The first years’ weekends have to be held earlier too. How will that work?

As the OWee will be held earlier than usual this year, the first-years’ weekends will also be earlier, causing logistical problems. “Venues are often booked years in advance.”

Gezelschap Leeghwater’s first-years’ weekend in 2022. (Photo: Gezelschap Leeghwater)

Where do you put 420 first year students and their supervisors in the middle of the summer holidays? Gezelschap Leeghwater, the Mechanical Engineering study association, is unable as yet to answer this question. The first-years’ weekends of TU Delft’s study associations are traditionally held at the beginning of the period of study. The idea is to spend two nights and three days with their study mates to get to know each other and form groups. At the end of the weekend, they can start the centralised introduction period, the OWee, with new friends and familiar mentors.

Most student associations, like Leeghwater, have been going to the same location in the Netherlands for their weekends away for years. This year, however, the weekend will not be held in the weekend originally planned that starts on Friday 18 August, but a week earlier. The reason? The Municipality wants the OWee to be held during the school holidays to limit any disturbances to the neighbourhood residents.

As a relatively large course, the Mechanical Engineering students are looking for a venue at a reasonable cycling distance from TU Delft. By coincidence the students needed to find a new place anyway this year as the old one has been turned into a nature reserve. Chair Guus Bakker says that the student association had its eye on a new venue. What are the students looking for? A large field to accommodate lots of tents preferably with water and electricity. Bakker’s hope is that they can use it one week earlier. “That also depends on the availability of the emergency services in the area. This is mandatory for such a large group.”

Bakker speaks of ‘uncertain times’. He says that it is ‘inconvenient’ that the OWee this year will not fall in the usual week and the first-years’ weekends need to be held earlier, in part because not all students will be able to take part one week earlier. Holidays are often already booked and international students do not always get housing one week earlier.

‘We will continue to look ahead positively’

Computer science study association Christiaan Huygens confirms this. It always had its first-years’ weekend a week earlier to avoid clashing with the VvTP study association (applied physics degree programme). Computer science is known for attracting a lot of international students. ‘We see that many of them are then not yet in the Netherlands and that some students are on holiday around this time’ emails Chair Lars van Tol. ‘This is why we always hold another first years’ day one week later. Unfortunately, moving the OWee means that this cannot go ahead. We are very disappointed.’

Chair Bakker of Leeghwater intends to remain optimistic. “We will move forward in good spirits and look ahead positively. We will make it a really good event.” This positivity seems to be either something they agreed on or inherent to TU Delft students. Lisa Scholtens, Chair of the Studieverenigingenraad (SVR, the governing body for academic societies), emphasises positivity again and again. “We were shocked at first as it put us in a difficult situation at short notice. But we want to be positive towards the first years and make it as enjoyable for them as we can,” she says.

Moving the date at the same venue is not always an option.

Is it short notice? The OWee will only start in six months’ time so isn’t that long enough? Scholtens knows better. “Locations are often booked years in advance and many places are already fully booked a week earlier.” Moving the date at the same venue is thus not always an option. The SVR Chair says that several study associations are now checking the internet for options, sometimes for 50 people, sometimes for 450, and everything in between.

They all came together last week, earlier than usual, to discuss what to do. But it is every man for himself. “They are first looking in the Netherlands, and may then look in Belgium or Germany, but it is far from ideal.”

Scholtens does not yet know if all the student associations will find another venue. “This worries us, and we are worried about the financial consequences if they have to pay both cancellation fees and the rental of a new venue. The student associations hope that TU Delft can help out. Scholtens has heard that TU Delft may be able to help out with locations. “We have been told that there may be something on campus.”

Editor in chief Saskia Bonger

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