Students helping students at Studenterlinjen
Jonathan Madsen and Sofie Jensen are two of the volunteers at Studenterlinjen (the student telephone helpline) who offer free, anonymous advice to students from students. As well as the joy of helping others, they both highlight the training and the sense of community among the volunteers as aspects that make the job well worth it.
- Studenterlinjen is one of the Student Council’s support services and is run by volunteers.
- The service is open to all students at Aarhus University and on higher education programmes in Aarhus and the surrounding area.
- Studenterlinjen is a free service
- It is open Monday to Thursday from 19:00 to 22:00.
- Callers are welcome to speak Danish or English when they call.
“Hello, you are through to Studenterlinjen. What can I do for you?” Once a week, Sofie puts on her headset and answers calls and chat questions from fellow students. She is a volunteer at Studenterlinjen, which is one of the support services offered by the Student Council at Aarhus University. The service was founded by students and is funded by the university. It is a free service offered to all students at Aarhus University and to students on other higher education programmes in Aarhus and the surrounding area.
Students call or write in with questions about everything from loneliness to exam stress, and on the other end of the line a fellow student is waiting to help them. Entirely voluntarily. And anonymously. And because this anonymity extends to both the callers and the advisors, we are not using Sofie and Jonathan’s real names in this article (though the editorial team at Omnibus is aware of their real full names).
The volunteers at Studenterlinjen receive training in communication and how to discuss difficult topics such as loneliness, stress, depression and anxiety, and this training programme is guided by both a doctor and a psychologist.
Sofie Jensen has worked at Studenterlinjen since the summer of 2021. She explains that most students contact the helpline to discuss topics such as academic pressure or exam stress but that international students in particular call or write because they feel lonely. If a student contacts her about a heavy issue or asks for more help or guidance, Sofie Jensen feels confident referring them on.
“We know where to direct students if they contact us about something that would be better to discuss with a professional, for example a psychologist. There are several resources we can draw on as volunteers,” she explains.
"It’s really rewarding for me to know that I’m doing something to help other people."
Jonathan Madsen, who is also a volunteer at Studenterlinjen, explains how he decided to be a volunteer because he loves helping others.
“It’s really rewarding for me to know that I’m doing something to help other people. I have a good feeling when I get home from a shift and know that I was there for another student who needed to talk to someone,” he explains.
For Sofie Jensen, it also means a lot to help others, and she views this as part of her identity as a volunteer.
A very special community
When the volunteers at Studenterlinjen turn up for their shift, they are never alone. There are always four volunteers working at the same time, and Sofie Jensen highlights this sense of community as one of the best things about her job. She has been volunteering at Studenterlinjen since last summer, and she explains that it has been a good way for her to get to know other students.
“It can be difﬁcult to make friends with people who aren’t taking the same degree as me, because we don’t tend to socialise across degree programmes. So it was great to start at Studenterlinjen, where I have made lots of good friends. Of course it was also a good thing to have on my CV, but it was primarily the social aspect that attracted me,” explains Sofie Jensen.
”We have a very special community, which I don’t think you can achieve in quite the same way in the larger associations at the university."
Jonathan Madsen explains that being part of the volunteer community is like being part of a large group of friends.
“We have a very special community, which I don’t think you can achieve in quite the same way in the larger associations at the university. Because there are only ten of us, it’s easy for us to get together and do things together,” he says.
Working shifts together also means that the volunteers can talk to each other after they’ve taken a particularly difficult call. Sofie Jensen explains.
“I’ve taken calls from students who have been very frustrated and not spoken very politely to me. It was nice to have someone to talk to once we’d hung up. And I can talk to my follow volunteers because they also have a duty of confidentiality,” says Sofie Jensen, who also underlines that all the conversations at Studenterlinjen are confidential.
Before you can put your headset on and take calls as a volunteer at Studenterlinjen, you need to complete weeks of training. And this training is well worth it, thinks Sofie Jensen. Jonathan Madsen also praises the training programme. Like Sofie Jensen, he has been able to use this training in his private life when talking to friends about difficult subjects.
“I feel very well equipped to take calls and reply to chat messages when I’m at work. And I also think that having this training in how to manage difficult conversations makes me a better friend. Because, most of all, it is about listening to what people say and holding back with all the good ways you think they could solve their problem,” says Sofie Jensen.
Editorial note on anonymous sources:
Studenterlinjen has requested that the two sources in this article remain anonymous. For the sake of the mutual anonymity between Studenterlinjen’s volunteer advisors and the students who use the service, all the volunteers are anonymous and may only disclose their affiliation with Studenterlinjen once they are no longer working for the helpline. This applies when the volunteers are both on and off duty, since Studenterlinjen is a service offered to students by students, and it’s possible that these students may be part of the same academic or social circles. Omnibus is aware of the full names of the two volunteers in this article. This article does not use their real names.