In Leeuwarden they all knock back the Beerenburg, Velp is full of foresters and Wageningers are eco-freaks. Really?
The sleepy town of Leeuwarden will be transformed on Monday when the students come back en masse and the locals quake in their boots. Carrying no more than a weekend bag, the students stream out of Leeuwarden station and its streets are shaken out of their lethargy. Not just by the deafening noise of the rickety old bikes bought off a tramp for fifty cents during a nocturnal visit to the FEBO snack vending machine. There's a lot of noise from beery throats as well. Particularly from two born and bred Leeuwarders Aart Lus and Ed Lip who are singing the local drinking song Ik ben su eil with all their might.
The motto here is: have fun, chill, and to hell with the rules. Most Van Hall students are animal managers, biotechnologists and water managers. Whether you look at the eco-minded dreadlocked animal manager or the water manager ready for high water in his gumboots, you won't see any signs of traditional Friesian dress. The Leeuwarden student's interest in Friesian traditions isn't even aroused by fierljeppen (a traditional form of pole-vaulting). Nor will you find Friesian sugar bread in any of their lunchboxes. No, the students doesn't eat what he doesn't know. However, there is one tradition that the Leeuwarden student does uphold: Litres of Sonnema Berenburg fly across the bar in the town's many pubs.
Luckily the international students are not put off by the fact that the town is in the far North, surrounded by cows and little villages with unpronounceable names. Hordes of German animal managers and hard-working Chinese hotellos help create a unique atmosphere in Leeuwarden student life. There certainly isn't a language problem, and by the end of the evening everyone understands each other. And English sounds remarkably like Friesian. /Marlot Roelofs
'Wageningen girls don't know they're cute yet'
We're on the top floor of the forum. Henk gazes shyly in the distance and slurps his nettle tea. Asked why he is so nervous, he shrugs. 'Ach', he says, 'I don't really like talking about myself, and certainly not if everything I say is going to be interpreted as a statement by The Typical Wageningen Student. I think its dangerous to think in stereotypes. I don't understand why this magazine wants to write a portrait. But OK, if we must, I'll do my best.' We make a cautious start.
Henk, what are your hobbies?
'Well, quite a variety. I like gardening, for example, and birdwatching and knotsballen.'
Not exactly standard for a healthy 22-year-old Dutch lad
'Don't you think so? I know a lot of other people here who like those things. My flatmates for example.'
You live at Droef?
'Yes, a very nice place to live. Very green and friendly. And everyone is vegetarian. Really eco-friendly.'
Do you understand why some people call you 'stink hippies' or droeftoeter'?
'Oh, I try not to take any notice of that. They're usually the Ceres guys who dominate the High Street. Jumped-up farmers, they are.'
Got something against farmers?
'No, not at all, as long as they're organic farmers. I've got nothing against hippies either, actually.'
What's the biggest advantage of Wageningen compared to other student towns?
'That there are girls here who don't know yet that they're pretty. That saves a lot of arrogant banter in the pub.'
Lastly, could you sum up Wageningen in one phrase?
'Small is beautiful!' /Iris Roscam-Abbing
The rough diamonds of Velp
The classic VHL Velp student is a forester , recognizable by his clumpy shoes and casual clothes. Not sure? Lift up the end of his green water-resistant trousers (or perhaps jeans). If you see goat's wool socks or walking shoes, he is a real forester. But do you think it's going a bit far just to lift up someone's trouser leg? No problem! Just lean forward as if you want to pick something up and have a good look at his shoes. Covered in mud? Ninety nine percent certain to be a forester. Easy, isn't it?
But it has to be said, there are other types at Velp too. Roughly divisible into three categories. Besides the well-known forester there are students of Garden and landscape architecture (T&Lers) and of Land and water management (LWMers). T&Lers are not too bad: always smartly dressed. And usually carrying a big plastic tube full of the posters they've designed. Rumour has it that T&Lers do nothing but make posters all day, but that's not true. Sometimes some of them - usually women - make models or brochures as well.
LWMers are harder to spot. You can't say much more about them than 'a well-built guy in jeans'. Some of them look a bit like foresters, and others are more like T&Lers. No, if you really want to identify an LWMer you have to listen. Sounds a bit rustic? Bingo! And if it's an Achterhoek accent, then you're sure you're right. If you can understand any of the conversation, you will realize they are talking about water, drains or asphalt.
All Velp students are approachable. They love the outdoors, they are not usually vegetarian, and they call themselves 'Larensteiners'. They're certainly no idealists, but they are working on making the Netherlands beautiful and safe./ Stijn van Gils