A NEED FOR UNISALAD: THE STUDENT COMMUNITY APP ADAPTED FOR POST-COVID UNI LIFE
Student community and marketplace app UniSalad has proven its need in light of COVID-19, to address the growing demand for more student community-feel at university. With universities being forced to close, putting a premature end to the academic year, student life came to a halt and student mental health has deteriorated. The app’s offer to bring student community online aims to re-boost wellbeing at university despite social distancing measures.
Having seen the academic year turned on its head and facing uncertainty about what this means for their qualifications, the student population has seen a surge in anxiety since lockdown began.As students returned to their family homes and prepare to sit exams remotely, there has been a significant increase in mental health issues, with more than 36% per cent of students reporting a rise in anxiety and depression due to the effects of COVID-19, according to a survey carried out by Sheffield University.
The return of students to university next term will also differ, with more social distancing measures in place and less face to face interaction of students, further impacting student mental health.
UniSalad’s original mission was to provide a safe and student-only platform for people to connect with others from their university, and solve student life needs: buying and selling, finding housemates, lost property, lift sharing and more. However, the need for community-feel at university pushed the team to also offer the platform as a space to ask advice and recommendations, offer peer-to-peer support and keep up with everyday news at university.
The app’s aim is to be the all-in-one platform for student life, focusing on boosting student wellbeing and the sense of belonging at university. This is of huge importance for the post-Covid university world.
Since its launch to Nottingham University in January 2019, UniSalad has grown to also cover Nottingham Trent, Leeds, Newcastle and Sheffield Universities with now 16,000 users. Focusing on user safety, students must have a valid university email address to sign up, therefore eliminating the risk of scammers and making the platform easier to navigate and organise.
Given the current need for a boost of wellbeing under COVID-19, Rebecca De Beukelaer, Founder of UniSalad, is determined to expand to more universities in the UK as well as internationally. She said:
“We’re working towards offering UniSalad to all students, and our aim is to be available in every UK university within 18 months. Post COVID-19 university life will be different to what students knew before, with increased social distancing and less student physical interactions. UniSalad can help re-boost that student community online. During lockdown, I joined Birmingham Enterprise Community’s Start-up Sprint course, which has proved invaluable. Being part of a community, sharing experiences and acquiring new knowledge and advice has been so important, giving me the chance to learn about the basics of a business and apply it to the journey I’ve already taken.”
Rebecca formed part of Birmingham Enterprise Community’s first cohort of Female Founders on the programme. Offering resources, skills, and advice on how to build her business, the programme looked at ways to further nurture the female talent it found, giving additional specialist support and mentoring from hand-selected female mentors who have core knowledge in the barriers faced by female founders.
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