News - April 20, 2017

Bringing firearms into the classroom

Julia Schafer

Who? Iris Rijnaarts (24), Master's student of Nutrition and Health
What? Six-month internship at CTRAL, Texas A&M University
Where? Texas, US

CTRAL is a clinical research centre within Texas A&M University that focuses on protein metabolism. For my internship I analysed data and took measurements for four studies in heart failure, COPD (pulmonary diseases) and obesity. These studies are investigating the relationship between protein metabolism, body composition and muscle strength. I had a really enjoyable time in Texas, although many things there are different from in the Netherlands. For example, tradition and ‘school spirit’ are very important at Texas A&M University. Seventy thousand people study there and the campus is the same size as the city of Wageningen.



It sometimes felt like I had stepped into a film. If I ate out the food was often unhealthy and there were parties in the swimming pool and halls specially for line dancing. The American football games of the university team were the high point of every week. The ‘Texas A&M Aggies’ play in the top division and the campus stadium seats more than 100,000 people. Tickets for games are in great demand and can easily cost 200 dollars. That's why my friends and I usually stayed in the park next to the stadium and took part in the tradition of ‘tailgating’. From 8 o'clock in the morning on game days, people pitch tents, barbecue food, play games and drink. But on one occasion I did go into the stadium to watch a game. Instead of cheerleaders, Texas A&M has five men ‘Yell Leaders’ who use gestures to tell the stadium audience which songs to sing and what they should shout to support the team. It was exciting to experience this atmosphere.


My internship coincided with the US presidential election campaigns and I quickly noticed what a sensitive subject it was. Sometimes people wanted to stop talking to you if you said you thought the other candidate had better ideas. The way Americans think about firearms amazes me. They see them as providing the opportunity to protect themselves and in Texas a law was passed last year giving students the right to take firearms into class. Places in Texas are far apart and because I didn't have a car I missed my freedom a bit. It can also be very hot there. At 7 o'clock in the morning the temperature could already have reached 38 degrees Celsius. Which made taking a swim in the pool of my apartment block absolutely wonderful.