UC | Social quarantine threatens
June 2020. There is great concern within the Eindhoven student and sports associations. It was just announced that the introduction week will be mostly virtually this year. A catastrophic scenario with disappointing registration numbers threatens. The associations come up with creative activities hoping for the attention of first-years. But as it turns out, nothing could be further from the truth. The sky is the limit: registration records are smashed at the three student associations E.S.C, SSRE and Demos.
Fear of disappointing registration numbers for student and sports associations has been replaced by an unprecedentedly high amount of first-year students signing up. Nothing to worry about don’t you think? But where does this sudden increase come from? What is this telling us about the wishes of new students and how will the 'new' student life really look like?
Ten fellow students and two senior students; that is essentially the social circle in which a first-year student finds himself after this year's one-and-a-half-meter introduction week. You will meet ten other students in your mentor group and perhaps a few more in a group project, but that's it. Furthermore, getting along with someone is an essential ingredient of a recipe called ‘friendship’. So you just have to be lucky to meet someone in jour circle with whom you get along well.
In short, no wonder that the first-year students enroll en masse at associations. A huge responsibility for associations to satisfy the social hunger of all these first-years. Whether this can be explained by the (too) strict regulations during the introduction week (no alcohol, a curfew at 10 p.m.), or simply because this generation of students has been 'screwed' by the virus - as Alain Starke recently wrote in his column, is ignored for now.
Associations do everything they can to accommodate the new batch of students the best they can. Not entirely unimportant according to the NOS, which published an article about this subject last week, based on research by Jolien Dopmeijer of the Trimbos Institute. According to her, a successful start of the academic year forms the basis of a social network which lowers the risk of mental problems and dropout.
No sooner said than done, the associations set up all kinds of activities to introduce first-years to student life. It is not easy to bond while the majority of the first-years are still living at home. I can hear many fathers emphasize once again how their life as a student was the best time ever, and that true friendships are developed during those years. How will this generation cope with that?
For new students, life in the post-corona era is full of uncertainty. The majority stay at home, because there is not much to do on our campus. Who can blame them. Imagine no activities could be organized during coming academic year where first-years can meet each other, make new friends, and learn about Eindhoven as a student city? In that case 'bonding' among these 'socially handicapped' students will be far from easy, and who says that after six months of virtual interaction, they are not fed up with online pub quizzes or comparable attempts at integration?
This creates a serious threat of a large outflow at the associations, perhaps already during the first year, because they simply cannot meet the enormous social hunger of first-years. Of course, we are still reading tea leaves, but maybe we have celebrated too soon.