Intro misery is only real when shared
“The screwed generation.” With these words - 'de genaaide generatie' - Leiden Rector Carel Stolker described the new cohort of first-years. No school-leaving exams, no grant and no Introduction Week. And of these three, it is the latter that past students see as a downright disaster because, as they see it, ‘the most fabulous week of your student years/life’ has been reduced to something unrecognizable, with its ‘online’ and ‘offline’ days.
I don't envy this cohort of first-years, but can we really claim that they have missed out on a once-in-a-lifetime experience? When I think back to my own Intro Week, it's the bags under my eyes that I recall and the experiences that come to mind were all pretty horrible.
Of course, Intro Week is unique. There is no other week that requires you to tackle an assault course while nursing a hangover, a feat that leads to you fall flat on your face. No other week that you 'laughingly' submit to having globs of custard flung in your face during ‘pineapple shuffleboard’. And certainly no other week in which you voluntarily submit to being cooped up in a musty smelling Auditorium, listening to a two-hour presentation by student associations, part of which involves E.S.C students bastardizing an R&B song in the name of a 'guy in the corps'.
There were loads of enjoyable Intro parties, absolutely, but there was also loads of bullshit. And I'm not only referring to all kinds of not-so-very-interesting talks by departmental staff, to which you listened attentively solely to get your bullshit bingo filled in. Loads of things during Intro are imperfect, go wrong or lead to mishaps, but all this always happens in the company of others.
‘Together’ is what I missed this year, I think. Of course, there was plenty of ‘offline’ interaction and the reactions of the first-years were pretty positive. Nonetheless...I couldn't help thinking of the end of the film ‘Into the Wild’, that film with the abandoned bus in the Alaskan wilderness. As he made his way to Alaska, the main character, Christopher McCandless, made a bunch of new friends that he then left behind. But on his lonely deathbed he had only one thought in his mind: ‘Happiness is only real when shared’.
Intro Week may not have been the best week of my life, but it is a memorable one. Twelve years on, I can still sing along to a large part of that incredibly bad E.S.C rap. It is a week that unites students in misery. A student motto of my own reflects this: ‘It is only memorable if it was shit.’ The worst hangovers in my life felt like the worst moments of my life, but afterwards they were always what had us laughing the hardest.
This is why I wish something better for the first-years than the ‘clean’ Intro Week they got. Yes, it was convivial, but to my mind not enough went wrong. Too few students fell off their bikes. Too few freshers jumped in the Dommel. And, above all, too few mistakes were made, because everyone had to stick to too many rules. It has the feel of a cold hotdog: understandable, but still a shame.
And what do I find worst of all? That this is the first TU/e generation to grow up without the poetic words of Mr. Arnol Kok, at his post near the station exit. Not that this was due to corona, but nonetheless. Rest in peace, old comrade.