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A breath of zen at Cambrian College

School opens its Zen Den for students and staff

College life can be hectic; classes, textbooks, exams, projects, and don't forget social engagements.

Enter Cambrian College's latest addition to student life, the Zen Den.

Located in the school's library, a former storage area has been transformed into a serene safe haven for students to recharge their batteries and unwind from the daily rigors of post-secondary education.

Cambrian officially opened the Zen Den on Jan. 25, a project that was roughly two and a half months in the making, and its opening serendipitously coincided with Bell Let's Talk Day.

"We started in about mid-November with clearing out the space and buying happy lights," said Natalie Guindon, administrative assistant at Cambrian and one of the coordinators for the Zen Den.

"When we started getting closer to finishing, it was a perfect fit to open it on Let's Talk Day because this is a room that's aimed at improving the mental health of our students and staff."

The room itself can accommodate between 15-20 people at one time, and is equipped with six study areas, a large table for group work, beanbag chairs for lounging and soft lighting to help foster feelings of calm among its visitors.

"There's magazines, books, games, and colouring books for visitors to use," said librarian Marnie Seal. "I see students spending long hours in here, especially during mid-terms and exams, sometimes they're here when I get in and still here when I leave. It's nice to have a space for them to come and relax and take a break."

First-year civil engineering student Daniel Prevost is one such student who is thankful for a space like the Zen Den.

"Sometimes it can get a little bit loud out in the library. Coming in here it feels like I'm coming home to my room," said Prevost.

"Not only is it relaxing but it's also a good place to meet people. Sometimes you just want to hang out and chat with other students."

A giant mural depicting a forest adorns one of the walls, keeping the theme of a Northern living room that Zen Den coordinators were aiming for. Perhaps the most important feature of the room however, are the large beanbag chairs that line the wall below the mural.

"We always see students down in the nest downstairs kind of hanging around trying to see if there's beanbag chairs available," said Seal.

"So we definitely wanted to make sure that we got some of those for the den."

There are some unique design elements to the room including the overhead lighting which is a soft, sky blue with painted clouds. The soft blue lighting from overhead is paired with "happy lights" which give off the same soft lighting.

"We had some challenges because there's no windows in that room," said Seal. "But I think did great with the lighting and the room as a whole just feels very welcoming and calm."

The staff at Cambrian are also free to use the Zen Den, and the room is in a test phase of sorts for the time being.

"We can accommodate up to about 20 people, but if we find that it's really popular we might try allowing students or staff to book the room for group projects and things like that," said Guindon.

The Zen Den is open from 8 a.m. - 2 a.m. during the week, and 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. on weekends.