30 January 2023

The buzzword is stress

Some time ago, I received an email from a student with the following text:
Dear academic advisor, I don't understand at all which new courses I have to take now and where I can find my study programme. Can you please help me quickly because I am stressed. You can call me day or night.
That last sentence made me chuckle. But in my conversations as an academic advisor, stress is a common topic of conversation. It comes up in almost every conversation.

For instance, I recently spoke to a first-year student. She felt stressed because she was struggling with study skills and pacing. She compared herself to others who seemed to do it all much better and faster. Am I good enough she wondered, tears were in her eyes. She was from Zeeland and had just moved into her room in Amsterdam. She had passed the first subjects and felt like she was working very hard but not studying the right way and was bound to fail the first year.

You can give yourself time to get used to it

We discussed her way of studying, I gave her tips and pointed out study skills courses available at the VU. Then we talked about her student life. It took some getting used to because she had grown up in a totally different environment and studying and living in Amsterdam felt quite lonely. She had made some contacts with fellow students, but they often went home outside Amsterdam immediately after lectures and she went to her room in Uilenstede. She found the study interesting and instructive and felt she had chosen well.

I told her that she can give herself time to get used to it and if that means failing a course now and then, that this is not a bad thing. Next year there will be another chance, I said, the important thing is that you are in the right place, you can study in your own way in your time and at your own pace with, of course, sufficient study progress. But since she had passed her first subjects, that didn't seem to be a problem. Her shoulders slumped a little and a cautious smile appeared on her face. She hadn't looked at it that way before. She walked out the door relieved, with the idea of taking matters more into her own hands.
It takes courage to take a step back.

Hanneke Hovenkamp
Academic Advisor

hanneke hovenkamp



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