By Sofia Banzhoff
UCU students are generally not quitters. We work hard, we’re ambitious, and we go above and beyond. And yet, some of us decide to quit UCU. Even though, in the frenzy of the first weeks here leaving this place about which you learn new and wonderful things every day seems impossible, the first-year dropout rate is ten percent. So why do people decide to leave? Where do those lost souls go? Are they better off after bursting the bubble once and for all? In short: are they giving up, or are they moving on?
According to senior tutor Jocelyn Ballantyne, second thoughts about UCU are common, especially during the first semester. “As many as one third of the students voice doubts, which means that most likely more [students] have them.” However, very few people decide to leave, and most do so during the first three semesters.
There are many reasons for quitting. Student Life Officer Mark Baldwin says these include “a realization that UCU is not the best fit for an individual’s study requirements, radical change of intention for education or career, poor health, financial difficulties and sudden change in family circumstances.” For those of us who consider leaving a viable option, there is a system for advice and guidance at UCU including the tutor, the Student Life Officer, the Dean, and the university’s wider support bodies. “It is very important that each case is dealt with on an individual basis, where the interests of the student are prioritized,” says Baldwin.
Denise Swanborn left UCU for academic reasons. Majoring in science with tracks in biology and chemistry, she realized after her first year that UCU did not offer the right focus for her. “The biology courses here are more medically oriented, but I am also interested in other areas, like plant science or ecology,” she says.
Currently, she studies biology at the UU. “It was the right decision because now everything I learn is what appeals to me and what I want to continue in.” Was spending a year here a waste of time? Not for Denise. “I learned a lot, both academically and about myself, and found out what I really want to study.” The decision to leave or stay for her depends on whether you know what you want to study. For people who want to focus on only one discipline, there is a limited number of courses. “UC is a really nice place, but some people just fit better than others,” says Denise.
Other people leave because of the nature of campus life, like one student who left after her first two months at UCU. “Campus never really felt like home to me, and I’ve lived in other places for only two months and felt good. It was the atmosphere or something,” she says. She mostly disliked “the attitude of “we’re living in the bubble, this is our world.” The term “bubble” never appealed to her either. “I don’t understand why people want to live in a bubble.”
Academically, everything was fine and a double major would probably have been easier to organize here than in Leiden, where she is now pursuing two bachelors’ degrees. “I didn’t want to take the risk of feeling unhappy for three years. I don’t regret starting at UCU because if I hadn’t, I would have always wondered whether I’d made a mistake or not. The only thing I miss is waking up five minutes before class and still making it on time.”
Second-year Carlos Granados Martínez is one of the people who had doubts but decided to stay. UCU was not how he had imagined university to be. “I expected uni to be more than academics,” he says. “There is a gap in promoting creativity on campus.” Another reason was the fact that from his graduating class in the United States, he was the only one to go to a European university. “I felt a bit isolated and thought that I had made a mistake by coming here.” But he decided to finish what he started: “My philosophy is: Never let the weather determine the man.” When asked if he ever wonders what would have happened if he’d decided to leave, he says: “I think “what ifs” are the ASAPs of life: you can take them, but they’re pretty much useless.”