Pandemic life for college students is overwhelming, challenging, and isolating.
Two UConn students, though, wanted to help their peers build supportive connections during this time of uncertainty and physical distancing, and they’re doing so with the creation of an online platform, Refreshr.
“With mental health, it’s sometimes hard for students to support each other,” says Alex Kim ’22 (BUS), who co-founded Refreshr with friend, Jamison Cote ’22 (SFA). “Last semester was definitely just weird, and unprecedented, and crazy. Entering this semester and the coming semesters, it’s still going to be different – it’s a new way, how we learn and how we interact with other people. With such a drastic change, we still need to be able to be resilient as students and to be able to support each other, because we’re going to need it the most, especially during a time like this.”
Like pen-pals for the Internet age, Refreshr works to match students with each other and then helps them to record a video message specifically for their partner and use Refreshr’s one-way video sharing platform to send their words of encouragement. While most of the platform’s current participants are also UConn students, their goal, Kim says, is to connect a diverse group of students from institutions across the country that can form lasting connections.
“We wanted to make this a platform where students can send videos with uplifting messages of support and positivity to other college students,” says Kim, “to hear from students like you who are going through the same struggles of being in college during coronavirus. With Refreshr, we’re trying to build a community of students supporting each other.”
The idea for Refreshr, says Kim, came while he and Cote were enrolled in “The Entrepreneurial Journey,” a course taught by David Noble, associate professor and director of the Peter J. Werth Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and was modeled after their mentor, Noah Friedman, and his similar 6FTCloser project. The platform launched in early September, and Kim says they hope their focus on college students will help promote well-being amongst their peers.
“Everyone needs to take care of their mental well-being because these struggles can happen to really, really anyone,” he says. “I think coronavirus has really showed the impact of being isolated from other people and just the difficulty of the circumstances that are now placed upon us as students.”
Kim says that learning about entrepreneurship at UConn, and seeing the work of fellow students who are starting businesses or developing new innovations, inspired him to take this initiative and to try to make meaningful change. He says that other students with an idea shouldn’t be afraid to take a chance and try to make something of it.
He also said that he hopes fellow students who are experiencing difficulties during the pandemic will seek out help, connection, and community – and know that they’re not alone.
“There’s lots of students who can resonate with the fact that it’s going to be a difficult semester,” Kim says, “so I hope there’s some at peace with that, and just hope you get the support and encouragement that you need.”
To learn more about Refreshr, visit refreshr.org.