Interview With Kerstin Platt

  Kerstin Platt Copyright: © RWTH

After two years of the coronavirus pandemic, many students are struggling with motivation issues, decision-making difficulties, and feelings of exhaustion. Virtual teaching or the switch between in-person and remote classes, the loss of social life, and a general sense of uncertainty are gnawing away at students’ energy, as qualified psychologist Kerstin Platt knows. We asked the head of the psychological counseling service at RWTH's Student Advice Centre how she views the general situation.

RWTH: Ms. Platt, What Problems Have Students Been Coming to You With Lately?

Platt: Issues with concentration and motivation are at the top of the list. Studying is often hard work and requires great self-discipline. The mental balance provided by sports and leisure activities, meetings with friends, or other activities was and is very important for young people. Many tell us that they are feeling worn down. "I can't stand screens anymore!" one exclaimed recently. Some students have a hard time learning at home because of distractions there. The closed or lack of study spaces at the University have exacerbated this problem. Some students have fallen into financial hardships because they have lost their part-time jobs. All of this manifests in the form of mood swings and anxiety.

RWTH: Who Is Particularly Affected?

Platt: It is often very hard for international students because, in addition to the problems mentioned above, they are also constantly dealing with the changing entry and residence regulations. Those studying abroad are always dependent on making friends. That's very difficult in virtual meetings – and on top of that, there's often a language barrier between the students. We must also not forget students who are about to graduate. They have to be more self-motivated because they don't have the guidance they had in their first semesters. That, too, has become more difficult with the pandemic.

RWTH: How Do the ZSB Services Respond to These Issues?

Platt: Our academic training sessions on topics such as improving concentration, not procrastinating, or coping with exam stress are well received. We also try to reach out to the student body with our video and audio tutorials. In addition, together with other groups, such as Student Health Management, AStA, or International Office, we want to focus on the topic of depression, stress, and burnout this year. The aim here is to jointly develop sustainable measures that can help students.