To ease the lockdown, the VSSD is pairing TU Delft students who are strangers to each other for walks. It is popular: to date, 250 students have gone for a walk together.
Isabelle (left) and Matthijs (right) met each other for the first time 5 minutes before taking this picture (Photo: Marjolein van der Veldt)

To ease the lockdown, the VSSD is pairing TU Delft students who are strangers to each other for walks. It is popular: to date, 250 students have gone for a walk together.

Lees in het Nederlands 

On Thursday morning at 09:55, Matthijs Schrage walks into the Neef Rob café where all the paired students start their walk. A couple of minutes later, Isabelle van Heijzen arrives on her bike. She locks up her metal steed, looks around and goes into the café. Matthijs and Isabelle ‘spot’ each other immediately. Does that feel strange, meeting someone you do not know for the first time? It seems to work as they start chatting immediately. The first question was “Where did you hear about the Walk and Talk?”

There is a choice of two walking routes – a short one and a longer one of one hour

The idea of the Walk and Talk is simple. You sign up, order a coffee-to-go paid for by the VSSD (Vereniging voor Studie en Studentenbelangen te Delft, literally the association for study and students’ interests) and walk a set route with another student arranged by the VSSD. Everything is done in line with the RIVM (Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment) regulations. There is a choice of two walking routes – a short one of half an hour and a longer one of one hour. Not everybody literally follows these routes. Isabelle says that “We just wandered around town.”

Isabelle is a first year Civil Engineering student and lives in a student house which she shares with two other women. She does not experience the lockdown as particularly heavy, but she does miss social contact. She has a close friendship with her housemates, meets up regularly with other committee or association members, and sees a few of her study mates once a week at a laboratory course on campus. Despite all these contacts, a walk is still welcome. “I always enjoy meeting new people.”

This is the second time that Isabelle has been paired with a fellow student. “After the walk, I met up with the woman with whom I did the first walk.”

Alone is fine as well
Those wishing to join in simply sign up online and are paired with each other according to their language, time and gender preferences. The VVSD hopes to ease the loneliness among students through this initiative. Is third year Mechanical Engineering student Matthijs – who lives by himself in a studio – not lonely in the lockdown? Not really, he says. “If I feel the need for social contact, I app someone. And for the rest, it’s fine with me to be on my own. It suits me.”

He is really busy with his study and his work for Epoch – the first new Dream Team admitted to TU Delft’s Dream Hall. Nevertheless, he did sign up for the Walk and Talk. “It is a fun initiative and I was curious to see what it would be like to meet new people. Isabelle is easy to talk to so it wasn’t uncomfortable or uneasy at all.”

Matthijs and Isabelle don't feel that this walk has given them each a new friend. “But we have exchanged numbers.” You can still sign up for the Walk and Talk.

Marjolein van der Veldt and Annebelle de Bruijn