Community supporting students whose wellbeing is impacted by COVID-19
In a year like no other, Dal students are facing many challenges. Like the rest of us, they have lost their routines, and had to adjust to working from home and socializing less often. As they prepare to enter their second year of learning primarily online with restricted access to campus, they’re telling Dal how the strain is affecting them — and Dal is mobilizing to find ways to help at projectdal.ca.
Last year, Dalhousie student Saif Khader used to drive to campus with a friend around noon. They’d stay behind after class, studying together at the Killam Library, SUB or Rowe School of Business until 6 or 7 p.m. “It was effective in keeping us concentrated,” Khader says.
Now, with so many campus places closed per public health requirements to halt COVID-19’s spread, Khader is primarily studying from home, a situation for which his student apartment is not particularly well-suited.
Home study spaces not always the best
Just as many working professionals are adapting living spaces into office spaces, students are creating study spaces in what are often small or shared living quarters. For some students, this means studying on their beds for hours at a time.
Khader’s home study space is his bedroom where he’s set up a small desk he got for free from a friend. Thanks to his co-op, which had reduced hours due to the pandemic, he could afford a new chair. The set-up is serviceable, but not ideal, and he knows he’s more fortunate than many students, but he still misses his usual study spaces on campus and the quiet company of others.
Student Affairs seeing student wellbeing compromised
It’s a story familiar to Dal’s Student Affairs office. “The pandemic has affected students’ sense of belonging and holistic wellness,” says Heather Doyle, Director of Assessment & Special Projects at Dalhousie Student Affairs. She’s part of a team working to find innovative ways to support students by creating a sense of community for them in a stay-at-home world.
In a recent survey her team conducted, students reported their top concerns as mental health, exam performance and having adequate study environments. In fact, 44% of students surveyed identified needing improvements to their study spaces, be that a proper desk or chair, improved lighting or storage spaces for their books and materials.
Their mental health is often affected by financial concerns, as many students lost their summer or part-time jobs and are increasingly reliant on emergency relief bursaries.
“We’re always listening and learning,” says Doyle. “The data allows us to understand the various student needs that have to be addressed.”
That’s why Dalhousie has established Caring Through Covid-19: The Student Wellness Project, to give the community the opportunity to pull together and help students finish what will hopefully be their last term with such severe restrictions on a positive note.
Sense of caring and connection
“Small investments can make a big difference in physical comfort. Feeling cared for goes a long way in making students regain that valuable sense of connection,” says Doyle. “When times are tough, the Dalhousie community always comes together to help students. They really care.”
The Student Wellness Project offers people the chance to donate so that students may receive emergency relief bursaries or items that will allow them to create a more productive and comfortable study-at-home environment, and importantly feel that sense of caring and connection with the Dalhousie community. These supports will help students achieve and maintain holistic wellbeing – mental, physical and social health.
Please visit projectDAL.ca/studentwellness to watch the video, learn more about the campaign, and give today.