Thomas Gylling, Student Guidance Counselor at CBS, sums up the state of CBS students’ wellbeing in five words.
“The students are feeling terrible,” he says.
Lately, Danish media have published news articles about how especially the younger generation is struggling with loneliness and the lack of motivation to study or work during the second lockdown. And the situation is mirrored at CBS as well.
“The current situation we are in is much different from the one we had in the spring. It sounds strange, but in spring everything was new, it was kind of exciting and you had a sense of drama. This is not to belittle the frustrations the students had in spring, but since spring, the pandemic has worked like sandpaper and slowly worn the students down,” he says and continues:
“So when the second lockdown came, a lot of students just collapsed. And this affects the student population at large, but especially the first-year students, who haven’t had a regular semester together.”
Mette Gøtterup-Tang, Student Coach at CBS, explains that the motivation is hanging by a thread, and the students are worried how the semester will pan out.
“There’s a general feeling of being tired out by this. And especially by the uncertainty about how things will turn out. Every week, the government can potentially tighten the screws and make the lockdown last longer,” she says and continues:
“The students are worried about this semester. Will it be three months online or the entire semester?”
She explains that she has talked to students who know for certain that they have found the right education, but under the current circumstances, they doubt whether they want to stay another semester.
“I’m hearing from first-year students that they just want to start over. ‘Can we please just skip this year and get the full experience?’ they ask. If it was a possibility, I’m sure it would be very popular,” says Mette Gøtterup-Tang.
Thomas Gylling points out that being a student is, of course, about studying, but it is also about having fun.
“Right now, everything that’s fun would fit in a matchbox. What is fun about being a student and studying is close to non-existent. And that’s a killer,” he says.
What the hell am I doing here?
Thomas Gylling and Mette Gøtterup-Tang explain that the students who contact them under normal circumstances during their studies are somehow prone to feeling stressed or are dealing with some personal issues that put extra pressure on them during their studies. However, the pandemic has heaped extra pressure on everyone, and this has resulted in more students reaching out to the student counselors.
“The effect of corona can be divided into two categories. There are things that are directly caused by corona, and then you have its booster effect. And the booster effect makes everything more serious. We are hearing from social and extrovert students who we would usually see as ‘strong’ students, suddenly being overwhelmed by loneliness,” says Thomas Gylling.
What I’m worried about is that students will drop outThomas Gylling
Mette Gøtterup-Tang has been part of a project initiated by the Ministry of Higher Education and Science and Studenterrådgivningen where she touched base with 185 students across CBS’ programs. She asked about whether they were delayed because of coronavirus and how they were coping with the restrictions in autumn. And she was surprised that students who would not normally have any problems, could share thoughts and feelings similar to those felt by their counterparts who would usually reach out to the student counselors.
“They are struggling with lack of motivation, they think day-to-day life is hard and that it’s tough to get excited about online teaching. Suddenly, studying feels like climbing a steep mountain, even for average students,” she says.
Although all students are feeling the effects of the coronavirus and the lockdown, which have been put on all of us, especially two groups of students are having a hard time. The first-year students and the international students.
“The international students are not only worrying about themselves, but also their friends and families in their home countries. And they don’t always having the greatest accommodation. They often live in single rooms, and it’s tough to create any social relations when you’re just in a 19 sqm room. Some of them think to themselves: what the hell am I doing here?” says Thomas Gylling.
In general, Thomas Gylling sees a pattern among the students who are feeling especially under the weather because of the lockdown.
“Accommodation means a lot. Those who are living in tiny rooms often feel worse. It can be a huge help to have a roomie or two. Even having a 43-square-meter apartment matters a lot compared to a small room,” he says.
A long-term effect
CBS has announced that all classes will be online until April 1, and exams will be held online until May 1. But even if everything goes back to normal during the spring or around semester start in September, Thomas Gylling fears that the effect of coronavirus will not disappear overnight.
“The lockdowns will have a long-term effect. Even if we return to business as usual in autumn, we will have first-year students beginning their second year with weak social networks, and without feeling fully acquainted with study techniques, while other students are worn out and feel like they have not grasped their studies,” he says and continues:
“What I’m worried about is that students will drop out. Not because they don’t feel like they have made the right choice, but because they just can’t cope in the current situation.”
According to Thomas Gylling, Teaching and Learning has been informed about the potential long-term effect.
So what can be done to ease the feeling of loneliness, lack of motivation and general dissatisfaction for the moment?
During the pandemic, CBS has had different initiatives on my.cbs.dk where tips for studying at home and how to separate studies and free time have been shared. And as part of that, Student Affairs is now launching a new initiative involving so-called wellbeing ambassadors from each of the study programs.
“What we are seeing is that a lot of students feel very alone about feeling alone and are in general struggling, so we want to encourage the students to share with one another how they are doing. And we believe that it will have a greater effect if the students themselves initiate these talks, rather than us giving them advice,” says Mette Gøtterup-Tang and continues:
“And, in fact, my best piece of advice for everyone – staff and students – is to reach out and talk to each other about how you are feeling. You’ll probably find that you’re not alone. Not at all.”
Thomas Gylling is hearing from students that they have a hard time reaching out – especially the students who did not have a chance to establish proper relations before the full lockdown. But he reminds them that everyone is in the same boat and is just waiting for someone to reach out.
“It’s not embarrassing to say that you want to either chat about studies or just play online Ludo. I know it’s hard to reach out when you don’t feel like you know anyone, but your fellow students probably feel the same way, and they will think you are cool if you reach out for academic or social purposes. I can’t say enough how important it is. Reach out to each other,” he says.
What we offer is no quick fix, but here’s a little tip that might make these times a little easier to deal withThomas Gylling
Mette Gøtterup-Tang and Thomas Gylling are well aware that the tips and advice they and CBS share with the students are not going to magically transform everyday life or bring back motivation to pre-corona levels. But they hope it at least shows that CBS cares.
“We need to acknowledge the situation the students are in and show respect, and I think we have done so. Therefore, we are not going to say: come on friends, you can do this, while we wave our jazz hands. If we do that, people will lose their temper. It’s a question of saying, yes, we see you, and know it’s tough, and what we offer is no quick fix, but here’s a little tip that might make these times a little easier to deal with,” says Thomas Gylling.
Mette Gøtterup-Tang adds:
“Therefore, we hope to have wellbeing ambassadors at all study programs who can help initiate talks.”