Cameron Sanders sits on a bright blue bean bag chair at school. The first-year graphic design student at Cambrian College is relaxed, scrolling through his phone and waiting for this three-hour spare to be over.

He's not at home, but in a room called the Zen Den.

"I think it brings community," Sanders says. "People who come in here will react, talk to other people, socialize and relax."

De-compress when students want to

The Zen Den is a room inside the college's library. Originally, it was used for storage, but was converted into a space for students to relax, de-compress and be mindful between, before or after classes.

"I know the common perception is that libraries are quiet places but I know ours definitely isn't," says Marnie Seal, a librarian in the college. "It's a very popular space, and it's tough to control our quiet areas for students who want to work in silence. So being able to open up a quiet space for them will definitely be helpful."

A 'northern living room'

cambrian zen den

Natalie Guindon sits in Cambrian College's Zen Den. Guindon helped create the stress-free space in her role as co-ordinator of the First-Generation Advising Program. (Samantha Samson/CBC News)

The Zen Den officially opened late January, but has been in the works for almost a year. Natalie Guindon is an administrative assistant at Cambrian. She had a lead role in creating this room.

"We have students here from eight in the morning to 11 at night, so this is their go-to space to relax," Guindon says.

The walls are painted blue and green, and a large forest mural is the first thing you see when you walk in. The fluorescent light bulbs are covered with blue screens with clouds on them, all to create a welcoming space.

"Our whole theme for this was like a northern living room," Guindon says.

First-generation students needing extra help

The project was partly funded by the college's First-Generation Advisory Program. Guindon says that's because students who are the first in their family to go through college experience specific stressors. There's a place in the room for students to send their contact information to the college's administration, letting them know they need extra resources.

"A lot of us go to our parents and say what did you do when you were in college and how did you deal with that?" says Guindon. "A lot of them don't have that access. That's why we're here is to help them and guide them through the process. Get them through college life, really."

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