Choosing a degree programme, leaving home. For a lot of young people that is a good moment to go their own way and cut loose from their parents. But some opt for the university their parents went to. Four second generation Wageningen students talk about why.
Roos van Dortmont with her parents in the Belmonte Arboretum.
text Linda van der Nat and Madhura Rao photos Sven Menschel
Roos van Dortmont (Biology)
Mother: Dymph Aselbergs (Horticulture 1985-1991), now working for the Dutch Medicines Evaluation Board
Father: Ton van Dortmont (Landscape architecture), now working as a developer of wind farms
‘My parents never pushed me to come to this university. At first all I wanted was to get away from Wageningen, where I grew up. I wanted to go to the big city. But on a visit to Wageningen University I liked the atmosphere so much I decided to stay here after all. My brother did leave; he is studying Technical Planning at Groningen. That is a bit like Landscape Architecture so in a way, he is following my father and I my mother.
I made a point of moving into a place of my own. I always heard positive stories about that from my parents. My father lived in the block of flats at the Rijnsteeg, which has since been demolished, and my mother lived in the Dijkgraaf flats. They had very nice corridors; they cooked together. I wanted to experience that too. I am now living in the same building as my mother back then. She likes the fact that I’m studying in Wageningen; I live ten minutes away and I’m often home at weekends.
My parents live close to the Dreijen, where I often played as a child. I have had a class there just once, and I texted my parents to say how special I thought that was. They think it’s a pity the Dreijen is hardly used anymore. They think the campus is beautiful, but the Dreijen is their campus.
I don’t hear a lot of wild stories about their student years. My parents met at Unitas, of which they were both members. My father was DJ there, they demonstrated against nuclear energy and they dressed ‘alternatively’. That’s about it, I think. I am not a Unitas member; my interests are a bit different. SSR-W suits me better.
The photo of us was taken at the viewing point in the Belmonte Arboretum. That place stands for our connection with and interest in the landscape and the natural world. It is a place we often go to if we want a little walk. My parents had their wedding photos taken here too.’
Baibing Yan (Management and Economics)
Father: Zifu Yan (Plant Genetics and Breeding 1999-2000), now a self-employed businessman
Mother: Yuling Bai (Biotechnology and Plant genetics and Breeding 1998-2000), now working as associate professor at Plant Breeding
‘My parents met as students at the Henan Agricultural University in China, where they both got their Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. After graduating they taught at the university and they had me. Then they both left for Wageningen for a second Master’s and a PhD, first my mother in 1997 and a year later my father. I came to Wageningen a few months later, when I was six.
When I was very small I sometimes went with them to the university, usually at weekends, because they often had to work overtime. Then I played on a computer or had a look around the lab. Biology and plants don’t interest me at all. I like numbers and money matters. So I went to Rotterdam to do Business Economics. I wanted to get as far away from Wageningen as I could. I was really sick of the town; there isn’t much for young people to do here. I loved it in Rotterdam. I enjoyed student life so much that I didn’t get enough credits and I failed the year. Friends told me Business and Consumer Science in Wageningen was nice and not too hard. Of course my parents thought Wageningen was a good idea. So I thought, let me give it a try.
Because I’m doing a completely different degree than my parents did, I don’t feel as though I am following in their footsteps now I’m at Wageningen University. We do talk about the university a lot at home because my mother teaches here. When I come to think about it, it is quite unusual: my parents both come from the Chinese countryside, where there is not much opportunity to develop yourself. They fought hard to get where they are now, and that is something to be very proud if. They gave me the opportunity to study here, and I am very grateful to them for that.
The big cooking pots that are now in front of Atlas originally stood outside the main university building at Duivendaal. My parents and I used to see those pots a lot; they are a familiar university artwork. That is why we chose to take our photo there.’
Marte Stoorvogel (Earth and Environment)
Mother: Marjon Oostrom (Food Technology 1986-1992), now working for the Dutch Association of Land Agents
Father: Jetse Stoorvogel (Soil Science 1983-1989), now working at WUR as associate professor of Soil-Land Use Interactions
‘I don’t feel a familial connection with the university because my parents studied here too. I never think about it, actually. Our experiences are too different for that. They were taught at Duivendaal and the Dreijen, and they lived at Asserpark. I have classes on campus and I live at the Haarweg. My mother was a member of KSV for a while and my father was a competition rower for Argo. I don’t belong to a student society. I swim competitively with a town swimming club and go to the pool five or six times a week.
My decision to study in Wageningen had nothing to do with my parents. I went to open days in Amsterdam, Utrecht and Nijmegen as well but Wageningen appealed to me the most. And I didn’t feel like I had to get away from the town where I grew up. My parents didn’t interfere with my decision. I fact, at the Medical Sciences open day in Amsterdam, my father even said he though it sounded a very nice degree programme. As for Wageningen, he did comment that the programme included a lot of field trips abroad, and how much he had enjoyed that himself. After graduating, he worked in Ivory Coast and Costa Rica, where I was born. I recently went to Uganda with him and helped him with fieldwork. It was very nice, and I would like to work abroad myself.
In terms of subject I have followed in my father’s footsteps, but I don’t know where that fascination comes from. It is not as if we always used to talk about soils and geology. Now we can have nice discussions about it. If we see a nice stone when we are out walking, for instance, we say to each other, ‘oh look, granite.’ And you can see my mum and my sister exchanging looks. But it’s not too bad; we don’t talk about soils for hours. I think it could have been a lot worse. Our photo was taken at Asserpark, where my parents met.
Zying Huang (Food Technology)
Father: Ruiqing Huang (Management of Agricultural Knowledge, 1988-1990)
Mother: Xueping Qu (Management of Agricultural Knowledge, 1995-1997)
Together they run Beijing Rue Xue Global Co, a Chinese agrotechnology company which works a lot with the Netherlands.
The fact that my parents studied here too makes it a unique experience for me to be here. But it was not why I chose Wageningen. I chose to study at WUR for its courses and its excellence in the field of life sciences. I study food technology but my specialization is management. The fact that you can combine the two made it very appealing to me.
My parents were married before they came to Wageningen. I was born here, in 1993, and we went back to China in 1999, when I was six. I don’t have many memories of my childhood here. I know I went to the kindergarten in the Tarthorst.
From what my parents tell me, Wageningen hasn’t changed much since their time: The infrastructure and the new building on campus. Back then there were only 20 Chinese students studying here. Now there are over a thousand of us! And the shops open on Sundays now too.
My parents visited me a while back and it was a very emotional experience, especially for my mum. I’m really glad to have this very special experience of studying at the same university as my parents. I am even living in the same block of flats: Bornsesteeg.’