University is all about sex and drugs and rock 'n roll, isn't it? At least, that seems to be a common assumption, shared by many new first-years. But is it the truth? What is life really like for the average Wageningen student when it comes to friends, nightlife, drink, drugs and sex life? We asked them in a survey.
To start with: how do Wageningen students make friends? Their degree programmes are the most important source of friendships: 59 percent got to know their friends through their courses. The student societies come a close second with 40 percent. People keep more of a distance from their housemates, it would seem. As a source of friendships, the student house or corridor scored a mere 19 percent.
What does a Wageningen student's week look like? Other surveys have revealed that students spend an average of almost 35 hours a week on their studies, which is higher than the national average. This survey gives us a picture of how they spend the rest of their time.
The average student does a sporting activity 2.1 times a week, goes out or to a party 1.5 times a week and drinks a total of 9 beers or other alcoholic beverages. A paid job takes an average of one half-day per week: four hours. And another 2.7 hours are spent on committee work organizing aspects of student life.
Active but responsible, would seem to describe our students. But these average figures mask big differences. For example, two thirds of the respondents are not involved in committee work at all, but because a small minority seem to do it fulltime (up to 50 hours a week), this raises the average. Something similar happens with alcohol consumption, where the average is pushed up by a small number of heavy drinkers. One respondent reckons to drink as many as 65 glasses per week.
Men and women
There are significant differences between men and women, and they appear to confirm the image of women as more serious about their studies and their future. Male students do more sport per week (2.5 times versus 1.9 times for women), spend more time on their jobs (4.5 hours versus 3.6), go out more (1.7 times, for women 1.4) and, at 14 glasses a week, drink a lot more than women (6 glasses a week). Meanwhile, women are more likely to take on committee work that will stand them in good stead in their social careers (3.3 hours versus 1.5 for men).
Moderate drug use
Drug use in Wageningen is moderate. 81 percent of the respondents do not use drugs at all. The remaining 19 percent is made up mainly of students who smoke a joint now and then (marijuana or cannabis). Very few (4 percent) ever use party drugs. And hard drugs do not feature on the Wageningen scene, according to this survey.
How sexually active are Wageningen students? Well for a start, not many come to university with no experience. On average, students have had 1.5 sexual partners before they arrive. The pace speeds up once they get here. In their time here, respondents say they have had sex with an average of 2.5 partners. Women quote a slightly lower number (2.3) than men (2.7).
And yet there are plenty of students whose relationships remain platonic, whether by choice or not. One quarter of the respondents say they have not yet had sex. On the other hand, 43 percent are in a steady relationship, while the rest are single.
An interesting detail is that the student societies are much less of a hive of sexual activity than is often assumed. The respondents who mainly made friends at the society score an average of 2.2 bedfellows, which is 0.3 less than the average of 2.5. What is less surprising is that living at home is a turnoff: these students only report 0.3 sexual partners.
We ended our survey by asking the respondents what advice they would give incoming first-years. The unanimous message was: enjoy yourself! An experienced fifth-year adds: 'It will be over before you know it. And there will be plenty of time later to take life seriously.'
In many ways the international students (55 respondents) are no different to the Dutch ones. They make most of their friends through their degree programmes (53 percent), just like their Dutch counterparts. The amount of time they spend on sport, jobs and going out is roughly comparable too. International students do drink significantly less than Dutch ones, though: an average of 4 glasses of alcohol a week compared to 9 for Dutch students.
International students in Wageningen also have fewer sexual partners than Dutch students: an average of 1.3 (1.9 for men, 0.9 for women), compared to 2.5 among the Dutch students. We cannot conclude from this that they are much more celibate, though, as they tend to have had more partners before they came to Wageningen: an average of 4.5 as opposed to the Dutch students' 1.5. More of the international students are in a steady relationship: 56 percent (43 percent among the Dutch). Conclude what you will, but bear in mind that the international students are older on average (the majority are Master's students) and they are not in Wageningen for as long.
The survey reveals some differences between Wageningen University students and those at VHL Velp (51 respondents). The applied sciences students in Velp do less sport (0.4 versus 2.1 times a week), drink a lot less (3.3 versus 9 glasses a week), and are less sexually active (0.9 versus 2.5 partners) than their Wageningen counterparts. And as many as 53 percent of them are going steady, compared to 43 percent of the Wageningen respondents. It is also noticeable that more of the VHL students make friends through the student societies (55 percent) than through their degree programmes (25 percent): another big difference with the university.
About the survey
To make it manageable we divided our survey population into three groups: Dutch-speaking university students, international university students and VHL students. The main story here is about the first group, and the others are reported on in the boxes. The survey was conducted before the summer break in the canteens at the Forum, the Leeuwenborch and VHL Velp. The Dutch university students filled in and returned 162 forms, of which 32 percent were filled in by first-years (now second-years) and the rest by fairly proportionate numbers of students from the other years. Almost all the respondents live in student accommodation (90%). There were 55 respondents from among the international university students and 51 from VHL.