Two out of five students in the Netherlands suffer serious study stress, the recent survey revealed. Secretary of State Halbe Zijlstra was unmoved. ‘Nothing wrong with a bit of stress. You'll have to deal with it when you go out to work later too.' So study stress is just good practice for real life.
MSc Management Economics and Consumer Studies, nearly finished
‘ I can see what Zijlstra means. I see my studies as a form of work. You are not paid for it, but you are working on your future. Later on you will face stress too: you have to meet objectives, collaborate with colleagues, finish projects. If you fail, you get the sack or your salary is docked. If you experience stress during your studies you'll be better equipped to deal with it later on. At university there is only pressure to achieve with a couple of assignments. For the rest it is up to you whether you get an 8 or a 6 for an exam.'
‘I am spending 40 hours a week on my final research project, and I enjoy it. I am given quite a lot of freedom, and there is no one breathing down my neck. Any stress I am under, I generate myself, because I want to prove myself, not because the workload is too heavy.'
MSc Geo-information Sciences, graduated 4 months ago
‘Study stress is not good practice for later. You should try to avoid stress both during your studies and in your work. I do think that some programmes or courses could justifiably demand more discipline from students so as to prepare them for working life.'
‘I have now been working at eLEAF in Wageningen for more than four and a half months. I did a five-month internship there as part of my degree. Now I am working I get more stressed. The stress doesn't come from my work as such, but because I spend more of my week working than I used to spend on my studies. So I am finding it hard to fit in all my other activities. When I was studying I wasn't bothered by stress much because I generally found it quite easy to meet my commitments in the allotted time. Only during the last one to two years did the pressure increase, but that came mainly from my extra-curricular activities.'
Internal Communication, coordinates the staff satisfaction survey
‘The Staff Monitor shows that half of all our staff regularly feel the work pressure on them is too much. The feeling of high work pressure can be prevented by good work planning. And planning and good organization can be learned. Students are already learning that. And this gives them strategies for later, when they go out to work.'
‘ At the same time, studying and working are two different things. When you are working you sometimes have to juggle with ten different balls at the same time. You've got projects, mega projects, day-to-day business and unexpected things that come up. Planning is easier for a student: it's all about you; you are the one who has to get the grades. At work you are often dependent on what others deliver as well.'
Programme coordinator for Soil, Water and Atmosphere
‘If you get an academic job, you need to be able to cope with work pressure, stress and planning. The brain is still developing until you are 23 to 24 years old, which is why young people are not always good at working systematically and planning. For that reason it is good to pay attention to this during their higher education. Not every student has problems to the same extent though. There are students who don't seem at all bothered by stress, and have a ‘wait and see' attitude, but there are others who do get very stressed.'
‘I don't agree with Halbe Zijlstra. It seems to me a better idea for students to learn to deal with stress positively. I regularly see students who are now experiencing extra stress on top of the usual study stress, as a result of the new cabinet's rulings.'
First year MSc student of Food Technology
‘In Italy, after my catering training I worked as a cook fulltime for three years. That was very stressful; I had no life outside my work. When I was 22 I decided to study again. Because I have a Dutch girlfriend and this university has a good reputation, I came to Wageningen for a Master's. At weekends I still work as a cook.'
‘I am quite stressed now; the periods are extremely short and the courses are difficult. But I benefit from the stress I had at work because it has made me more resistant to study stress. You know it can be stressful in a work situation. So it is good for students to experience a little study stress, especially if they do not have a job while they are students. Stress is just part of life. But sometimes I do think the university asks too much of its students, because most students have to work as well as study.'