AID week is full of marketing clichés. On the first day, you will be given one of those tacky bags brimming with bumf, with loads more stickers, flyers, pens, caps and folders to follow as the week continues. In addition to that promotional material, you will get introduction talks, guided tours and parties. In other words, you will be inundated with information about the amazing options Wageningen has on offer.
All the study associations, sports clubs and student societies will be at their most impressive. Wherever you go, you will be promised ‘the best time of your life’. It all sounds very tempting — who wouldn’t want the best time of their life? But how much truth is there in all those stories? If you disregard the PR, you will discover that the clichés are in fact true. You do indeed have complete freedom and there are plenty of opportunities to make this the time of your life. But all that promotional talk is not so good at helping you deal with the responsibility of having to make so many choices at once. That may seem like a burden, but it’s also a chance.
The first step in ensuring a good time as a student in Wageningen is to enjoy the introduction week and all those activities to the full. Then you need to think about your preferences and keeping a good balance. Of course you are here to study and you should definitely not forget that. But you should also not forget that your student days will be full of opportunities that only come once in a lifetime. Your degree should officially keep you occupied from about half past eight to five, Monday to Friday. In practice you probably won’t spend all that time studying, especially if you have a so-called ‘Lebo life’ in Leeuwenborch, like I do.
You first year of student life will just fly past: so much will be happening that you can’t keep up. Hopefully you will be able to move out of your parental home and arrange your life as you wish. That brings responsibilities with it — suddenly you have to get food on the table and figure out that your bedclothes will need washing every now and again — but also a lot of freedom.
If I were a first-year again and in your position, I would definitely do something in addition to my degree work. Play a sport, become a member of a study association or student society, or get a part-time job. Find a good student house, play music, or perhaps Integrand or AIESEC could be your thing. There is so much more going on that even I don’t know about. You will see all kinds of opportunities. Just try them and see what you enjoy. You can always stop later.
Personally, I hate sitting still so I decided to do things I enjoy. I moved into an active student house, joined a student society, started writing articles for Resource and got work at the university as a student-assistant. These are just some of the options. Everyone can put together their own ‘package’, as it were. It’s up to you what you do.
One common question is whether you should join a student society. The AID week will show you how important student societies are to the student culture in Wageningen. That is why a relatively high proportion of students join a society compared to other universities. My experience is that – especially at the start of your university life – it is a portal that helps you get to know a lot of people very quickly. And you will benefit from that for the rest of your time at uni. Also, being a member will give you lots more opportunities for extracurricular activities because societies organize so many things.
You are best off living your first year to the full and seeing what appeals to you. Nothing is compulsory — you choose. But my advice is to do something, at any rate. Get hazed. Try quidditch. Go climbing. Plan a trip. Grow marijuana. Adopt a chicken. You could even try writing articles for Resource. Your university days are very much what you make of them. The options are endless but don’t just sit around doing nothing.
Geert van Zandbrink is a Bachelor’s student doing Economics and Policy. During his first year, he also wrote his first book, about the influence of Latin and Greek on modern-day Dutch. He blogs for Resource about student life in Wageningen.