“Our department handles the Master’s programmes and supports the back end of the curriculum, and that’s what I also provide support for. That’s basically what I do. I’ve been doing it for two years now. I’m very happy with my work and I think Erasmus University and the RSM is a really great place to work. I have nice colleagues, a dedicated manager and, something which is very important to me, Lotte can come to work with me every day. That’s essential, because otherwise I wouldn’t even be able to come to the campus. It’s actually a miracle that I can work now. Until two years ago, my life was very different. I’ve literally gone from being on benefits to full independence in two years.

“You can’t tell from looking at me, but I’m a psychiatric patient. I have nightmares, sleep paralysis and a dissociative disorder. This means that under high stress, I can lose touch with reality. Lotte has a number of tasks for which she has been specifically trained, to help me in everyday life. For example, she can tell when a dissociative episode is coming on or when I’m having one. She will then try to get me out of it by asking for attention. She might bark at me a bit, for example, or put a paw on my arm. Or on my face if I don’t respond. And then she will bark even louder. If she really can’t get me out of it, she will at least get me to safety.

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“Lotte makes all the difference to me. At first, I couldn’t even leave the house. During my studies in history, I always had to go to Leiden. That was a huge stress factor, every time. And now I work four days a week. Public transport wouldn’t have been an option without Lotte. The contrast simply couldn’t be greater. You could really say that Lotte has saved my life. But I’m also very happy with my manager. It’s obviously a huge step and quite a risk to hire someone like me. You don’t know in advance if it’s going to work out. My boss took that step, and I’m very happy about it. So I really do feel very much at home here. Lotte and I are completely accepted in my department. In fact, everyone is crazy about her. I notice that people are happy when she’s there.

“So I definitely do feel at home at Erasmus University. At the same time, I know it doesn’t feel like home to everyone. There are quite a few students here with psychiatric complaints. If you’re not sure what’s wrong with you, you want all the help and information you can get. In that respect, I think that the EUR falls a bit short. Every disorder and every person is different, of course, but there is only limited information available and there are only a limited number of places you can turn to. I know that help is available. You can go to the study advisor, you can search the website and you can make an appointment and will be provided with some resources. But especially if you’re still at the beginning of a difficult diagnostic process, this is often not enough. I feel that a bit more time and energy could be put into this.”

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