficulties, or disorders of communication skills. Usually, it is a combination of several categories, the given student does not have to fall directly into one and only one box.

We don’t support only students but also applicants if they need to modify the entrance exams in some way. This most often applies to those students who have dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD or difficulties of a similar type. The most often used modification is time modification – it is usually about 25 % of the time for the exam.

Are the buildings adapted?

Most of them only partially. At Hollar, we have a barrier-free entrance from Divadelní street and the lift, which is limited in its size. There are two barrier-free toilets here and the library has a camera magnifier for the visually impaired. In Jinonice Campus, the entrance from the metro is not quite ideal because there is still no elevator there. We hope that the elevator will be installed and will lead to the U Kříže street. In the campus, there are barrier-free toilets, wide corridors and the like. What is good to know that in Jinonice, there are counsellors in the sixth floor in Building C. You will find me as a contact person, then the second contact person at FSV UK Kristýna Bobrovníková. The psychological and career counselling are also located there. There are also beacons in the Jinonice buildings for visually impaired students.

What is the very first step that students who join us should take? Let’s assume that they have already successfully passed the entrance exams. Should they report to you with some papers or contact their teachers?

The first step is passing a functional diagnosis, which is an expert assessment from a Charles University specialist. It is an approximately one-hour interview, where the specialist will set the functional impact of the given medical disadvantage on that specific study program. The second step then is submitting a proof of the medical disadvantage, e.g. a card of a person with a medical disadvantage, a certificate of a specific learning disorder or an autistic spectrum disorder, a medical report or a report from a pedagogical psychological counseling center. The third and last step is documenting the informed consent to the fact that the student gives us information and we register it. We don’t give the data to anyone, but we have to keep them.

It is advisable to do all this as soon as they are admitted and know that they have some medical disadvantage. It is good to have that confirmation even if the students think they won’t need it, in case some crisis or stressful situation occurs. We always try to emphasize that the students should ideally undertake the diagnosis at the beginning of that semester so that they have time to set all the modifications and agree on them with the teachers. The students themselves have to inform the teachers of the subjects they are enrolled in that semester. If the students only needs some modification in the exam period, they should inform teachers both at the beginning of the semester and also before the exam period, to agree with the teacher what the exam should look like and to make it convenient for both parties. Of course, we understand that various difficulties can manifest themselves during that study, so the functional diagnostics can be done during that semester as well.

I dare to say that maybe even for the teachers it may not always be easy to actually provide the conditions for a student with specific need so how should the teachers approach this? Can they turn to you as a study department for advice?

The ideal step is to say at the beginning of the semester, for example during the first lecture, “if there is a student with a medical disadvantage here, don’t hesitate to contact me” to show that for them it is not a taboo topic and that the students can come to the teachers in consultation hours, contact them by email or after the lecture. If the teacher is not the one to bring it up, then the student should actively contact the teacher at the beginning of the semester with the functional diagnosis and the recommended modifications. They will then agree on the process together.

Because the subjects are specific and there is no standard that could be used for all subjects, it is necessary to discuss individually with the given teacher when the test will be written, in which room, by how much time it will be extended, or if there will be a smaller number of questions for the same amount of time or if some technical aid will be used. Unfortunately, it is not possible to do it from our side, given that there are many students who register and we cannot know if the given student wants to to use that modification in a given subject. It also happens that students register and then actually use the modification as recommended only for some of the subjects, it does not have to be for all subject they are enrolled in.

Probably the most important thing is that the teachers always have a friendly approach to the students and try to accommodate them, even though it can be difficult in some subjects. We think that in some way the modifications should always be possible. They can always turn to the contact persons for help.

Anything else you would like to recommend to students or teachers? I’d say that none of the applicants or students need be afraid of studying at our faculty even if they have specific needs.

Exactly. I would also recommend the registered students to use the services offered by the Carolina Center. They offer psychological counseling, student peer support, chat counseling, study strategy exercises and coaching. They have a digitization center where they convert the printed books into the electronic versions. They also provide university-wide study assistance for students with specific learning disabilities and for the visually impaired, and diagnose specific learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, and attention and hyperactivity disorders. The Carolina Center also has a computer study room where they have software for students with visual impairments. Students can use free printing and copying. Spatial orientation can also be arranged, so if the students do not know the buildings yet, they can ask for assistance from the Center and the person designated for this will walk the building with the student. The Center also lends aids: laptops or voice recorders, tablets.

The second part of the interview is with FSV UK career counsellor Sylvie Fišerová.

How does a career counselor even work? Who is a career advisor? What do they do?

The field of career counseling is quite broad. In general, the purpose of career counseling is to help in decision-making in matters of education, choice of employment and overall career development. Some students come to consult just their CV or motivational letters for specific positions. We also rehearse interviews for which the students are already preparing. Some students are unsure either about the choice of field they are studying and are considering changing their major, or they are currently choosing a follow-up Master’s degree and are considering how to proceed. There is often the need to talk to someone who is not a friend or family member, who can actually help them sort out their thoughts and feelings without actually being involved in their story in any way. A career counselor can’t tell you what to do, but they can help you figure it out for yourself, and at the same time, they can’t find a job for you, but they can help you navigate career information sources and determine next steps.

How can a student make an appointment with you?

Students can order through the application, which is available on the website or by e-mail. The application is available for current students only, so graduates are more likely to reserve an appointment by e-mail or by phone.

How long are the consultations with you and where do they usually take place?

It is possible to come to my office in Jinonice. We have a limited time of 45 minutes for the consultation. We are often faster but sometimes we extend the time. Usually, students only need one meeting, but it happens that after some time they come back with some new topic or want to consult some development in their story. I also have students with whom we meet repeatedly, for example after two weeks, because they simply want to consult the process. I prefer the personal contact because trust and a calm environment are needed but it is certainly possible to arrange an online consultation.

How long do students wait for the appointment?
It is usually possible to make an appointment within two weeks. If I have the slots on the website booked out, the students can write me and I will try to add another date.

Apart of the individual consultations, you also put together various job and internship offers that come to our faculty. Where can students find those offers?

On the FSV UK website, we have our own section of career counselling but the offers for international students are published in Facebook group. We publish offers relevant to our students and the fields they are studying. Sometimes the graduates come forward with offers which we are very happy about.

Is it possible to say what types of companies get in touch with us the most?

It varies, from the field of state administration to small companies, startups (often by our graduates) to larger organizations. It is definitely worthwhile, especially for internships and internships, to follow the offers directly from the institutes. Often they have long-term partnerships directly in the field. At the Institute of Economic Studies they have a career counselor too and other institutes have people in charge of internships.

Can you tell what do you plan in terms of career-oriented events?

There will be a career day for international students at the beginning of the year. During the summer semester I would like to organize some group activities on career development. There will definitely be a job fair, which we organize once a year – it will probably be again at the beginning of November. I would recommend watching the faculty channels, because there will definitely be some lectures and discussions next year and we will let you know about it. I highly recommend students to go to the events organized by the faculty and the university and take advantage of those opportunities.