An English author and the Winnie the Pooh’s creator Alan Alexander Milne said: “Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.” So, what it is that we could learn from them if we observed and listened more carefully? And how one curious cat – our campus buddy Rolf – captured the heart of entire Warwick’s community and brought so much joy in an often stressful academic environment?…By Blanka Matkovic
Generations of children have been raised hugging their teddies and reading stories about a legendary friendly and thoughtful little bear in the red shirt. Winnie the Pooh became one of the best-known characters in the children’s literature. A 2011 poll saw him voted onto the list of icons of England and perhaps even a symbol of all those animals who have been our faithful companions for approximately 15,000 years.
Over centuries, animals proved to be much more than just support in the agriculture or friendly faces that wait for us at home. The research studies conducted since the 1980s have been showing that they also bring mental and physical health benefits. I learned how much impact they can have on our lives during my childhood when I had birds. One of my zebra finches was a very cheerful little fellow who kept singing on his swing all day long, but when he saw me lying down and being ill, he used to go quite. He would sit in the spot inside his cage to be as close as possible to me and observed. It felt like he knew that too much noise would bother me when I was unwell. When he saw me opening my eyes, moving or sitting in the bed, he would “communicate” very gently in order to check if I was well enough to hear him singing again. Such a tiny creature showed so much compassion for another, as my pain was his own. My parrot was a completely different character who was too preoccupied with his mirror and a very handsome reflection of himself in the mirror, but he used to get terribly frustrated when he picked up on me being too stressed due to my exams.
Since the day I started my academic journey at the university, I always missed their companionship. Studying, working and living away from everything you called “home” and everyone close to you is a far more than common homesickness. It’s a very isolated feeling that is often multiplied by a sense of loneliness in a very busy world focused on deadlines, achievements and success. Having a pawsome furry friend in rented accommodation is often an unachievable dream unless you are lucky enough to have one (or more) on campus where you spend most of your time anyway (and celebrate your birthday, as your blog editor did recently). If you are Warwick’s student, you are probably familiar with the Study Happy sessions with therapy dogs. For those who desperately need cuddling, I recommend an adorable Newfoundlander Yogi (see the photo above) who I met at one of the Potential Advantage events.
However, if you cannot make it to these scheduled sessions, there is always Rolf (see the photo below). If you are studying at the University of Groningen, then Professor Doerak is your “man” (check out Campus Catwalk exhibition to learn more). If you are somewhere else in the world, worry not because there will be another friendly creature to remind you what you can learn from them. So, let’s check out Rolf’s meows of wisdom:
1. To boldly go where no cat has gone before
Universities are perfect hunting grounds for all those hungry for knowledge and eager to thrive. The University of Warwick happens to be one of the UK’s leading universities focused on academic excellence, research, collaboration, imagination and entrepreneurship. Is there a better place for our feline ambassador Rolf who is tirelessly exploring and pushing the boundaries of the world known to other Coventry cats? Being a dedicated “student” with perfect attendance and extraordinary determination, Rolf breaks all taboos and crosses every obstacle with the “I can” attitude. He knows that every day is a new day and every step forward means learning something new and getting closer to your goals. This kind of resourcefulness is crucial in all life’s departments.
2. The best time is – now!
So, you are resourceful like Rolfie? That’s great, but is it enough? Well, not exactly. If we live with our heads in the clouds, we won’t get far. On his journey to stardom, Rolf taught us that living in the moment is one of the most valuable skills we can learn. We can’t change the past, so what’s the point of despair over past mistakes or failures? The future hasn’t happened yet and the only thing we can do about it is to do our best NOW. Being mindful of our thoughts, feelings, and needs at the present is the key ingredient to our future happiness.
3. Take care of yourself
This brings us to the importance of self-care. Rolf doesn’t visit the Economics department to learn about economic relationships between the USA and the EU. The truth is he found himself a comfortable and warm sanctuary where he takes regular breaks. This includes all ways of recharging, starting from play (yes, even if you are an adult, you are allowed to play), hydrating the body (water does wonders for metabolism), having a nap (your brain has to process all those information you are trying to remember for your exams) and of course – having snacks. How are you supposed to continue your quest for knowledge if you don’t fuel yourself with high-quality nutrition first?
4. Sharing and giving pays off
Acquiring new knowledge doesn’t only happen at the desk with your head buried in a book. As children, we used to learn while playing with our peers that also helped to develop our social skills and make new friendships. In a lonely world of academia, new buddies are very much welcome. Moreover, networking is considered to be one of the most important skills for our future professional lives. Not only you can learn from others, but also others can support you in various ways at the time of need, starting from lending you their lecture notes to bringing groceries from the store when you are ill and simply listening when things don’t go well and you’re feeling defeated.
5. Enjoy the world around you
Finally, being out in nature is sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves. Why not follow Rolf’s footsteps and take a walk in Tocil Wood? He doesn’t stay in Economics all day long. Rolf knows that being in the fresh air and relaxing under (or on) the tree can be blissful. This is an excellent way to clear your head during the stressful periods in your life, but it can also improve your physical health. Taking deep breaths will make you more aware of what is it that you need and how to achieve it. Listen and nurture your inner child who is your secret source of mental strength. This will help you to build your emotional resilience, and when you face new obstacles, you will be more successful in crossing them.
Next time when you meet Rolf, Yogi, or Warwick’s ducks and geese, take a moment, look beyond conventional boundaries and listen to what it is that they are telling you. If they reveal you a new tip for everyday living, don’t forget to share a secret.