“I didn’t even know how many faculties the UU had.”
By Marleen Bienzo
UCU is a pond for people with ambition. Many spend their days studying and many contribute to campus life, but there are also some who take their drive beyond the bubble and work for the greater good.
UCU students are diverse and the standard answer to “How are you?” is “Busy”. The admissions office exclusively selects students who have taken part in various extra-curricular activities throughout their high school career, and our vibrant campus environment activates their drive even more. Many join the boards of the many committees on campus, but a few decide to enlarge their range of possible board positions and find a spot outside the gates. Dieuwke Vos, Mara Soekarjo, Kavish Bisseswar and Willem Mouton are such students. What motivated them to look outside the gates for other opportunities?
The social factor played a significant role in their decisions, albeit in different ways. “I think it will provide a nice transition to life after UCU,” says Dieuwke, head of PR in her orchestra, the Utrechts Studenten Concert. “It is nice to already have some friends off-campus.” Mara is very happy with the networking opportunities that the board of the Kairos Society, a global network of top-notch student entrepreneurs (“Doesn’t that sound cool?” she whispers, laughing), has given her, adding that her co-board members “have more experience and therefore I can learn more from them. That, and their diversity, contributes much more to my own network.”
Kavish and Willem both point out the homogenous student population at UCU. “It’s a certain class of society that goes here. At the UU, the student population is much more diverse.” Kavish says. He finds it refreshing to work with people who have very different interests from UCU students. Willem agrees with this. “Sure, you can find people with other interests at UC, but everyone is doing liberal arts and sciences, and lives on campus,” Willem says.
UCU students in general feel that they are very open-minded, but we might not realize that we are very open-minded within our own community: what about those who are not us? An important reason for joining an off-campus board is to interact more with people who do not share your world-view or your level of education. “It makes you a more well-rounded person.” Kavish said. “For starting to work, I think it’s a disadvantage that I have never had to interact with people that have enjoyed a lower level of education,” Willem adds.
All four mention the fact that off-campus boards allow them to take on bigger projects. “I wanted to do something bigger, something that involved the whole community. Outside of campus the possibilities were a bit more open.” Kavish said. He joined the U-Raad, the highest form of student government with Utrecht University. “When I started, I didn’t even know how many faculties the UU had.” (There are seven, by the way). From his time there he gained skills he feels he could not have acquired at UCU. “Formulating your argument clearly and concisely, this whole diplomatic game between the executive board and civil servants, the lobbying process, networking… You don’t learn that at UCU,” Kavish says.
Mara joined her first student board when she was fourteen, and therefore feels she has some more experience than the average UCU board member. “Someone who is new at organizing things can learn a lot at UCU, but I’ve been there already,” Mara says. “Being in a UCU committee is very gezellig, but when it comes to learning how to manage and organize better, I’ve experienced it’s much more worthwhile for me to do something off-campus.”
Venturing out has also given these students a new perspective on the UCU work ethic and the on- and off-campus divide.
One of the main differences for Willem lies in the fact that the UU Model United Nations presidency makes up a smaller part of his life on campus than his position as chair of the BarCo Board did. “UUMUN is really something extra-curricular in the sense that it is not connected to my academic life at all. None of my fellow board-members in town would ever walk by my room,” Willem says.
“When people strive for the highest grade at all costs, you have to wonder whether that’s self-defeating at some point. It doesn’t make for happier people or a stimulating environment,” Kavish says, referring to the academic ambition of UCU students.
A course load reduction has given Dieuwke a little bit more space to breathe. First, she thought it was a shame that she could not take a full course load, but now she is happy with her decision. “It allows me to do both right, instead of rushing things all the time,” Dieuwke says. “And I’m alive too, you know. I like to sleep late sometimes.”
Mara concludes: “I think it’s very easy to get lost in the UCU maze. Sometimes I feel people lose the ability to see things in perspective. UCU is not real life.”