No lonely Christmas for international students

Many international students were unable to celebrate Christmas with their families due to the corona lockdown. By offering them Christmas dinners, a listening line, online sports lessons, fun workshops and a matching service, TU/e did everything it could to prevent them from having to spend the holidays on their own. Student Diversity Officer Lara Hofstra would like to continue with these activities in the coming grey month of January.

photo Lara Hofstra

Listening line HearMe, which was launched by TU/e during the first lockdown in the spring of last year, was brought back to life on 21 December, Lara Hofstra says. “People can contact HearMe for a chat or a (video)conversation every evening between six and seven. At first, two or three people contacted the listening line daily, by now that has stabilized at one contact a day.” Internationals in particular make use of HearMe. “Mostly men. Women share their problems with their friends, men seem to find that more difficult unfortunately,” Hofstra says.

She emphasizes that HearMe isn’t aimed exclusively at people who want to discuss serious issues. “Don’t hesitate to call if you have a good movie suggestion, ideas for a new walking route, or advice on how to meet new people. We will remain accessible during the coming winter months, which people often find depressing.”

People who prefer real life contact can sign up for a Walk & Talk. “That means having a proper conversation during a walk around the Karpendonkse Plas.” Hofstra has a pool of more than forty volunteers at her disposal for this purpose, all of them students and staff members. She does however screen the contact requests in advance to see whether someone suffers from severe problems. “A few of my colleagues and I myself are trained in suicide prevention and we refer people to 113 and their general practitioner when we pick up on these signals. Fortunately, we never had to do this so far.”

Daily routine

Maintaining a daily routine proved to be a challenge during the Christmas holidays, Hofstra was told. “Despite their intentions to study for their exams, many students had difficulty getting out of bed in the morning. That is why the Students Sports Centre went ahead with its planned ‘Winter Specials’ in the shape of online sports lessons. Being physically active helps you regain your daily routine. Incidentally, we also have plans to start with corona proof bootcamp lessons on the TU/e terrain, the so-called ‘Bootcampus’.”

Apart from the sportive activities, TU/e also had some creative online activities on offer during the Christmas holidays: students could collect packages and take part, in small groups, in cookie baking workshops or in workshops where they learned how to paint like Bob Ross. Seventy small groups took part in both of these activities.

Christmas dinner

The holidays aren’t complete without a festive dinner, which is why students could go to Hubble on 25, 26 and 31 December for a take away three-course menu. “With truffle mushroom soup, a main dish with chicken, fish or a vegetarian option, and a raspberry chocolate tartlet,” Hofstra sums up. In total, one hundred and thirty meals were consumed.

Bubble Match Maker

People who were looking for a table companion could sign up for the Bubble Match Maker. Seventy-seven students and PhD candidates decided to do so. Hofstra made small groups, based on study and interests. “But in the end, only five groups actually met. It simply works better when students can find each another themselves, which is why I will launch a WhatsApp group. My wish is to build a digital platform where students can find each other and immediately make an appointment for a sports lesson or a Studium Generale movie, for example. But that’s still in the future.”

Having a hard time during the lockdown?

Student life has changed radically because of the corona measures. It’s only natural that you have difficulty coping with it. Don’t hesitate to contact HearMe is you feel depressed, or if you simply would like to talk. Contact a volunteer between six and seven in the evening daily for a chat or a (video)call, or make an appointment for Walk & Talk: a walk and a nice conversation. And keep an eye on the calender of the Winter TU/e. No structure anymore? Tip: don’t forget that you can still go to MetaForum to study. Remember to book a place to study first.

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