Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health issues became prevalent as schools were shut down and social distancing was enforced.
Harm to mental health is said to be caused in part by students worrying about what the future will bring when they enter the world of work.
Their worries are not misplaced because disruption wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic in the education sector is feared to have compromised skills acquisition by students.
This was very clear to the faculty members of the College of Forestry and Natural Resources (CFNR) such that they decided to offer FOR 198, an internship program to enable graduating students to review, practice, and experience the theories and skills that they acquired through remote learning in 2020-2021 when quarantine measures had to be put in place .
CFNR is now reaping the benefits of offering FOR 198 after its first batch of students completed the course. The course fostered student morale and gave a sense of fulfillment to its implementers.
“The internship encouraged us and boosted our morale as future foresters. It made us confident to step out of academe as competent professionals who are ready to serve the people,” Bea M. Dischoso said after taking the internship cum bridging program from March 5 to April 1 at the (CFNR).
Justine A. Marasigan, also a student-intern, credited the internship program for enabling them to partly recover the forestry experience and learning that they lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CFNR Internship Committee and faculty members designed FOR 198 as a 200-hour in-house internship program of limited face-to-face activities organized into modules covering major subject areas in forestry offered by the four academic units of CFNR.
These units are the Institute of Renewable Natural Resources and the Departments of Forest Biological Sciences (DFBS), Forest Products and Paper Science (DFPPS), and Social Forestry and Forest Governance (DSFFG).
FOR 198 aims to enable students to demonstrate skills in conducting forest resources assessment; identifying, characterizing, and processing forest products; identifying plants, conducting biodiversity and tree health assessment, and identifying diseases of existing vegetation at the Mount Makiling Forest Reserve; and, appraising, planning, monitoring, and evaluating community-based environment and natural resources projects, as well as methods and techniques in forestry extension.
In short, the internship program is a training ground for students to enhance their knowledge and skills in various aspects of forestry science, which is a crucial step in preparing them to be stewards of Philippine forests.
Maria Ellenita G. De Castro, an assistant professor at the DFBS, admitted that although it was not easy to handle FOR 198, it was fun and fulfilling to see the eagerness in students to learn essential skills related to forestry.
Ariza Dnielle Lagang who is also one of the 44 student-interns in this batch, believes it will ready her for work. She said, “The internship helped me refresh what I have learned and taught me new things about forestry. I believe that my experience in this internship improved the crucial skills in the field and has readied me for working in the real world,” Lagang said.
To be offered again during the coming midyear term, FOR 198 was managed by unit internship coordinators (UICs) who monitored and evaluated student performance and ensured the strict adherence of personnel and students to the minimum health and safety guidelines in both indoor and outdoor learning facilities.
From lessons learned with the first batch of students under the program, the next batch of students could look forward to an improved edition of the program. In its first edition, intern Vicmar F. Jugado said it was the best four weeks of his journey as a BSF student.
“It allowed me to learn the on-the-ground skills that I have missed in the past two years because of the pandemic and essential life competencies and to build strong bonds with our peers, the faculty, and staff,” Jugado added.
Faculty members who helped implement the program also gave positive feedback about FOR 198. Edgar E. Devera, an assistant professor at DFPPS, hailed the internship for producing extraordinary and globally competitive students.
Dr. Jenielyn T. Padrones of IRNR welcomed the internship for bringing life to the forest after the pandemic, with the IRNR focusing on field and laboratory activities.
Completing the course assuaged the students’ anxiety about their lack of field experience. According to Dr. Padrones, the internship lessened the doubts the students felt about themselves. As the DSFFG internship team said, “It was an amazing journey, unparalleled in BSF history.”
FOR 198 has turned out to be a good program, a product of the CFNR team who saw through the confusion amid the pandemic. The CFNR indeed exhibited agility in coming up with program that has raised the morale of students and prepared them for the world of work.
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