Studies have shown that active interactions with nature have been related to improved psychological and physiological health, including increased self-esteem and reduced stress levels. Needless to say, this is one benefit which will now be reaped by AIUBians far more than their peers at the neighbouring universities. The permanent campus of AIUB not only stands out due to its architectural uniqueness, but also for the ample green spaces thoughtfully integrated in its layout. According to published research which dates back to the 80s, “Attractively landscaped formal open spaces or habitats left in their natural form, as woods and gorges, help establish a venerable campus identity, stir alumni sentimentalism, create a strong sense of community, and curb escalating campus densities”.
Apart from the newcomers who have chosen AIUB for the beauty of its permanent campus, existing students and alumni have also greatly praised the facilities in the new campus. The massive landscape which continues to develop at incredible speed, currently boasts a splendid fountain which is all the more stunning after dark when illuminated by the changing lights. A recent addition has been a makeshift campus lake, flaunting beautiful fish in diverse colours. The impact of such enhancements is evident in the number of students who spend their free time reading, brainstorming or simply relaxing out in the many open spaces on campus. A day in the life of University students in Dhaka is no doubt hectic owing to the number of hours they spend inactively waiting to get through the city’s congested streets. Young adults who should be spending their free time in outdoor activities are wasting away in hours of commute. With its shift to the permanent campus, AIUB can now offer the youth a much needed respite from this problem. The moment you enter the campus and are greeted by the enormous bright green field, followed by the paved pathways adorned in multi-coloured flowers on each side, it feels like you are in a different world altogether. Amidst the bursts of green everywhere, there are high-tech card scanners, metal detectors, digital screens displaying the latest campus updates and log-in devices conveniently located to aid student and staff mobility. One can only imagine what a perfect combination of nature and technology this campus will boast once it is complete.
Researchers from the University of Utah, studying the psychological-behavioural effects of the physical environment propose that understanding people/plant relationships from the perspective of a university planner could prove useful, as most colleges and universities do not emphasize the appearance of physical environment in relationship to learning, even though research has shown that manipulating the physical environment to achieve specific results is viable. In fact, the unavoidable exposure to nature and natural light at our permanent campus has noticeably changed students’ perspectives of the quality of life and resulted in greater retention of learning and class participation. Considering the rising cost of a private university education in Bangladesh, it can perhaps provide some solace in knowing that there are options for the youth now to choose a campus which takes immense care to create a campus which can significantly enhance the quality of life of its students, teachers and staff.
Kishwar M Chowdhury is a lecturer at the Department of Management and HRM at AIUB.