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EL CID 2021: exuberance online and in town

This summer, from 12 to 21 August, it’s time once again for EL CID: the introduction week for Dutch-speaking first-years at Leiden University and the University of Applied Sciences Leiden. A memorable start to many a student life! This time, because of Covid, the city and students will get to know one another in a mixture of online and in-person activities.

‘I’m standing here in Leiden and all the doors are open to me... I feel exuberant.’ This is how Youp Theunisz, chair of the 2021 EL CID/Vademecum committee, describes his own ‘EL CID feeling’. The committee (a further five members alongside Theunisz) wants this exuberance to be reflected in the programme for the 2021 EL CID week, the theme of which is ‘Tune In’. ‘We spent most of last year at home, which makes it extra important to give first-years the opportunity to join a social network, to tune in,’ Theunisz explains. The idea is that– current Covid situation permitting – the EL CIDers will find these connections both online and in person.


The first two days of EL CID week 2021, Thursday 12 and Friday 13 August, will be online. Rather than on a packed Beestenmarkt, the first-years and mentors will meet up on an online platform instead, where all sorts of different groups, like student and study associations, will introduce themselves. ‘Those two online days will tell you all you need to know about living and studying in Leiden,’ says Theunisz. 

A student watches the virtual opening of last year’s EL CID, the Leiden University introduction week, on her laptop.
EL CID had a virtual opening last year because of the pandemic.

Cookery lesson 

But there’s more. The EL CID committee is going to rig up a whole studio at Wibar Leiden and broadcast various ‘social’ events from there, including student bingo with a chat option and an interactive element. All participants will receive a personalised bingo card, and if you call bingo, the studio will make a video connection to check your card, thus giving the audience and presenters the chance to get to know the winner. And there will of course be great prizes to win, provided by the EL CID week sponsors. Another online social event is the cookery workshop where the students can learn how to make a quick, cheap and healthy vegetarian meal.

‘Eight hundred people on a bouncy castle in the park isn’t an option at the moment, so there’ll be smaller events at multiple locations instead.’

With a massive disclaimer – if everything is still allowed – Theunisz reveals the plans for the in-person part of EL CID week. ‘We’ve spoken to various partners like the municipality and local businesses and have come up with a plan to keep everything as safe as possible and to reduce the “pressure” on the city. We’ve also looked at a programme with smaller events. Eight hundred people on a bouncy castle in the park just isn’t an option at the moment, so there’ll be smaller events with around 100 people per location instead.’ 

The expected 3,600 to 4,000 participants will be split into two blocks. The in-person part of block one will be from Monday 16 to Wednesday 18 August, and block two from Thursday 19 to Saturday 21 August. During these blocks the first-years will explore the city as always in their own mentor group. And just like previous years the groups will be easy to spot: they’ll be given EL CID shirts and each group will have its own sign. ‘The groups will definitely have to come up with inventive ways to safely steal each other’s signs,’ Theunisz laughs.

Dancing in a rubber ring

What can you expect of the tour? At any rate everything you’re used to during a normal EL CID: a visit to the universities, an information market. ‘But we also want to come up with fun ways to hold more social events. Like the ‘Dixo-driehoek’ – a disco in three different locations – where we’ll give everyone a rubber ring this year so they can dance safely. I reckon it’ll look fantastic. We also want a spot where you can chill out and do nothing, the Tune Out hub. In one of the parks, for instance, with distanced rugs or a little beer bench and table. You can also come for a drink at the EL CID tap. We’ve currently got our eyes on Lammermarkt for our terrace.’

Restaurant catering

The first-years usually get to know Leiden businesses during EL CID, the cafés and restaurants in particular. The pub crawl, a traditional and popular element, won’t be on this year’s programme.  ‘We still hope to be able to hold it, but then later this year,’ says Theunisz. ‘We also want to have various events close to restaurants and cafés in town, for instance on Pieterskerkplein. If that goes ahead, a nearby restaurant can do the catering.’ 

Support Leiden businesses

‘What complicates things is that restaurants and cafés have been closed because of the lockdown, which means plans like this are only now getting going. We’re thinking about how we can give Leiden businesses, which have always been firm partners of EL CID week, a bit of extra support. Maybe via a donation button on our site. Anyway, where possible we want to work with local businesses. A good example is our partnership with Sligro Leiden, which goes back years and we’re really pleased with.’

‘Everyone’s determined to create that special EL CID feeling in August’

In short: EL CID 2021 is seeking a balance between informative and social, and between safe and exuberant. ‘I can feel the enthusiasm everywhere,’ says Theunisz. ‘From the organisers to the mentors to the crew: everyone’s determined to create that special EL CID feeling in August.’

Main photo: Activity during EL CID 2019, before the pandemic

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