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With the express wishes of Pramukh Swami Maharaj in 2004, annual Vidyarthi Shibirs have been organised to provide students with the skills, confidence and support to succeed academically through a foundation rooted in spiritual principles. Thus, over 200 kishores and kishoris from across the UK arrived on the evening of Friday 20 February 2009 for the GCSE and A-Level Vidyarthi Shibir, entitled ‘Brahmavidyani College’.

The popularity of the event has increased rapidly since 2004, and to allow the necessary time and commitment to each kishore and kishori, this year’s conference in February was held exclusively for students studying for their GCSE and A-Level qualifications.

Yogvivek Swami inaugurated the opening session with the traditional deep pragatya, before encouraging all attendees to take maximum benefit of the programme. A motivational video provided an insight into the future that Swamishri has envisaged for students of ‘Brahmavidyani College’, and then a collection of excerpts of his blessings through spoken word and letters – illustrating his messages, wishes and expectations – were discussed in group goshthi sessions.

An opportunity for abhishek of Nilkanth Varni for all students was available the following morning, with kishores singing kirtans upstairs inside the mandir after the Shangar arti. Following morning Vachanamrut Goshthi sessions with group leaders, the focus moved to the ideal vidyarthi of Swamishri. A panel interview with students who had succeeded and overcome their challenges provided an eye-opening experience and gave motivation for kishores and kishoris to increase their enthusiasm and strengthen their resolve and endeavours.

The practical learning continued with a valuable session to enhance writing skills through a series of exercises to help students improve the quality of their scripts in their examinations and thus maximise their chances of scoring marks, and simultaneously to better their written coursework, Personal Statements and job applications.

Following an insightful presentation discussing the ‘strength within’ each individual, the students dispersed to their ‘one-to-one’ sessions with trained mentors from the Education Department, and attended workshops tailored to reinforce their revision and exam techniques. This was followed by a special boat cruise and dinner on the River Thames, which provided an unforgettable experience for the young vidyarthis.

Following the arti and Vachanamrut Goshthi on the final morning on Sunday, sadhus discussed various aspects of the future of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, providing the impetus for the preparation of group presentations on a three-day ‘Weekend with Swamishri’. Discussions on innovative ideas were merged with analysis of technical and financial logistics that instilled important experience of teamwork and project management. The groups presented a series of entertaining and diverse presentations, which were assessed by a panel of judges for the respective kishore and kishori groups.

Yogvivek Swami concluded the memorable shibir by encouraging everyone to reflect and make the necessary changes to build their academic and professional careers. The three-day event proved to be an overwhelming success and provided the key balance of spiritual and educational guidance, leaving those who attended highly motivated to please Swamishri through their studies.

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