The BRIDGES project of the University of Eastern Finland and ISYY has become a part of our university's everyday life in more than a year. The diverse actions of the project have been welcomed with open arms and there has clearly been a need for them. This can be seen in that registrations for recreational events are basically full. The project was granted further funding until the end of 2023, so the work to promote students’ wellbeing and communality spirit is not coming to an end.
The goals of the project have been to support students' wellbeing and coping, to promote communality spirit and to prevent experiences of loneliness. These mentioned above promote students' ability to study. The project aims to integrate proven practices and measures into the everyday life of the student union and the university, even if the project sometimes ends.
The measures developed in the project are designed to answer students' needs. Before the start of the project, the needs were charted with a survey in the spring of 2021. According to the results of the survey, the students most wanted alcohol-free recreational events where they can get to know other students. In addition, the students missed studying together and study circle activities to promote their own studies. As the project progresses, feedback and wishes have been collected from the students regarding the project's actions. The feedback has been used to develop actions that have already been launched, such as the Hobby Buddy service, and new event concepts that have been proven to work have been organized based on the wishes expressed.
The actions have been open to all students and the events have been organized at such times so that it is possible for students from different life situations to participate in them.
In addition to recreational events, the project has supported the wellbeing of tutors and student association members by organizing education for them. In addition, the project has produced an event organizer's guide to support student organizations, peer tutors and ISYY clubs in promoting communality spirit and organizing recreational events. The guide is at this point only in Finnish.
Mental health and wellbeing awareness has been promoted with theme weeks and days. We have passed on information about third sector operators whose services support students' wellbeing and prevent experiences of loneliness.
The results of ISYY's BRIDGES project have been measured by students' participation activity in events and other activities, statistics on organized activities and the number of events, and feedback received from students.
In the years 2021–2022, a total of 141 events were organized in the project and there were a total of 4,173 participants. The total number of events include study circle meetings and theme week activities. Roughly divided, approx. 70 events have been organized on both campuses.
The students have given feedback especially about the positive atmosphere prevailing at the events. Participation has been perceived as easy and it has been possible to be yourself at the events. There has also been praise for the alcohol-free nature of the events.
The Hobby Buddy service has also garnered praise and the students have made new friends through the service. According to the activity, more than 80% of those who registered have been able to suggest at least one hobby buddy. Unfortunately, it has turned out that almost everyone does not respond to the suggested friend's contact requests. The goal is to reduce this with the development work.
Isyy.fi/en, opens in a new window: The BRIDGES project
Riina Pääkkönen, the BRIDGES project coordinator, riina.paakkonen(at)isyy.fi, +358 44 491 6529