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UEA’s pawsitive 'dog walking for students' wellbeing

PUBLISHED: 20:49 16 January 2019 | UPDATED: 15:22 30 January 2019

Ollie Grey and his own pup Bertie the beagle at the University of East Anglia, for the launch of the Navigate Norfolk scheme, improving student mental health through dog walking. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Ollie Grey and his own pup Bertie the beagle at the University of East Anglia, for the launch of the Navigate Norfolk scheme, improving student mental health through dog walking. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Archant

Exam periods and studying at university away from home can be tough, but Norfolk students now have a furry friend who can lend a paw.

Students at the University of East Anglia (UEA) are able to take dogs for a walk and spend time with them during their breaks every Wednesday to help boost students’ wellbeing.

Dog-walking is just one initiative introduced to the UEA after it received £12,000 of funding to tackle mental health problems through physical activity.

The funding, from Sport England, has allowed UEA Sport to set-up the dog walks alongside two other initiatives for the university’s 17,000 student population.

Joe Zilch, 24, a fourth year biology student from Exeter, said: “Being in the last year of exams it can be very stressful.

Students at the University of East Anglia enjoyed canine company at the launch of the Navigate Norfolk scheme, improving student mental health through dog walking. Picture: Ella WilkinsonStudents at the University of East Anglia enjoyed canine company at the launch of the Navigate Norfolk scheme, improving student mental health through dog walking. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

“There is pressure to perform well in exams, financial issues and social issues which dog-walking can help you get away from.

“It allows people to get out and look across Earlham Park. There is often instances of people going from home to lectures then home again, but this is a great way to get out and about.”

With students travelling from around the world to attend the UEA, they can not only become homesick, but dogsick.

Health and wellbeing sport officer Caolan Stowe, 23, a medical student in his fifth year, said: “I think it is a really good idea, being able to keep active while doing something different.

Students at the University of East Anglia enjoyed canine company at the launch of the Navigate Norfolk scheme, improving student mental health through dog walking. Picture: Ella WilkinsonStudents at the University of East Anglia enjoyed canine company at the launch of the Navigate Norfolk scheme, improving student mental health through dog walking. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

“Social isolation is a big problem with our students which a lot of people don’t realise but this allows people to come along and start a conversation.

“A lot of people have moved a long way from home and some say they miss their dog more than their family.”

Around 20 dogs head to the university from Tom and Toto Pet Care every week.

Assistant manager Emma Misri, 36, said: “It helps support mental health and the welfare of students. The dogs can have some fuss and cuddles but the students can have some chill-out time and get some fresh air out of the classroom environment.

Students at the University of East Anglia enjoyed canine company at the launch of the Navigate Norfolk scheme, improving student mental health through dog walking. Picture: Ella WilkinsonStudents at the University of East Anglia enjoyed canine company at the launch of the Navigate Norfolk scheme, improving student mental health through dog walking. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

“At first we thought people wouldn’t be up for it but actually people want to come out and join us, meet the team and the dogs.”

Bookings for the sessions have been filling up fast with the next three weeks fully booked.

For more information go to www.uea.ac.uk

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