Section 1. Student well-being and study support
Laura Miettinen, Aalto University
The key questions: What aspects do study well-being and study ability include? How can you support your study well-being? What can the university do to support students’ study well-being?
Study well-being in the Finnish university sector
At Finnish universities, study well-being is considered important, and many actions have been taken to promote students’ well-being and help them cope with negative feelings related to studies. Universities also find it important to foster a positive atmosphere and sense of belonging among the university community, which both contribute to well-being. Well-being possesses intrinsic value: personal well-being contributes to satisfaction in every stream of life.
Study well-being does not mean feeling permanently happy and productive or performing constantly well in one’s studies. People experience different moods, emotional states, and phases in life when they can also feel down or uninspired. However, it is clear that feeling well and capable increases the likelihood that you can face the adversities and challenges that life presents more optimistically and calmly. You may also realize that although you are experiencing difficult emotions in a certain moment, there are ways to approach them, and they will eventually pass. Study well-being means that you believe in yourself and in your abilities as a student and that you trust in your capacity to achieve your goals. In addition, it is likely that good study well-being positively affects your study performance and grades.
The skills that support your study well-being and ability can be developed throughout life, and these skills are also appreciated once you move into working life. Apart from what you can do as a student to enhance your study well-being, it is the university’s responsibility to offer students the right kind of support at the right time. The services and low-threshold support offered by the university, such as peer group activities and self-study materials on well-being and different study-related issues, can be seen as preventive measures in terms of student well-being.
How to foster your study well-being
Factors that contribute to study well-being include a smooth and effective everyday study life, advancement in one’s studies as well as teaching and guidance that consider students’ individual needs and life situations. A strong ability to study is central to study well-being and is formed by the interaction between a student’s personal resources and the factors related to studying, such as study skills, teaching, and the study environment.
As a student, the areas that you can affect most directly are your own personal resources and study skills. We will discuss study skills in more detail in section 2. Your own personal resources include your physical health, socio-emotional and cognitive skills, social relationships, identity development, and life situations. Basic factors like regular physical activity, sufficient, good quality sleep, a varied diet, and meaningful relationships provide you with energy and contribute positively to your mood and sense of self-efficacy. When you begin your studies in a new university, country, and culture, you will probably experience different emotions and feelings, both positive and negative. Learning to recognize your feelings helps you process them in a constructive way. Culture shock and the demands of studying can cause stress. Therefore, stress management is an important part of taking care of your personal resources and well-being.
Learning to use recovery as a stress management technique and using it often helps you maintain your creativity and productivity, both of which are traits required in studying. In the DRAMMA model, recovery is divided into six dimensions: detachment, relaxation, autonomy, mastery, meaning, and affiliation. Detachment means cognitively switching off from studying and engaging in an activity where you use your cognitive capacity in a totally different way (for instance, singing in a choir). When you relax, you do nothing or close to nothing: sleeping or watching TV would fall into this category. To be able to fully recover from a stressful situation, it is essential to experience a sense of autonomy: this means, for instance, that you choose the recovery activity voluntarily and it is something you enjoy. Mastery involves challenging yourself in some way by, for instance, learning to play a musical instrument or mastering a new skill. Nonetheless, be careful not to choose too difficult a challenge since it may cause you more stress. Therefore, it is wise to carefully consider the level of mastery you wish to achieve. The more the recovery activity adds meaning and purpose to your life, the greater impact it will have on your recovery and well-being. Affiliation, in turn, means a sense of belonging and connection with others. Try to find an activity where you can meet people and do things together. Including all or some of these dimensions in your recovery activities will help you thoroughly recover from stress. Sufficient recovery is essential to our well-being. It is worthwhile putting some time into thinking about the ways to recover that work specifically for you.
Case: Study well-being at Aalto university
At Aalto University, promoting the university community’s well-being is part of the university’s strategic goals, and student well-being is supported in many ways. According to the results of the AllWell? questionnaire on study well-being, which is sent annually to all Aalto’s second-year bachelor’s students and first-year master’s students, international students at Aalto are highly committed to their studies and succeed very well as measured by the number of credits earned and the level of their grades. This means that many international students work hard with their studies, which may predispose them to study burnout. In the previous paragraphs, we have discussed the ways through which you can promote your well-being and strengthen your personal resources. In addition, a sense of belonging, peer support, and high quality teaching are also key factors that contribute to study ability and the well-being of students. Aalto University has recognized the needs relating to these issues, and the results of the AllWell? questionnaire have been one important source of information. The university’s international study programmes and curriculum are continuously developed to maintain student workloads at a reasonable level. Developing teaching, supporting community building, and offering psychological and academic support, services, and guidance are some of the established ways of promoting study well-being at Aalto university.
Kunttu, K., Komulainen, A., Kosola, S., Seilo, N. & Väyrynen, T. (Eds.) (2021). Opiskeluterveys [Study health], pp. 97-98. Duodecim.
Recovery and the DRAMMA model: https://www.mariatornroos.fi/stress-management/recovery/
The AllWell? questionnaire on study wellbeing: https://www.aalto.fi/en/services/the-allwell-questionnaire-on-study-wellbeing
Last modified: Tuesday, 21 November 2023, 9:45 AM