Wetenschap - 14 maart 2002

Column: The end of the beginning

Column: The end of the beginning

University education is somewhat of an intermediate period for most. It is the culmination of organised preparation for the work place and often marks a life-affirming change. Choosing to remain within the confines of academia to some extent protects from the cruel world outside. The campus is a haven for those dedicated to learning, but also to those, myself included, attempting to avoid hard graft.

It is the classic student scenario that work is not completed until the last minute. The human condition it seems is to postpone unpleasant tasks until the urgency for their completion induces blind panic. Typically a deadline lurks just around the corner to give your heart a flutter upon discovering it on the calendar. It can feel like too much of life is spent waiting, yearning for the future to arrive. You have to be careful what you wish for because the delay can be over in the blink of an eye, leaving you wondering where all the time disappeared to. To fling in some proverbs for good measure, the watched kettle never boils but also that time flies when you are having fun (or Tempus fugit, as Caesar might have remarked).

When it is home you look forward to, especially after a long absence it gives a great boost even to just return home briefly. It lifts the spirits to know joyous reunions are imminent and you can experience a sort of momentum, albeit finite, which motivates you even after your return to work. The same can be said of spending time away from your everyday drudgery, breaking with routine by going on holiday. The Dutch schedule thwarts any possibility of extended rest periods. Carefree gallivanting around is a little restricted. I can only reminisce about lengthy vacations breaking up the teaching periods into manageable chunks.

Wageningen seems to have a close-knit community. A trend no doubt reflected in many areas of the Netherlands, and possibly stemming from 'gezellig' traditions. Perhaps that is the reason why the Dutch are reputed to be particularly unwilling to leave their homeland despite scenarios where there are considerable incentives to do so. Most nationalities have some degree of self-imposed inertia but the resolve to remain is strong in certain lowlanders.

Wageningen seems particularly renowned as a University for boffins, the more dedicated of scientists. It is no wonder then that advertisers clamour for the endorsement of WU, however tenuous the link. One thing about so many intellectuals gathering in the same place are the eccentricities that accompanies them. Of course there are always more straight-laced, conservative people around but it is an education in itself to be in such diverse company, bringing a soup?on of insanity from around the globe.| David Hopkins

dlh@dr.com

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