Fear the Outside: Why being late and unaware fits UCU mentality

Column by Willem van Geel 

“When the world ends, I’ll go to the Netherlands. Because everything happens fifty years later there,” the famous German writer Heinrich Heine is claimed to have said.

This rings especially true for the UC campus, a bubble appearing to be free from the limitations of time and space. Two very characteristic features of campus life portray this idea to the fullest: being late and being unaware of the news.

I remember my first Boomerang meeting. The email said 19:30, I arrived at 19:20. I did not want to be the last to enter and  hoped to get to know my fellow writers before we began our work. I knocked on the door only to find out nobody was there yet. Ten minutes later, I was still one of the earliest.

It was a shock to me at first, but after one and a half semesters I admit: being a campus resident implies being late. Meeting up at 15:00? I’m sure 15:15 is fine too! I still haven’t figured out the exact cause. Are UCU students really that busy? Is laziness to blame? At UCU “fashionably late” is more than an expression, it is a lifestyle.

The second UC phenomenon was less apparent to me at first. Until I woke one day and realized I had not seen the news in three weeks. Who needs the news anyway? The bubble is comfortable: There is no war, no homicide here. There are no floods or corrupt governmental bodies – right? – that make the everyday news so depressing. Besides, if something truly important happens, you hear about it via Facebook or from friends.

For instance, I found out that Steve Jobs was dead while I was in class. In class! At least I’m not yet like the third year student who told me she did not know Michael Jackson was dead until four days after the King of Pop drew his last breath! That is what campus life does to your view of the world.

It got me thinking: Why are UCU students so detached from the outside world? I think it is mostly linked to the second phenomenon. The outside world is big and scary. People are mean and stupid. Here at UCU, we live in harmony with intelligent, fresh minds, comfortably fenced off from the outside. We have friends, booze, study and food here, so why would we ever leave? It is no secret that alumni can often be found on campus, and for a reason. If it hasn’t occurred to you yet, UCU actually uses the existence of a bubble to appeal to potential applicants, and this appeal does not cease at graduation.

The hard thing to realize is that while we might not need the outside world, it desperately needs us. The very troubles we try to turn away from, call upon us for a solution. To use the cliché: We are the future! There is a reason this is a cliché! I don’t want to suggest we should abandon our comfortable campus. We should simply lift our heads up every now and then, and instead of merely looking over – or worse yet, through – the fence, we should engage the world we find out there. I guess it will take time for this realization to sink in. In this sense, it is unfortunate we are always late.

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