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Value of exploring wellbeing issues with students and colleagues

Students may experience various wellbeing complaints during their studies, such as stress and fear of failure. Research by Caring Universities (2020) has shown that at the beginning of the corona crisis, 56% of the students had trouble concentrating, 52% felt more lonely and 44% were more depressed. The percentage of students with moderate to severe depressive symptoms in this study was 10% higher than in the period before corona. Commissioned by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the RIVM, the Trimbos Institute and the GGD GHOR Nederland conducted research into student wellbeing in 2021. This showed that 62% of the students surveyed experienced a lot of stress and 97% experienced some degree of stress. Partly because of such alarming figures, more and more attention is being paid to student wellbeing in society.

Within the framework of this theme, with five colleagues in a two-year REBO faculty USO project, we are exploring various wellbeing issues together with B&O students. We pay attention to these wellbeing issues from a social, organisational and individual perspective.

We do this in the form of a module of 4 to 5 meetings that students can sign up for. In this module, conversations are being held between students, teachers and alumni of the UU. They get the chance to tell their own story and share experiences. Together, they address themes such as: what causes wellbeing problems? What can the university do? What can you do yourself? Individual conversations are also held, in which we take on the role of wellbeing supervisor to talk to the student about how they are doing.

What do we achieve with this?

This project offers a unique insight into the questions that students struggle with when it comes to welbeing, both at individual and organisational level. Examples of such questions are: How can I keep with all the work at once? Why is extra studying called ‘delay’ instead of ‘enrichment’? Why does Osiris show how I am doing compared to other students?

Students also find it taboo-breaking to have open discussions about this topic and they experience a lot of support from lecturers and trainers who talk about their own wellbeing issues. Students indicate that it is valuable to have these discussions within the walls of the university, it reinforces the feeling that the university is really involved in this subject. What also helps here, is that the module meetings take place at a location other than regular education, so that students can step out of their daily context.

The intention is to continue offering the module as a regular part of the B&O Academy (extra-curricular programme) and to incorporate ‘working on your wellbeing’ as a training component in Bachelor 1 in a course on management sciences.

What can we do ourselves?

It is very valuable to experiment with exercises you can do yourself to improve your wellbeing, such as meditation or gaining insight into your ‘energy diary’. In addition, a number of points of feedback have come out of the project about what we can do within the programme, such as: help students find the right balance between relaxation and challenge, be open about wellbeing questions and organise check-ins to ask how everyone is doing.

The most important outcome is the importance of looking out for each other and being open to talk about the concerns and stories that someone else wants to share.

We hope to inspire other colleagues to start a conversation about wellbeing. It is a subject that concerns us all; everyone struggles with their wellbeing from time to time. Start the conversation!

Want to know more?

For more information about this USO project, you can contact Marij Swinkels and/or Jasmijn van Harten.

Marijn van Ellen
7 July 2022

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