Starting the morning with jumping jacks: welcome to Radboud Day Start

21 Apr 2021

A workout, a lecture about study behaviour, and a chat in breakout rooms: welcome to Radboud Day Start, a new initiative by Radboud University, in a nutshell. With this initiative, the university wants to help students overcome their pandemic blues.

It’s just after nine in the morning when fitness instructor Bart-Jan commands me to get moving. I’m standing between by bed and my couch. Lunges. Jumping jacks. Come on guys! Some 35 students are trudging through the morning exercises with me. ‘This is better than Red Bull!’ exclaims an enthusiastic Bart-Jan.

I signed up for Radboud Day Start, an initiative of Radboud University. The idea is that exercise helps you be more productive throughout the day.

Schedule

Fifteen minutes later, the trainer from the Radboud Sports Centre thanks us for joining him and educational psychologist André Baars appears on screen. He explains the psychology behind procrastination and how you can prevent it by making a schedule. ‘I’m definitely going to be trying these tips,’ says one of the participants after the Zoom session. I nod in agreement. It’s not easy to get yourself excited for yet another day in the digital world.

The Day Start was initially devised by the Nijmegen School of Management. At the end of last year, policy officer Floortje Krebbers was shocked at the number of issues experienced by students. International students in particular struggled to find their rhythm and stay motivated. It’s even more challenging to be part of the university community when you’re stuck behind a screen. ‘We wanted to change this,’ she says.

During a walk with colleagues, the idea behind Day Start was born. ‘I wanted students to feel that their university was there for them during the pandemic; that we’re all part of a larger whole and that no one should be left behind,’ says Krebbers.

Pleasant atmosphere

At first, only NSM students participated in the initiative. While the turnout may not have been impressive, the enthusiasm of the participants certainly was. That’s why the university decided to roll out Day Start university-wide, in collaboration with the new student welfare coordinator.

Today is the third Day Start programme since its inception. Students can join four times a week: twice at 9:00 a.m. and twice at 12:30 p.m. The programme has three fixed components: a fitness session, a lecture on study behaviour and breakout rooms, where students are encouraged to reflect on what they experienced for the rest of the day.

‘The students really enjoy talking to each other’

At the end of the session, Sophie van Lith from study association ESV was ‘positively surprised’. ‘I had my doubts at first, but I underestimated the impact it would have on participants.’ She particularly liked the breakout rooms in Zoom. ‘The atmosphere is just great. You really notice that students enjoy talking to each other.’

When I close my laptop, I feel more focused than usual. It usually takes me a while to get going in the morning, but now my mind is sharp as a tack. I end up making more progress on my thesis today than I have in weeks.

Day Start will run until the May holidays. According to Krebbers, there’s a good change the programme will be continued after the holidays as well. ‘If people are interested, we’ll definitely keep going.’

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