Here we go again springs to mind. The UK has been through it’s second lockdown and now we head towards Christmas when students will be returning home after a long first term.
I remember how I felt at the start of the first lockdown, in the midst of completing my degree and not having a clue what the future held. And now, we’ve been through so much – if anything we can leave 2020 feeling proud of our resilience to just complete each day.
For the first lockdown, universities closed so students headed home in most cases. For the second lockdown, universities are remaining open, ensuring that students are receiving the education that are paying for. As much as I agree and I think as a student I would want to be at university, it is a fine balance to manage education alongside mental health and wellbeing.
This is why Novel is one of the best people to speak to. As a provider of student accommodation that focuses on student wellbeing, they can offer advice for how students can navigate this tricky time.
What does you think is the most important element that contributes to a student’s wellbeing?
Going to university can often be a student’s first experience of moving away from home as adults. Whilst this is opportunity presents an extremely exciting time, with the possibility to explore, have fun and make friends, it can also bring negative feelings of stress. There are endless opportunities and paths to be taken at university, options which can at the start often feel overwhelming, as there is a pressure to perform and fit in. At Novel Student we aim to create supportive communities, and to provide a service which supports every facet of their lives.
How does Novel support students making time for themselves?
We try to cater for every aspect of our students lives, removing negative distractions and allowing them to focus on themselves. We provide in apartment washer-dryers, meaning no long queues for the communal washing machines and (hopefully anyway) no rogue socks turning up in your own washing! We also provide dishwashers, free grab and go breakfast Monday to Friday, communal trash chutes and video entry via an app, which allows you to let your guests in from the comfort of your own room, or not if you are looking for some peace! We also provide our students with the tools to excel both in their course and their future career path, with dedicated study rooms and career relate events such as CV writing courses.
For any students struggling to currently make time for themselves we recommend taking time out of the day to practice self-care activities. These may look different for every student but generally involve doing something that purely makes you feel happy! This could be a long bath, exercise, watching a funny film, talking to a friend or being creative. We’re all different and unwind in different ways, it’s important to find what works best for you.
How does Novel aim to support students mental health?
Health and wellness are at the very heart of the Novel brand, and as such each aspect of the Novel platform has been designed to reflect this. We emphasis student well-being and work actively to encourage a healthy lifestyle among our residents, both physically and mentally.
This is supported by our events program, which includes activities that provide the opportunity for advice and guidance. The ambition is that these events will not only equip students to deal with the stressors experienced during university life, but also those they may encounter in their working life.
Our staff are trained Mental Health first-aiders and they are hired with personality in mind to ensure that they can identify, listen to and support those young people in their community struggling to cop, if needed.
We also have dedicated wellness studios, spaces designed as areas where students can relax with a book, or as part of our regular yoga and meditation activities. These spaces are activated by us with programmed events to ensure that students always have a breadth of wellness-focused events to take part in.
We plan to regularly run wellness-focused survey’s in our communities in order to better understand the needs of our students and adapt our operations to support them.
Does Novel offer one-to-one support for the students?
Novel team members are always here to support any student who might need it. Our local level Novel site teams are the ones who pioneer our focus on mental well-being, with all staff receiving mental health training. This enables them to support any students who might need it.
Talking can often do wonders, but if any students feel like they need more support we would always point them in the direction of the many welfare services available. Student Mind offers fantastic support, as do the Student Support Services at the University’s.
Our focus when supporting students is to ensure they feel supported and part of a community. A lot of students move far away to study and may begin to feel disconnected from friend and family, therefore, we want to create a second home for students.
How does Novel think students mental health have been affected by COVID?
The uncertainty of the year has been stressful for everyone, and especially so for students as courses have had to adapt, with much of teaching moving online. It has been difficult for activities that are often at the core of the university experience, and often key to mental well-being, such as making new friends and attending events, to coincide with the pandemic. The biggest impact of the pandemic for young people has certainly been isolation and loneliness.
However, it has also been positive to see students pulling together during these difficult times. Supporting their flat mates and getting creative with online events.
We are positive that the university year will soon settle, as university’s work hard to try to adapt to the complexities of this year. With the second lockdown and the uncertainty to next year we advise all students to make more time for their mental health, to find new ways to socialise, such as virtual events, and to ensure to stay connected with friends and family back home.