Work and study. How do you combine them?

Monday 18 May 2020

Combining work and study can be a challenge at the best of times, but how do you manage it in these pandemic times? Do you put a wash on while writing an assignment? Or are your days filled with working from home and exercising in the living room while your textbooks collect dust? Marissa van der Walle, part-time student of the Associate degree Service, Social Work & Health, is a service and social work coordinator in a private residential home, and her work has simply continued as normal. Well, normal…


We’re now mainly dealing with the primary needs of our residents. The rest will follow later.

Lots of projects on hold, healthcare simply continues

“I’ve seen my work change as a service and social work coordinator in a private residential home. Normally, I mainly work on projects and often plan ahead – the same applies to my studies. I think it’s important to first do thorough research before applying new methods. Now, my day-to-day work mainly involves dealing with the primary needs of the residents. I do the grocery shopping for the older residents, help them with internet banking and make sure there are regular activities. Many of the group projects have been cancelled – they just can’t take place in the same way now. But we can still do the important things, like making time to talk with the residents. Such as during a walk in the woods with one client when they suddenly got very emotional. Having the time then to really be there for them and really be able to talk is what counts. And yes, that can mean there’s not always time for my studies.”

Studying online

“Before the corona crisis hit, I was going to finish one of my modules with a presentation on an app I’d made for the residents. But it’s not only my work that has changed, my studies at NHL Stenden have changed too. I was disappointed at first when I heard I wouldn’t be actually at school for a while, but that changed when I realized I’d be able to do a lot online. It challenges you to look at problems differently. Instead of doing a presentation, I recorded a video so that I could still present the app. It meant I came up with a solution that I can actually use again – which is even better!”

Think in terms of solutions

“Healthcare as a whole has been turned upside down. Not just for me but also for my fellow students. It was funny that in the first week the lessons from NHL Stenden had been planned around lunchtime, but that’s really not a good idea. We all work in healthcare and lunchtime is one of the times when we’re really needed. Fortunately, the study programme realised this quickly and the lectures are now given in the evening, which means we don’t miss anything. And contact with other students is through WhatsApp so that we can avoid any physical contact.”

Happy moments

“I do what I can at work. Creating happy moments for the residents with my colleagues is now the most important thing. We’re one of the first to have set up a transparent dividing wall in our meeting rooms. And I’m learning about what really matters to the residents and to my studies. Sometimes I get stuck in research when you can actually learn a lot from getting things moving. The fact that this is a flexible course helps as I can choose modules to suit the situation at my work. I haven’t yet decided if I’m going to sign straight up for a new module, but I do think I’ll choose another one that is coupled to my work.”