‘It’s like a boot camp, but then with beer.’ A slightly drunk international confesses to me. The beer is flowing, leaving tables full of towers more crooked then the one in Pisa. Heaven for those who signed up for the most fun integration ever.
Integration night, the night where national and international students can take a closer look inside the student bubble: the association life. Hosted by some of the biggest associations and student organizations: AEGEE, Albertus, Contractus, Dizkartes, ESN, SIB, SOG, Usva and Vindicat.
Perfect for those who don’t know anything about the association life… one of them being me. Moving to the city three years ago, I was very unaware about the existence of the student associations and their traditions. It was during my introduction week (Kei-week), that someone quizzed me by asking who the biggest student associations of the city were.
‘Vindikuz and Alber….’ I mumbled or at least something like that while he looked at me with a sad look on his face. Wrong, very, very wrong. Admitting: coming from a little village a bit more south, associations literally parading through town looked foreign to me. But how does this look to those who are from places further away?
‘We don’t really have these types of associations.’ A student from Austria tells me. ‘Most of the time they are around political parties and oddly with a lot of men.’ We are standing in the building of Albertus where flies are making shadows in the light of the Beemer. Under it, an academic talks about the history of the University. He is dressed neatly in his suit with his hair just as grey as the dust in the corners of the room. This is the contrast that I love about the student life.
You see, the way that I look at the Dutch student culture is summarized as imperfect, unseriously serious, a bit weird, quirky and most of all a lot of fun. Luckily the entire night is drenched with this. After the presentation a dinner is served described by some as a bit soppy. In between entertainment is brought with the most epic Rock Paper Scissors game I’ve ever witnessed.
We make our way to the impressive Vindicat building for a pub quiz and beer cantus. I make some new international friends and together we create an interesting table hosting Germans, Italians and someone from Malaysia. The last one confesses to me that the upcoming beer cantus will be his second one and he is hoping to survive it.
Lucky for him it’s only a mild version, but just as fun since it’s complete with students in strange costumes with studenty riddles and rules. Also, not to forget unpleasantly singing and lots of beer. It’s then when my German neighbor states my favorite quote of the night.
A boot camp but then with beer, it does explain all the happy faces who are singing along to Toto. Singing gets louder and turns into passionate screaming. Tables are getting heavier under the weight of the students who are enjoying themselves. We end up in the clubhouse of Dizkartes where my new German-Italian-Malaysian friend group show off their best dance moves. I’m enjoying the sight of this, some might say it was the beer goggles, I’d like to disagree. I think, I have the regular pink goggles for student life in general.
Groninger student life has something unique. With the city overrun with students- almost outnumbering the locals- students are creating their own culture within. The many associations have a large part in this. They are making sure there’s always something to, a place to develop yourself and to surround yourself with others. The participating associations of this night already diverse into categories like culture, sports, international and traditional. They are make the city diverse and dynamic, by creating a place for every type of student.
But I’m drifting off, the real question is: am I integrated now?
I guess in a way I am. Sadly it had to be in the last half year of my student life. So, if I should give you one tip: don’t be like me. Absorb yourself into the student bubble. Either national or international, join the next integration night to get a glimpse of the true Groninger student life. Even if it isn’t for the night itself, then it will be for the ones to come. Because a little week later I’m singing Toto again with that same German- Italian -Malaysian group in the karaoke bar and our What’s app group named ‘Swingers 40+ club’ is a fact.