International Study Centre

Wellbeing benefits of having a pet at university

Posted 29 June 2021
Panoramic view of Brighton, home to University of Sussex

Hala, our student ambassador from Qatar, discusses how having a dog helped her through anxiety and depression while she was studying virtually at the International Study Centre. This World Wellbeing Week, read about her experience of getting involved in her community and finding a hobby she loves here.

I suffer from epilepsy, anxiety and depression. For a very long time, my wellbeing wasn’t at its best and I was mentally and physically drained. I was also sick of people, so my dog and the time I spend with him had a huge positive impact on my wellbeing. Whether I’m having a bad day after a seizure or just not feeling well, he finds a way to brighten me up. From cuddles to rough play, I somehow forget everything and simply enjoy the moment with him. So, one tip I have for other students – especially if you live alone and might feel homesick – is to get a pet. You can thank me later!

If, for whatever reason, you can't have a dog living with you, I would recommend volunteering at dog shelters or even just walking dogs! After a while of having my pet, I noticed that being around dogs helps me so much, which made me decide I want to be more involved. I studied Dog Behaviour and Psychology and got certified, I enrolled in some dog training classes, became a member of many dog rescue groups around the city and soon became a rescue leader. These activities helped me overcome stress, communicate better with dogs and gave me a sense of belonging to a community (the dog community, of course!). Spending time with them will have a tremendous effect on your wellbeing, physically and mentally. Here are some activities you can do that involves the beautiful furry creatures:

  1. Volunteer at a dog shelter or a vet
  2. Dog walking
  3. Learn some basic dog training, such as obedience, and train some dogs (the progress you’ll see will make you more than proud)
  4. Rescue a dog
  5. Foster a dog

I'm keeping this simple, so in conclusion, the company of my dog changed my life. I run to him when I'm anxious, I cuddle him when I feel lonely, I walk him when I need a boost of energy – we even watch our favourite TV shows together!

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