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Clubs and associations — Students at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences use board games, mentoring schemes, and armchairs to prevent stress and remind each other that student life has much more to offer than just textbooks.
The sun is baking down through the large panorama windows at the Maersk Tower at the Panum Institute. It’s like being inside a huge greenhouse. And the students have to shed their woolly jumpers to avoid overheating.
The exam period, and the stress, has started to approach, and the building echoes with syllabus discussions and repetition.
At one table in the corner, however, there is a different vibe. A ray of sun hits a board game, so that it can be seen from far away. It is Ticket to Ride, and four women are diligently trying to familiarize themselves with the rules.
Pusterummet SUND — ‘Breathing Space’
Who: For anyone who needs a break. You can attend an event at any time, and if you want to join the club, you can send them a message on Facebook.
Where: The Panum Institute
When: The club organises three Thursday cafés per semester. The mentor scheme and the physical Breathing Space / Pusterum are available throughout the year.
So what now: Keep up-to-date on the club’s Facebook page to participate in events or become a member.
»Am I the only person who still doesn’t understand this game?« someone asks with resignation in her voice as she pours snacks into a bowl. »Maybe we should just play ‘Hint’? You know what that is.«
But the group does not intend to give up. They have set off time to learn the complicated game, and while Helene Mannerup Nielsen immerses herself in the intricate rules, Sine Savas Andersen talks about the student club Breathing Space – Pusterummet SUND.
Sine Savas Andersen is an eighth semester medical student and a chairman of the Breathing Space, which currently has about 15 active members. The club was set up by a former medical student after a study environment survey in 2015.
»As far as I remember, 70 per cent of the students here at Panum felt stressed during the exam period, while 40 per cent experienced stress in general. This is a really high number,« says Sine Savas Andersen and outlines several stress symptoms. Finding it hard to sleep, heart palpitations, nausea, and agitation, are just some of the symptoms that students can get.
»It just cannot be right that you have to go through six years of being completely stressed out and burnt out. Then the medicine programme can be damned long!«
And so the club was started. The members meet regularly to organize Thursday cafés that take place three times a semester, and which nowadays involves lots of board games, coffee and sweets. The events are alcohol-free, and you are welcome to bring your non-medical student friend, your date, or even your family.
»You can come here if you just need a break and a cup of coffee. We want to create a space where you can do something different from studying.«
The Breathing Space is also responsible for the mentoring scheme on the Medicine study programme. In this way, new students are assigned a mentor group consisting of other new students and an experienced master’s student. Sine Savas Andersen says that the purpose of the scheme is not to function as a homework café.
»It is an attempt to open the conversation about what – in addition to the syllabus and lectures – also involves being a student. How do you juggle having a student job in parallel? Or a boyfriend/girlfriend and family that don’t understand why you can’t go home every weekend?«
Sine Savas Andersen says that people support the club with enthusiasm, and that the students are happy with what it does. Some people do not understand the need for it. They think that they themselves can easily take care of their own student lives.
»But these are precisely the people we want to have in the club! Those, in other words, who say ‘we don’t need it’. Yes, we do!« exclaims Sine Savas Andersen and explains how the CV rat race for the medicine study programme has become even more pronounced while she has been a student.
She points and lets her eyes roam over the innumerable students who, as far as the eye, are immersed in their books.
»You simply can’t sit anywhere without people reading. Even if you just try to relax or eat lunch, there are people with open books, inadvertently reminding you that you should be reading. That’s what we’re trying to remedy with the Breathing Space. Here, you are welcome to take a cup of coffee and play a game of Uno and do something completely different.«
The other members of the club agree. Line Elvang is a fourth semester student of medicine and is new to the group. She has been an active member of the club since she took part in her first month meeting in March.
»On the study programme, it is the academic aspects that are central. So I think it’s really great that some of us can help with something different from a purely academic community. We need to be able to meet up and do something that is not about performing your best, or talking about the syllabus all the time.«
Just as the Breathing Space members read up on the Ticket to Ride rules and wait for more board game enthusiasts to turn up, another student passes by. Sine Savas Andersen stops her and asks if she does not want join the game.
»I was actually on my way up to the Breathing Space room,« she says, and Sine Savas Andersen lights up. As she shows her the way to the room, she says that the club won a study environment award a few years ago, and some cash to go with it. The money has been used to set up two rooms at Panum with armchairs and sofas.
A sign says »Welcome to the Breathing Space – a break from daily life«. The walls are decorated with landscape images, lush plants grow out of every corner, and between two soft chairs, there is a basket with knitting kit for free use.
In some of the furniture, students sit in absolute silence. Someone is knitting, another is meditating, and a third person is lying down with their face turned the other direction on a divan. He is asleep.
»You need to use the rooms when you need a break,« Sine Savas Andersen whispers. On the way out, she opens a guest book placed on a table.
»Dear Breathing Space. Thanks for giving us the place we’ve been looking for since the first semester!« it says on one of the pages.