Rebekka joined Erasmus Sport in September, as a sports coordinator. Although she joined in the midst of the pandemic, together with her colleagues she has been trying hard to offer students as many possibilities to move and be active as the circumstances allow.
“A lot of students feel lonely and depressed because they never come to the university anymore to study or do sports. Sport is not only about physical activity, it is also about feeling great from the inside and having a chance to interact with other students. Now, this whole package is taken away.”
“At Erasmus Sport, it is very important for us to set an example. We wanted to offer an opportunity for students to come and interact with us, to know that we are there for them. So, recently we contacted different universities to see how they were handling the situation. From this the idea of starting the Walk & Talk was born” Rebekka said.
Open to anybody
The initiative kickstarted on 1 March. Now, anytime from Mondays through Fridays all students can book a timeslot with a random Erasmus Sport employee, simply to take a stroll and have a good conversation. Of course, all of this happens while maintaining a safe 1.5 meters distance. “The opportunity is open to anybody”, Rebekka promised. “We did not want to limit it only to Erasmus Sport pass holders.”
During the Walk & Talks, any topic goes. “You can talk about your feelings, situation at home, study, sports, but you can also chat about the weather. Of course, we can talk about corona as well, but I think students are a bit corona-tired”, said Rebekka. “It’s not really sport but at least you’re outdoors, moving for an hour. Honestly, this is more important for your mental health than for your physical health. We are not psychologists, we are very sports-minded people, but we can certainly offer you a listening ear”. Rebekka shared that each staff member participating in this initiative has a different background and different life experience, and that’s what students find interesting to learn more about.
Stuck in a bubble
“A lot of students who sign up are international, or Dutch students who have moved to Rotterdam for their study. Some of them live in student housing and have only two or three people to interact with. Their environment is very limited. They don’t go to libraries, student parties or any other places, so they feel like they are stuck in a small bubble. What they want is to make new friends and new contacts”.
Rebekka has only had the chance to have a few Walk & Talks for now. Because of the private nature of these meetings, she doesn’t want to talk about how they went. But in general, she’s feeling optimistic about the initiative. “We are not psychologists. We are also not here to tell people how the world works, but we have plenty of free time at hand to help students. By creating this safe and free space, we aim to make students feel heard and valued.”