All Ears has been providing a sympathetic ear for two years, and they’re opening a second office on Zernike

Hundreds of students, mainly internationals, have poured their hearts out at All Ears over the past two years. Because of that, the project will also move to the Zernike campus. 

Thai student Phailin had a hard time acclimating after she returned from a seven-month exchange to Vienna. ‘I retreated to my own apartment; I didn’t know my neighbours and my boyfriend and I had just broken up. While the spatial planning and design student was supposed to be writing her thesis, she was struggling to meet her deadlines. She was stressed and, according to her, mainly lonely. ‘I felt like I didn’t belong here anymore.’

‘Phailin definitely isn’t the only one’, says Matty Metzlar, student worker at the All Ears project. ‘Every year, we talk to more than a hundred students, two thirds of whom are internationals like her.’ 

Someone to talk to

Metzlar has noticed that especially international students have a hard time finding their way in a strange city. ‘When they run into things, they hesitate to tell their parents about the struggles they’re facing. That’s where All Ears comes in.’

There are of course also students who need real therapy and psychological help. ‘But a lot of students just need to put into words what’s going on with them.’ They just need someone to talk to. 

Metzlar has seen it work. ‘Some students end up choosing a different programme, or going back home. Some of them email me, thanking me for talking to them and saying how much it helped them.’

There was nothing I could do but it was good to have someone listen

Phailin has a meeting at SKLO, All Ears’ parent organisation, at the Kraneweg. ‘Here, no one can see me going in’, she says. ‘I heard about All Ears at the Harmonie building back in 2019, but I was afraid of going in. What if I sat there with the door open and a friend walked by? I wouldn’t be able to tell them what I was doing there.’

Noorderplantsoen

Metzlar knows it’s difficult for students to take that first step: ‘A lot of them will email us first. Once they’ve come in for a first meeting, it becomes easier.’ 

That happened to Phailin, too. During the pandemic, she and Matty took many walks through the Noorderplantsoen. ‘We talked about my break-up, and how to prioritise. My relationship had ended a month before, there was nothing I could do. But it felt good to have someone listen to me.’ Phailin is doing a lot better now, and she’s been applying for jobs.

All Ears is available every Wednesday from two to four at the Harmonie building (under the arches). At allearsgroningen.nl you can also make an appointment for another time. The Zernike location will open up at the end of this calendar year, in a building owned by the Hanze University of Applied Sciences. Where and when exactly still needs to be determined.

For privacy reasons, the student’s name in this article is fake. The editorial staff know her real name.

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