Feeling at home, spirituality and positive impact

Rachelle van Andel is a university chaplain at the InnBetween, a place created for and by students where vulnerability and resilience are practiced. A place where together you eat, study, relax, play, and of course, meet people. An open-minded community that brings people from different backgrounds together, also during the lockdown. ‘We offer students professional counselling with the two chaplains, but also opportunities to mean something to one another. In doing so, we are building a community that students are a part of - and responsible for. Being part of a community and feeling at home somewhere is very important for the mental health of students.’

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Cosy Walk-in Innbetween

Cosy Walk-Ins

‘Because we noticed that the Cosy Walk-Ins were meeting a great need, we continued with them after the Christmas holidays. After registering, which is required during the lockdown, students can come to us three times a week and meet with a small number of people. During the walk-ins, for example, I spoke with some students who had very little contact with their families and therefore stayed here. Those were very intense conversations. A few weeks later, there were other students wrestling with existential questions: What do I really care about? Who am I when all structure and social activity around me disappears? What remains if I lose loved ones? Naturally, other major issues and concerns are also shared, such as questions about internships, jobs, study marks, relationships. And of course, we laugh every now and then and have fun with each other, too!’

Safe space

‘We always provide a safe space (online and offline) for students to share, sometimes very courageously, their experiences. They learn that they are not the only ones who walk around with certain concerns and problems, and that they are allowed to tell their stories with us and with fellow students. The moment you can put your experience into words, share your story and really be heard, it's incredibly powerful. It brings recognition and acknowledgment. You are valued. Another aspect of the InnBetween is organising activities for others; for example, for the Refugee Project or for fellow students. This is a way students develop and practice skills in which they positively impact others’ lives. This also promotes resilience.’



The InnBetween is also home to the Refugee Project Maastricht (RPM) which supports people with a refugee background in Maastricht and the surrounding area. Van Andel: ‘The students who work as volunteers at RPM organise many activities. They give weekly language lessons, hold fun events, provide sports classes to people in the asylum seeker centre and work at the women's centre. This demonstrates the strong sense of responsibility we feel at the InnBetween and the RPM for community. This is strongly reflected in RPM, where students are committed to supporting people with refugee backgrounds while they themselves become part of these new citizens’ worlds. We work from the principles of equality and mutual respect. What can you change, how can you develop in such a way that you contribute something positive to the world? Our student board members are a good example of this. The community spirit, the passion, the creativity that they show, also during this difficult period, is incredibly powerful. Without them, we could never do all this. At the same time, they can let their guard down with us. We are here for whatever, whenever it is necessary.’

  Do you want to know more about the InnBetween and its various activities? Click here.

  Do you want to get involved with the Refugee Project Maastricht? Then you have to be here

Student experiences

Below, Stas Witkowska and Iida-Maria Juutinen share their experiences at The InnBetween. Stas as a co-organizer of events and activities. Iida-Maria as a visitor and participant in a workshop.

Stas Witkowska

“Beginning of December, I decided not to visit my parents in Poland due to the pandemic. A quick interview among students made us realize there were more people around who would spend the Winter Holidays in Maastricht. We immediately concluded it would be important to create a space where we could allow people to connect with others during this special time.

And it turned out a success: about 100 students joined us at various events during the holidays. Of course, the Cosy Walk-Ins had specific security requirements, but our doors were open for two hours almost every day. During one hour, we could host a maximum of five people and registration was required. Probably not a day came when someone would not visit us for a coffee or cookies. The online events had full seats each and every time. Participants were very open about the importance of these gatherings are to them and how much they appreciated being able to leave the house, even for one hour, or meet others at Zoom.

At The InnBetween we continue to organize as many events as we can, of course online for now. We do our best to stay in touch with our community and reach out to new people to provide them the space where they are supported, and do not feel alone. It is a challenge to connect with people through Zoom, and we are spending a lot of time trying to come up with ideas that could help all of us be more engaged, present and connected with one another.

I would advise all students to reach out. It may seem scary, or you may not want to bother anyone. But you are worthy of attention, love and support. You're not the only one with your thoughts at all, and as recent weeks have shown, each of us faces the same thoughts, demons, and loneliness. And each of us needs the same: company and warmth. We are all more or less literally in the same situation, and we don't need to isolate ourselves further from each other. You're not alone. So ask for help or join some community. UM offers a wide variety of free psychological help, and you can also sign up for counselling at InnBetween.”

Stas Witkowska

Stas Witkowska (Poland), student board member at The InnBetween and student in the Research Master’s programme Culture of Art, Science and Technology.

Iida-Maria Juutinen

“I arrived in Maastricht in January 2021, as an exchange student from Finland to take courses of Health Sciences at UM. Even though I arrived here in the middle of the pandemic and its restrictions, I have never regretted the decision to travel here.

Without knowing what to expect, I joined an online workshop at The InnBetween called ‘(In) Readiness for Resistance’.  We learned several techniques to relax and calm down, to let go of emotions such as anxiety and fear, and to feel connected not only to ourselves, but also to others around us. Even if we were physically distant, we felt close and connected, sharing our feelings in a safe, loving and caring environment.

For me, The InnBetween has provided an open community, where I feel welcomed, respected and cared for. It has helped me to feel home here in Maastricht. One of the most important experiences has been that even in moments of despair, when it might feel like  the pandemic will never end, I've felt that I am not alone, but part of this loving community, which faces these difficult times together. And I believe, together we can also make through this."

Text: Margot Krijnen 

Iida-Maria Juutinen

Iida-Maria Juutinen (Finland)
Exchange student at FHML