‘Faculty should feel as comfortable as a living room’
What does the future of student welfare look like? Throughout this academic year, our faculty has been working hard to answer that question. Ruben van Gaalen, study coordinator, and Femke Weerdmeester, student of Dutch Language and Culture, look back on the past and towards the future.
Ruben and Femke participated in a workshop on student welfare earlier this year, where the key question was: ‘What does the ideal faculty or study spot look like’. ‘Almost everyone came up with a sort of living room feeling,’ Femke says. ‘Which makes sense,’ says Ruben. ‘Some of the most important factors for wellbeing are feeling safe and at ease. Home is hopefully the place where you experience those feelings.’
Does it mean that lectures have to be given in rooms full of recliners and coffee tables from now on? ‘There should at least be more room for things like plants and music,’ says Femke. Ruben also thinks peace and quiet are important. ‘I’ve suggested that there should be more spaces where you can take a moment for yourself, maybe for meditation, if that’s what’s needed.’
The next session on student welfare will be organised in the autumn. What are Femke and Ruben hoping for? ‘I started as a study coordinator in May and my first question was: “Where can I refer students to?” That could be a little clearer, for students as well as for me,’ Ruben says. ‘I’d also find it interesting to discuss the place exercise has in higher education. When it comes to mental health, people are quick to tell you to go talk to someone, but you rarely hear anyone say that a visit to a physical therapist might be a good idea or that you should watch what you eat during the week.’
Femke would like to have fellow students share their ideas with her. ‘I work as a psychiatric nurse alongside my studies, so I’m very interested in people’s behaviour and feelings. I’d like to translate this into practice at our faculty, but only a few students attended the first student welfare session. It’d be nice to have more attendees, because everyone is already subconsciously thinking about these subjects. Usually, you know exactly when you or your fellow students are experiencing pressure from all the micro-deadlines, or if you need more breathing space between exams. It’d be nice if something could be done about these issues, but that does mean that we need to raise the alarm.’