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International ClassroomSpiegeloog 411: Power

International Classroom: UvA Walks

Since February, UvA students who would like to meet new people or who feel lonely during the pandemic can go for a walk with another UvA student, either physically if both students are in Amsterdam, or they can text each other while taking a walk. This initiative called UvA Walks, developed by a third-year political student at the UvA, Tim Wagelaar, started in November when Tim realised that it would be pleasant if fellow students could visit museums, or go to the cinema together. However, when the lockdown was implemented, there was virtually no activity in which students could engage together, except for taking a walk. This was coupled with the declining mental health and well-being of students, so Tim sees UvA Walks as originating out of necessity, to prevent loneliness and frustration.

After Tim proposed the idea to the dean of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Prof. Agneta Fischer, the response from the university was very welcoming and they were open to starting UvA Walks, if Tim came up with a concrete proposal. In a couple of hours, Tim built the platform and the university agreed to support it from the communication side. The platform itself is not very technical – it requires only a student’s name, email address and phone number which are then downloaded by Tim, who pairs students for the walk. This comes with some drawbacks, such as students being able to go for a walk only once per week, since the random pairing has to be done manually. However, Tim was contacted by an organisation called Frisse Gedachtes, an online platform that provides support to students who are fighting with loneliness, isolation or other personal or study-related problems. Currently they are working on expanding the initiative to multiple cities, which might lead to an automated pairing process, meaning more walks for more students. 

In accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and personal opinion, UvA Walks does not collect any information other than what the students themselves provide: their name, email address and phone number. Such information is stored only on the UvA server, and no third parties have access to it. So far, 1200 students have taken a walk together through UvA Walks, and the demand for it is continuously increasing. The possibility to collaborate with other organisations and data scientists is a very promising prospect for the initiative. Being an almost minimalist platform, which does not require much information from the client, UvA Walks brings a fresh opportunity to connect during the pandemic, effectively counteracting all the lonely hours many of us have to spend sitting at home. In this way, UvA Walks might give students something to look forward to, as well as provide an opportunity to meet new people and give a desired break from studying, boosting productivity. And who knows, maybe developments on the platform will allow us to use UvA Walks even after the pandemic. After all, taking a walk with a fellow student and meeting new people is vital not only during the lockdown, and could help new students find friends. Lastly, the idea that the UvA considered a student’s initiative with an open mind and helped spread the word about it is encouraging, and gives the message that creativity on the side of students is always welcome and supported.

 

Do you want to go for a walk with a fellow student? You can find the UvA walks platform here.

Since February, UvA students who would like to meet new people or who feel lonely during the pandemic can go for a walk with another UvA student, either physically if both students are in Amsterdam, or they can text each other while taking a walk. This initiative called UvA Walks, developed by a third-year political student at the UvA, Tim Wagelaar, started in November when Tim realised that it would be pleasant if fellow students could visit museums, or go to the cinema together. However, when the lockdown was implemented, there was virtually no activity in which students could engage together, except for taking a walk. This was coupled with the declining mental health and well-being of students, so Tim sees UvA Walks as originating out of necessity, to prevent loneliness and frustration.

After Tim proposed the idea to the dean of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Prof. Agneta Fischer, the response from the university was very welcoming and they were open to starting UvA Walks, if Tim came up with a concrete proposal. In a couple of hours, Tim built the platform and the university agreed to support it from the communication side. The platform itself is not very technical – it requires only a student’s name, email address and phone number which are then downloaded by Tim, who pairs students for the walk. This comes with some drawbacks, such as students being able to go for a walk only once per week, since the random pairing has to be done manually. However, Tim was contacted by an organisation called Frisse Gedachtes, an online platform that provides support to students who are fighting with loneliness, isolation or other personal or study-related problems. Currently they are working on expanding the initiative to multiple cities, which might lead to an automated pairing process, meaning more walks for more students. 

In accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and personal opinion, UvA Walks does not collect any information other than what the students themselves provide: their name, email address and phone number. Such information is stored only on the UvA server, and no third parties have access to it. So far, 1200 students have taken a walk together through UvA Walks, and the demand for it is continuously increasing. The possibility to collaborate with other organisations and data scientists is a very promising prospect for the initiative. Being an almost minimalist platform, which does not require much information from the client, UvA Walks brings a fresh opportunity to connect during the pandemic, effectively counteracting all the lonely hours many of us have to spend sitting at home. In this way, UvA Walks might give students something to look forward to, as well as provide an opportunity to meet new people and give a desired break from studying, boosting productivity. And who knows, maybe developments on the platform will allow us to use UvA Walks even after the pandemic. After all, taking a walk with a fellow student and meeting new people is vital not only during the lockdown, and could help new students find friends. Lastly, the idea that the UvA considered a student’s initiative with an open mind and helped spread the word about it is encouraging, and gives the message that creativity on the side of students is always welcome and supported.

 

Do you want to go for a walk with a fellow student? You can find the UvA walks platform here.

Milena Kaprálová

Author Milena Kaprálová

Milena (1999) is a first year psychology student, interested in how biology and psychology inform one another. She is an open science enthusiast and likes to write about subjective experience.

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