"Students can leave on top of the world or exhausted and drained": a multi-level analysis of students' experiences of university-community
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Community Engagement (CE) may have very positive outcomes leaving students elated and motivated or very negative outcomes that may leave them fatigued. This paper demonstrates that then university student volunteer is not necessarily the bland character who volunteers because it is a good thing, as has become a popular view. On the contrary, the engagement experience present volunteers and those involved in service-learning, with various challenges as they occupy the crucial space between the university and its collaborating communities. This paper focuses on the main findings of a PhD study based at a university in the Western Cape, South Africa. In this qualitative study, 35 students, eight staff members and seven community project representatives took part in focus groups and key informant individual interviews that gauged the psychosocial experiences related to university-community engagement. Key findings on the individual and interpersonal levels and within the university, community and societal contexts are discussed. The dynamic nature of students' CE experiences direct attention to a stronger focus on well-being and structured support throughout the engagement process.