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EL CID turns 50: a retrospective

For Leiden students and alumni, it might just be the week they feel most nostalgic about: EL CID week. This year sees its 50th edition. A small exhibition in Plexus Student Centre shows that although much about EL CID has changed – student fashion sense, for one – the formula has remained the same.

The exhibition is a journey through time. From the photos, it is clear how student fashions and culture have changed in the space of 50 years. From black-and-white photos of students whose hair becomes wilder as time progresses to festival photos of the increasingly professional EL CID as it enters the 21st century. ‘Our small exhibition gives a good impression of the different eras,’ says Demi Smeets, who is studying Chinese. She is commissioner for logistics on the present EL CID committee and, together with her team member Atma Saam, curator of the exhibition. ‘One thing we wanted to show was how EL CID has changed. It has become much bigger and much more professional.’

In 1975, EL CID began with a procession from Beestenmarkt.

Hutspot versus BBQ

The basis has stayed the same, however: a fast and furious introduction to student, university and Leiden life. This was done in 1975 with a mass hutspot dinner, for instance, cooked by the students themselves. Nowadays the meal is a gigantic barbecue provided by professional caterers.

A mass hutspot dinner in 1975.


The exhibition shows familiar EL CID merchandise such as bags, booklets, wristbands and CDs of EL CID songs. For years, the committee even published a daily newspaper, but this tradition came to an end. The 50th edition will mark a first: the week will be as paperless – and green – as possible. Smeets: ‘This is the first time that a paper guide for the thousands of participants won’t be the standard option; instead there will be an app that provides all the info. Nor will we be handing out huge numbers of flyers.

Familiar EL CID merchandise such as bags, books and CDs.


Participant numbers have increased radically over the years and, with students from Leiden University of Applied Sciences joining in the fun since 2014, the figure now stands at around 3,600. The committee hopes to set a new record this year. Smeets: ‘Many people like me make their best friends during EL CID, for the rest of their studies and afterwards. The mentors and organisers are also a very close group. You find yourself in a real EL CID family!’

Guus Koorevaar and Demi Smeets from the 50th EL CID committee.

Until 1970, instead of one central introduction week, each student and study association organised its own. It was at the request of these associations that EL CID came about. Students in The Hague have had their own introduction week for a few years now, HOP. International students also have their own introduction week, OWL. For years, the EL CID committee also produced the Vademecum, a print directory, but that has since been replaced by an interactive video. 

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