‘Healthy Student Life’ – A Contradiction in Terms?

By Sofia Banzhoff

The parties. The all-nighters. The people who always answer “I’m tired.” Or how many of us hardly leave the bubble – with the notable exception of Albert Heijn trips to refurnish our fridges with chocolate and beer. Living on campus: can it be healthy?

Campus life can be a slippery slope. The possibilities for social life are endless, so you jump right in, joining 17 committees, going to the bar every single night, hanging out with people until the wee hours of the morning. Then, all of a sudden, you realize that books don’t read themselves. That the first deadlines are looming. The solution? Skip sleep and exercise. Add alcohol, cigarettes, and the ridiculously high prices for Dining Hall fruit and salad and the picture looks pretty bleak.

But are things really that bad?

“Campus life is really intense, mentally and physically,” says SportsCo chair Sil Scholte, referring to demanding academics, the vibrant social life that makes it difficult to “find a moment for yourself,” and the effects of drinking and lack of sleep. “But Dining Hall provides us with healthy food and there are plenty of sports on campus.” SportsCo, for example, has about 80 active members, and MarathonCo had more than 50 people at their kick-off run a few weeks ago.

“Campus offers many possibilities to be healthy and it seems that quite some people indeed follow up on it,” says MarathonCo Chair Mara Soekarjo. “Exercising helps you perform well. It’s the whole mens sana in corpore sano idea.”

But being healthy requires effort and dedication, and sometimes, especially after a long class, watching a movie just seems like a much better way to relax than sweating in a running suit.

Surrendering to laziness is not the only problem. “Our weakest point is that people drink too much,” says Valeria Boers, Chair of the Campus Life Forum and UCSA Board secretary.

“Everyone knows partying is unhealthy,” says MedCo secretary Simone Uniken Venema, “but people drink anyways. Reducing the amount of alcohol would be good. But you still need to enjoy your student life.”

The incompatibility of student life and a truly healthy lifestyle is a recurring theme. “It’s an important part of student life to be hungover, to go to class drunk. Everyone needs to experience social stereotypes of students,” says BarCo secretary Marie Gillesen. The same applies to food: “We’re students. Everybody likes fries,” says Valeria. So how can “healthy student life” lose its oxymoron status?

“I see the need for every student to actively balance his lifestyle,” says Student Life Officer Mark Baldwin. “It is the responsibility of every individual to take account of their health. That is part of the leaving-home-process.” However, this implies that you have to care. You need to want to be healthy.

“It’s a matter of choice if people are willing to put in the effort to be healthy,” says Dining Hall Advisory Group Chair Juliet den Oudendammer. This means that you can’t blame your unhealthy lifestyle on the lack of distance between the buildings, on Dining Hall, or on the alcohol.

In the end, the choice is on us. We might only have to try a little harder than we used to, back at home, where mommy cooked plenty of vegetables and didn’t charge us.

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