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Meet Benthe, 24, Athletic Union Officer at Newcastle University’s Students Union.

Benthe Tanghe

Benthe is joining the call to the North East for us all to keep doing our bit to #BeatCovidNE.

Working with students as Athletic Union Officer at Newcastle University’s Students Union to help keep them safe - and stay active while at home - is a big part of Benthe's job. 

Benthe is a former student herself and at the beginning of the pandemic contracted Covid, like lots of people who have had Covid, she is still living with the long lasting effects of the virus. 

Read Benthe's diary below to find out more about her story.

04.02.21

“I’m extremely conscious of the mental health impact on students, especially those who are living alone and international students, that’s why my message is that connection is key.”

Benthe Tanghe is a 24-year-old Athletic Union Officer at Newcastle University Students’ Union. She oversees 65 sports clubs and works with their committees and welfare officers to support students as well as encourage others to keep active especially during the pandemic.

As one of seven Newcastle University Students’ Union Sabbatical Officers Benthe also works with the university, local community, Newcastle City Council and Northumbria Police to support and represent students and their university experience.

Having been personally affected by Covid Benthe shares her pandemic experience, an insight into the impact it’s had on the students she works with and her hopes for the future.

“At the end of March I got Covid. I was bedridden for three weeks in student halls. It just started as a headache, I didn’t suspect anything at first, and I was feeling great as I’d just been elected to become the full-time Athletic Union Officer at NUSU. Then came the fever, the coughing and eventually I couldn’t walk even to the kitchen without losing my breath.

“As an active person in my twenties, who loves to run and play football, I was shocked at how hard it affected me. The following two-months I constantly felt tired but I pushed myself back out to run. Not just for the exercise but to feel more like me again. Now, nine months later I’m still living with the effects. Just the other week I received an inhaler from my GP to help with the damage to my lungs from Covid. I’m back to running three times a week and going on long walks to rebuild my fitness levels.

“I wanted to share my Covid experience not to scare people but to highlight how important it is to stay at home and to help reduce the spread of Covid. It does affect everyone differently but I wouldn’t want anyone I know or love to go through what I did.

“Right now I’m working mainly from home along with my flatmate. Throughout the second and third lockdown I’ve been working to support students but unfortunately, I’ve mainly been the bearer of bad news as none of our sports clubs can meet-up to train. It’s been challenging. As a member of the women’s football team myself I know how much these Club activities mean to the students. They give us a sense of routine, an amazing group of friends and help us to keep both our minds and bodies in good health.

“Throughout lockdown I’ve been encouraging sports groups to find new ways to keep fit and in touch. Students can only train alone at the moment so they’ve had to get creative. Of course there’s running and cycling outside but also climbing stairs, at home circuits using everyday items, yoga for strength and flexibility, YouTube workouts and for the brave hearted swimming in the sea.

“Encouraging students who wouldn’t usually be involved in university sport to stay active has also been an important part of my role. Something as simple as a walk each day can make a huge difference to how we feel. Especially if we’re out walking with one other person following lockdown rules. Talking face-to-face is hugely beneficial especially when feeling Zoomed out from lectures, family chats and socialising online.

“I’m extremely conscious of the mental health impact on students, especially those who are living alone and international students, that’s why my message is that personal connection is key. We’re here to help. There’s a lot of advice and support on offer from the university, Newcastle University Students’ Union and the community as a whole. Keeping in touch with friends and family is crucial. There’s always support available to you.

“Despite students getting a bad rep nationally during the pandemic, overall the majority of students are compliant and are worrying about their futures rather than partying in their halls. Going virtual for many has been a challenge as so much of the university experience is about meeting people and trying new experiences. While the vaccine roll-out is a positive step forward, many students are remaining realistic as 2021 still poses many challenges and questions.

“My hope for the future is that students can return to campus soon and that sports clubs can return to training together. I know things will be different when that happens and students will have to adhere to new ways of training but seeing each other and playing sports together again, I just can’t wait.”

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