StayRotterdam: online platform that connects students during pandemic

Going to university is more than just studying. It’s supposed to be an immersive experience. Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, students have become more creative about organising events and building a community feeling online. Ricardo Cordeiro de Sousa (MSc Global Business & Sustainability, 2021) co-created StayRotterdam, a platform for students to join a myriad of events, build connections with like-minded peers, and discover which student associations match their interests.

How did you think of StayRotterdam?
“I left my family and friends in Portugal to come study in Rotterdam a few years ago. I remember looking for a new ‘family’ for myself. I found that in my volleyball team, and I had created a support system around me. When the semi-lockdown was announced in March, the volleyball season was cancelled. Even though those close to me left, it hit me that there were still a lot of people around me. I felt really privileged, and realised I wanted others to have this kind of support network too. Especially incoming international students who have left their homes to come study in Rotterdam will likely have a more difficult time creating their new family. My friend Femke Ypma and I then set up a Slack channel so that there would be a platform that welcomed all students across Erasmus University, and linked people up with each other and kept them entertained with multiple events per day, every single day. That’s where StayRotterdam originated.”

What have you achieved so far?
“We launched the platform over the summer, and we had over 250 students join the Slack channel within a month. Within three months, 700 students had joined. We were hosting three events per day on average, every day of the week. On Slack we had a list of 10 different channels to cater to differing interests and needs. While some were looking to blow off steam with a bit of humour and memes, others needed a place where they could share concerns about quarantine and the severity of the pandemic. We totalled about 430 hours of activities on Zoom, in 80 different formats. We are now moving beyond connecting students to students to connecting them to associations as well connecting associations with each other across all faculties of Erasmus University.

What now?
“We’re officially registered as a foundation, so you could say we’re a neutral party for all students and student associations. We’re now working on expansion and letting more students know about the platform so that we can build a more creative ecosystem that spreads across the entire university. We want to place emphasis on what it means to be an Erasmian, and generate the community feeling of the university online, because the measures taken against Covid-19 have limited live events and contact.

“Joining the Erasmian community will not only improve mental well-being but it can also have an impact on the number of dropouts for incoming students. My friends and I quite often hear of students who drop out who are not a part of any university associations. It might not be the sole reason they drop out but could be a significant factor in why they do.”

“We hope that the Erasmian spirit is able to be experienced by all students, especially those that have started this year or are starting next year. There are more than 100 student initiatives on campus, but many students don’t know of them. We also want to promote student life in general, not only the academic aspects of the university. While Erasmus University is known for its excellent research community, we want to promote the wholesome community feeling beyond that.”