The wellbeing initiatives: 'Care about your own wellbeing'
Would you like to take a walk with a fellow student who you don’t know? That is the idea behind Walk & Talk. With this new initiative, International Studies aims to provide more opportunities for social contact.
And successfully: students are enthusiastic about the activity. During the first round, a whopping thirty students participated. 'I expected students to find it scary to be randomly matched,' student wellbeing counselor Roos ter Elst says. 'But they find it to be really nice to meet new people. Students say they have exchanged phone numbers afterwards and that they are still texting each other.'
Mutual contact is one of the goals of the activity. 'A sense of community contributes to your overall wellbeing,' Ter Elst explains. 'Especially since International Studies is a large international student community in The Hague, it is important that we focus on the community and wellbeing of students. You have to feel connected. The size and diversity of our student population also makes us the faculty’s ideal testing ground for these kinds of initiatives. It really is trial and error.’
Student ambassador Leonor Albuquerque Amaral is happy with the signal that International Studies is sending regarding student wellbeing. 'I care about your wellbeing and you should also care about your own wellbeing,' she summarises. Leonor says it is nice that the programme also organises things outside of the study programme, such as the Walk & Talk, but also other activities. 'It certainly helps to create a sense of community,' Leonor says. She has been a guest speaker at the Failing Forward event. This is an event where students could hear from each other that it is normal if not everything works out. 'I spoke about the need to put yourself and your needs first. Then success will follow,' Leonor says. She hopes that her story will be of use to her fellow students during these times.
Leonor describes the past year as 'exhausting' because everything has been taking place online. Ter Elst also notices that students have less energy for online activities. 'I notice that initiatives that are not online are much more popular. People appreciate real contact.'
In order to foster 'real' contact, Ter Elst has set up a study buddy programme. Students can indicate per course whether they want to be paired with one or more fellow students. This initiative also caught on: after only a few days, sixty students had signed up. ‘We find, not surprisingly, that students find it difficult to motivate themselves when it comes to studying or find it hard to take breaks,' Ter Elst says. By matching students with each other, they can rely on each other. Moreover they have social interaction this way. ‘Students miss those moments right before and right after class. Small talk is very important.'