The VUB Student House Nieuwelaan, near the main VUB campus in Elsene, have been given a new look for the new academic year. Working with six committed student residents, several VUB departments have given meaning to the facades and the streetscape. It’s a beautiful collaboration that fits in perfectly with The World Needs You. Not just a lick of paint, but one that shows commitment and a warm welcome to all our (dorm) students!

“As an urban engaged university, VUB is committed to sustainability, diversity and well-being. The renovated facades are a true The World Needs You (TWNY) project. It’s important to us that every student feels welcome, and we can only achieve that by involving students in engagement projects,” says coordinator Cynthia Pieters. Students worked with the Housing, Infrastructure and Marcom departments and the Prosperity pillar within TWNY.

In addition to safety, financial and social security and having a social network, adequate housing is an important component of the wellbeing story - Elisabeth Alofs

The VUB Student House Nieuwelaan needed a facelift – not just a fresh and colourful coat of paint, but a recognisable look that shows what VUB stands for. Student life is an important part of a university and that’s why it’s featured in the images. As are the urban characteristics of Brussels, and the students’ professional expectations for after they finish studying.

“It’s a design inspired by Magritte, Bauhaus and our VUB fox by Keppens Design and symbolises ‘feeling good as a student in Brussels’,” says head of the Housing Department Bart Geelen. "The new decoration is the most visible investment in the student house next to the new energy-efficient heating installations, a new bpost parcel locker, a payment app for the laundry room and a direct connection to the VUB campus via glass fibre cable thanks to VUB ICT."

Professor Elisabeth Alofs is the academic leader of the Prosperity pillar within TWNY and is very enthusiastic about the collaboration with the students. “We started this project with a presentation about TWNY and the theme of Prosperity. Students from various courses brainstormed what ‘welfare’ and ‘prosperity’ mean to them,” she says. “It was clear that in addition to safety, financial and social security and having a social network, adequate housing is an important component of the wellbeing story. Then we deepened the brainstorming to ask ‘What do you need to feel good as a student in Brussels?’ We now see the students’ answers to this question beautifully depicted on the facades of Nieuwelaan.”

When you’re an exchange student and really far from home, it’s so important to have a place where you feel comfortable

Master’s student in molecular biology Amanda Oliveira Urbaez is one of the students who answered that question. “Prosperity to me means being free to flourish in many ways,” she says. “Not only on a material level such as having a house and a successful career, but also the ability to spend time with family and friends. Having good connections with teachers, for example, is also a way to grow.”

Not only do passers-by enjoy the colourful buildings, but for the students themselves it is now an even nicer place to come home to. By showing a diverse representation of student life, it makes it easier for students to feel at home there. Forming a community and having a network were some of the important themes the team worked on in the run-up to the final result.

Amanda confirms the need for this, especially as an international student. She is from Brazil and has been living in a dorm on Nieuwelaan since December 2019. “When you’re an exchange student and really far from home, it’s so important to have a place where you feel comfortable,” she says. “It was very important for us to be involved in this project and we are happy to be part of this process of change. The name of our university already gives the idea of freedom, so you allow everyone to be who they want to be. It also means being inclusive and that’s essential. We hope to be involved in future projects as well.”