EL CID in a time of corona: ‘This is great fun – we don’t know what it was like before anyway’
The EL CID introduction period is mostly online this year. But all first-years get to come to Leiden for a day for a taste of studying and student life. We came to have a look on Wednesday 12 August.
Round about the time the welcome in the garden of Museum Volkenkunde is due to start, 25 students are present, three of them girls. This is strange because for years the number of female students has exceeded the number of males. But a quarter of an hour later the four mentor groups of 15 to 20 people are complete and the balance has been redressed.
Elsewhere in town other groups are wandering around, but no more than 600 first years are allowed to come in per day. The groups that we are shadowing consist of first-year Mathematics and Law students, grouped by programme. Two degree programmes are usually mixed in a mentor group to give the students the chance to get to know students from outside their own degree programme bubble, but that too is different this year. The 1.5-metre rule is strict and we are only allowed to attend the programme parts if we observe a generous distance.
Caesar is going to study Mathematics and Computer Science. He lives in Lisse but with his Spanish roots isn’t your average Lisse native. He explains in passing that the name Caesar is in memory of an uncle who was murdered under Franco’s regime. Caesar, who only wants us to use the G. of his surname, is pleased with the EL CID. ‘After four-and-a-half months of doing nothing, I’m glad that something is happening again.’ He was already fairly bored at secondary school as it was. ‘That was because I was quicker than average at working through the learning material.’ His mark was a 9 for Mathematics B and a 10 for Mathematics D. Not a bad start for a Mathematics and Computer Science degree. Whether he will try to find a room depends on whether he is admitted to Catena student association. He wants to play football too.
Lunch in Huigpark
With around 15 students, the mentor groups are bigger than usual. At 12.00 four groups arrive at Huigpark. It is now around 30oC but there is enough shade to sit in a large circle. Earlier, at just after 11.00, the Sligro lorry juddered away from the car park by the park and EL CID volunteers rapidly started filling the paper lunch bags at a stall, setting aside a few bags with ‘lactose free’ written on them.
Tessel Hopmans is going to study Law, but wants to do Art History as well. She comes from The Hague and wanted to join Minerva student association, but unfortunately hasn’t made the selection. ‘I’m going to try again later.’ She is really enjoying this in-person EL CID day. She has met three girls that she gets on really well with. ‘They weren’t at the online programme, so this has been a nice surprise.’ Tessel also likes the group. What more could a person wish for?
The small associations at PLNT
The small associations have set up shop at PLNT, where entrepreneurial students are sure to return, but it’s not busy as yet.
SIB, the Student Association for International Relations, is known for its annual Japanese evening, where students get the opportunity to talk to the many ambassadors who have been invited. Although SIB is obviously international in focus, it has the corona period covered for the time being with speakers from the Netherlands who know a lot about international affairs. It has also been fishing in the large political pond: Dutch politician Pieter Omtzigt was recently a guest. The association meets at its clubhouse on Breestraat on a Wednesday evening to listen to a speaker or just to enjoy each other’s company. SIB welcomes 40 to 50 new members each year, and on 12 August is pleased with the provisional result of 15 new members.
Navigators Studentenvereniging Leiden
Of the four Christian associations, with just over 300 members Navigators Student Association Leiden is the largest. Today should be a good day for new members, say the Navigators who are manning the stall at PLNT, because large degree programmes such as Law and Psychology generally provide a good supply of new members. The average is 80 newbies per year with around 200 in total for the four Christian associations. The Navigators have a distinctly Christian identity but are studenty too, evidently an appealing combination.
Yingyu Bodt stands out from the crowd. He’s practically the only one wearing a face mask most of the time and is using an umbrella as a parasol. He ‘couldn’t care less’ what others think about him. The corona infection rate is rising again and he wants to do all he can to prevent a second outbreak. Yingyu comes from Loenen aan de Vecht and will be travelling back and forth in the first year at least. ‘It’s one-and-a-half hours there and one-and-a-half hours back again. I had a long journey to secondary school too, so I’m used to it. I can’t study on the train but I can read.’ If Yingyu joins an association it will be Collegium Musicum. ‘I play the trumpet, although I have to admit I haven’t touched it for a year. I don’t know if I’d even get through the audition.’
The water sports introduce themselves by the canal
Back to Huigpark. At over 30oC it’s the ideal day to promote water sports. People are swimming in the canal and most of the water sports associations are able to demonstrate their skills. We skip the large associations (rowing, sailing and canoeing) and visit the smaller ones instead.
Aquamania is for students who want to swim or play water polo competitively. One new member has joined say the students manning the stall. But not to worry: over ten students have registered for trial membership and the chance is high that they’ll decide to join after all.
Here LSD stands for the Leiden Student Diving Association, with 103 members a very small association. Diving isn’t the safest of sports. ‘The sport is so dangerous that it is safe,’ says one of the students on the stall. ‘We’ve got a special committee that carefully checks the equipment, and we keep a good eye on each other. You never dive alone.’ The association goes to Zeeland five times a year for the real work and once a year, corona willing, abroad – last year to Spain and the year before that to the Azores. Five new members like the sound of this so far.
Then there’s Plankenkoorts, the student windsurfing club, with 600 members. Normally 150 new members join each year, but the current figures are between 40 and 50. The students on the stall say that the association forms a strong community: everyone knows everyone else. The members help and learn from each other. The association goes windsurfing in the sea and the members also socialise together. They have three minibuses that fits seven members and their boards as they head out to sea. The students tell us how people phoned them up after the seafoam at Scheveningen in May, which took the life of a very experienced surfer. They could reassure the callers that safety is paramount. This rather rare natural phenomenon was another learning moment for the students.
Yanna and Lotte
These two students are both going to study Law and the same field too: Lotte Huisjes has opted for Law, Management and Business Studies and Yanna Cuijpers for International Business Law. They’ve discovered they are both from Brabant: Lotte moved from Leiden – where her mother studied – to Den Bosch when she was young and Lotte comes from Uden. Both have managed to find a room in a student house. Yanna would like to join Minerva or Augustinus but both associations have a waiting list, so she has registered with Quintus for the time being. And she wants to row with Njord. Lotte is pleased that she didn’t decide to take a gap year. ‘Those school leavers are all sitting at home now.’ In answer to the question of what they think of the ‘new’ EL CID and studying ‘new style’, Yanna says: ‘This is great fun – we don’t know what it was like before anyway.’ It is clear that the two are enjoying themselves!
Text: Corine Hendriks
Photos: Monique Shaw
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