Student using app on phone. Source: Shutterstock/shurkin_son.
Student using app on phone. Source: Shutterstock/shurkin_son.

A new wellbeing app aimed at bridging the gap between international students and their universities launched on World Mental Health Day.

HappE, developed by Auckland tech company EESL to help international students while they settle in to life in New Zealand, went live on Tuesday.

Moving to a new country to study is a big step, and while some students manage it with ease others find the transition can take some time.

The HappE app not only benefits students but also enables their institutions to understand how they can support international students.

The app works – much like an SOS signal through GPS – by gaining an immediate connection with the student’s network provider. This means that no matter where students are, they can access the app.

HappE enables universities to distribute information directly to their students. They can collect information through surveys in order to monitor student wellbeing at all times. The overarching aim of the app is to improve the student experience for those studying in New Zealand.

Students are able to source information on their university and new city via the app, as well as contact the student services team with any issues.

“We don’t want to look at it as [just] ‘surveys'” said Bruce Gadd, EESL’s chief executive.

“Students can complete answers with video and audio responses, as well as having more functional buttons and tick box mechanisms to remove the mundane ideal associated with a ‘survey’.

“The idea for HappE came from our own internal processes working with international students. We saw how hard it was for them to get access to information, share information with the international team and integrate into the community. They felt distant and unable to express their feelings.”

In the UK, apps for students’ mental wellbeing are more common. The University of Portsmouth has a unique popular app named WhatsUp?. Students can log their mood and contact counsellors among other things. The University of Salford, Cardiff University, and the University of Kent are just some of many UK institutions who run similar apps.

In July 2016, New Zealand updated its pastoral care code of practice for international educators. The new care code outlined providing fair agent dealings and solid student support services for international students. In lieu of this, HappE attempts to improve not just the physical wellbeing of international student in NZ, but their mental wellbeing too.

Before the app’s release, student services’ at New Zealand universities reported difficulty in reaching students. Often, the students who need support the most are the most reluctant to seek it out. HappE is designed to help eliminate the anxiety some students suffer when trying to ask for help.

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