01 February 2021

VU, strengthen our community

How do we get through this lockdown? Everyone does it in their own way. Some people sleep through the night, others want to be outside a lot and meet up with friends. I am someone who retreats into her own mind. What brings me back to reality are the random video calls from fellow students asking how I'm doing. They really give me fresh energy, don't underestimate that!

It is your community that helps you through this crisis. If we can learn anything from this pandemic, it is the crucial role of a community. Unfortunately, the VU does not realise this enough. At the very least, the university can still work on it.

A community feeling really brings students closer together. Research by Caring Universities has shown that corona makes 52 percent feel lonelier and more than 44 percent feel gloomier. I think that these percentages will decrease as the community becomes stronger.
Philosopher Toske Andreoli, author of articles such as ‘Study stress is not normal’ and of the book 'The Best Time of Your Life?' emphasises the importance of the role of universities in student wellbeing.
If we are not feeling well, the VU not only has useful and beneficial courses on offer, but we can also turn to psychologists and student advisors. But that is all after the fact; the university can also act preventively. For example, by working on a more personal environment that can prevent or alleviate a lot of problems.

The Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam can work on a more personal environment that can prevent or alleviate a lot of problems

A warm environment in which you can develop yourself sounds ideal. For example, the VU already offers activities in cultural centre Griffioen. But for some, the threshold is too high, partly because of the personal contribution. Students are really struggling, especially now that many have lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

If you want to stimulate the building of a community, the Griffioen should not ask for a contribution. How beautiful would it be when you connect students from different faculties with the same interests and create clubs that grow and flourish together. I can already picture the clubs: a crypto club, a painting club, a drawing club, a book club, a cooking club and many more. Such a club not only strengthens the feeling of community, it is also great fun!
Happier students - who would be unhappier because of that? Maybe the unemployed psychologists.

Universities should focus more on community. They should think about how to strengthen it, because connection - in whatever way - improves the wellbeing of students. A strong community also prevents drop-out. And therefore ultimately contributes to obtaining your degree.

Even after Corona, we mustn't forget the importance of a community. Students who feel connected with each other and with the VU also enjoy their studies more.
I hope to see you soon in my personal favourite: the crypto club!

IT, External Platforms

Aisha Malik USR



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