The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the use of urban green spaces by international youth in Bonn

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Urban and Rural Development

Abstract: Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany, international youth is undergoing manifold negative impacts on their living situation, mobility, mental and physical health and their social life. It is well-known that urban green space (UGS) offers multiple benefits for all age groups, and there are specific advantages for youth in particular, which impact their lifestyle and usage of UGS during COVID-19. In this thesis, usage of urban green spaces in the city of Bonn are being studied, while the study focuses on international youth with specific lifestyle traits, which define their challenges and limitations while living in Bonn during COVID-19. This thesis researches the changes in usage of UGS by international youth during COVID-19, and will study the impacts of these changes on social cohesion, physical activity and mental wellbeing – three pillars derived from a study by Hartig et al. Additionally, the study will briefly highlight how these experiences can lead to more inclusive policy in relation to UGS. To navigate youth’s experiences, ethnographic interviews with several youth have been carried out, of which the results have been analysed and categorized. For this, a systematic method for analysing qualitative interviews (Grounded Theory) has been used. The method uses labelling and tagging of words called ‘open’ and ‘selective coding’. Results showed social interaction and cohesion are one of the main incentives of visiting UGS, which is now severely affected, rendering international youth incapable to perform essential activities related to their specific lifestyles. UGS are often utilized as a tool to become more grounded in youths living environments through exploration, prior and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Conclusively, UGS serve as a green refuge to international youth, offering a space to exercise mental and physical wellbeing, and they have been proven crucial for coping with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. As youth is often ill-represented in policymaking in relation to UGS, future policymaking should be addressed to youth’s needs and challenges, which will in its entirety lead to more inclusive and accessible UGS. Youth should occupy a central position while policies on UGS need to be developed, breaking currently existing generational barriers.

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