News - June 4, 2015

Getting ‘town and gown’ together

A group of young people is busy setting up ‘Thuis’, a communal lounge in Wageningen town centre. From the end of June, Wageningen residents will be able to get together at number 32 Stationsstraat to share their talents, ideas and materials. ‘We want to create more of a sense of community and liven up the town a bit.’ But is there really a need for this kind of initiative?

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Tutku Yuksel, Student and initiator of Thuis

To me it’s important: that is why we are setting up Thuis, a communal lounge for Wageningen, to bring students and ‘Wageningers’ - local and international – together. The reason is that I notice that often people in the town do their thing without knowing what others are up to. Students and local residents have a lot to offer each other. At present the university seems far away from the people who live here. Bring them together, and Wageningen will be an even nicer place. In the old days there used to be frequent fights between students and local youth. Nowadays that happens much less but there is still not much contact between the two groups. A lot of people still have no idea what goes on at Droevendaal. The same goes for things happening in the town: there are various dropin centres and community centres which students have no idea about. Things organized by the municipality are not promoted among students.

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Elza Jansen Wageningen, resident
I don’t think it is really needed. I live in the town centre, so I mainly hear the students at night. I don’t really get the impression they live in a separate world. I have never seen it that way. Maybe it feels different to the students. I have read something about the initiative on the Stationsstraat. A nice idea in itself if it’s a bit of a mix of age groups. I have lived in Wageningen all my life and I feel the gap between town and university was bigger in the old days.

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Corina van Dijk, Communications and PR worker at Idealis
Idealis is looking for ways of improving relations between students and Wageningen residents. This is in Idealis’s management plan too. There are no concrete plans but we do want to really do something about it in the future. If you don’t do things together it is a missed opportunity. It increases mutual understanding and that is very important in a university town such as Wageningen. Students can definitely make a contribution to life in the town. There are already some initiatives: the Belmondo festival, for instance, is being organized jointly this year with the international student society IxESN.

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Maxime Tijdink, First-year MSc student of Bioinformatics

When I was at secondary school in Wageningen I never mixed with students. That was partly because of the age gap. Now I am studying here. My Wageningen schoolfriends now meet students through me. But I know too that often peo ple live side-by-side without meeting. I don’t think extra initiatives are needed because people can get in contact themselves. I also think many students have other interests. People who have been through higher education often stick together. You see that in a university town: the local residents often haven’t been through higher education and they have different interests to the students. Those whose interests do overlap do end up meeting through the grapevine.

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Georgies E. Mitrakas, Owner of the shop Morning Tales and former WUR student
I was a student when I began with my shop. As a student I had a different view on the city than I have now. Now I have to deal with the local people. I really think that people here are too conservative. You have this really open minded university with people coming from all over the world. And then you have the really conservative society. There are two different worlds in one city that are working parallel to each other. Many people try to bring them together. So if they want and the municipality really allows things to happen, they can do things. But in the last few years both groups are really being separated. And it will get worse. Especially in a few years with the Campus Plaza. The university moved out of the city and you can already see that every year the centre is getting less and less crowded with students.

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Yang Li, 1st year MSc student of Animal Sciences
No. I do not think that Wageningen needs to initiate more contact between students and local Wageningers. I have lived here for four months and my impression is that there are no young people besides the students here in Wageningen. Only old people live here. And to me, they can only give you their experience. While on the other hand, many young people do not really want to have contact with old people. It is not very interesting for them.

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Photo's: Aart-Jan van de Glind