Students are less likely to say they are lonely. But the corona crisis has put the feeling of seclusion under a magnifying glass. VU Amsterdam must therefore provide opportunities for students to meet each other, says student pastor Riekje van Osnabrugge.
If there is one thing that has disappeared in today’s online life, it is being seen and heard. For students, asking questions in class is via impersonal chats, at the study associations you can no longer just plop on the couch next to the others, and how do you get spontaneous encounters online or do you end up in a good conversation?
Who understands me?
“Students have a great need to speak and be heard about what they are concerned with”, says Riekje van Osnabrugge, student pastor at VU Amsterdam and program maker at NEWConnective, the platform at the VU for students and meaning. “They hate that they only see their fellow students on campus once a week, if that is the case at all. Especially first-year and master students.”
Students miss getting to know others, in a casual way, in real life. “The peak in loneliness is in 19-year-olds, according to research”, says Van Osnabrugge. “Young people have always been struggling with questions such as: who understands me, who am I really? But due to corona, that is under a magnifying glass. In the past, you could keep up the appearance of being social by getting into groups, doing fun things together. But if you sit at home with yourself all day, you can no longer flee from it.”
Put up with yourself
NEWConnective organized an evening on ‘(dis) connectivity’ last week. The twelve students who took part reported their feelings of loneliness, even though they didn’t call it that. Loneliness still carries the stigma of being pathetic. “On such an evening, the recognition is especially nice. You are not alone in your solitude. We were trying to find out what loneliness actually is, what it feels like, what everyone is trying to get out. After a scientific introduction, it was everyone’s turn to tell their story.”
According to Van Osnabrugge, it is important that you learn to endure yourself, through self-examination, but also by hearing the experiences of others. “Students are now shaping their identity. That’s why it’s important to meet others. Creative solutions must be found so that students can really talk to each other. And then without having the feeling that it is actually not allowed.”