There are more things between heaven and earth than religion alone; even a superstition or ritual can be very important for everyday life. EM went to talk to students on campus and encountered a whole range of superstitions, from the downright hilarious to the surprisingly effective. “I sleep with my summary notes the night before a difficult exam.”

"I sat the exam wearing a T-shirt with a portrait of Mao Zedong"

Image credit: Ronald van den Heerik

Bruno Falconnier (21, from Belgium), student of International Public Management and Policy:

“For every exam, I wear clothes that are related to that subject. I believe that it helps me perform better. When I was on my exchange in Canada I went to the exam on post-Soviet Russia wearing a ‘chapka’ (a Russian fur hat). Two weeks ago when I had an exam on Europe, I sat in the examination room wearing a European Commission wristband. But it’s not always easy to find the right outfit. For an exam about Asian international relations it took me ages to find something to wear. Eventually I sat the exam wearing a T-shirt with a portrait of Mao Zedong printed on it. Now I just have to wait for an exam about the Netherlands; then I’ll eat a whole pack of stroopwafels just before it starts.”

"Secretly I hope that the pen remembers part of the material"

Image credit: Ronald van den Heerik

Tessa van Hartingsveldt (21), Clinical Technology student:

“For the Clinical Technology exams I have to know a lot of long texts. I make summaries of those texts and write them out on paper. I believe that if I take the exam using the same pen, I’ll be able to answer more questions. Secretly I hope that the pen remembers part of the material and can reproduce the answers itself. But in the three years that I’ve been studying I’ve lost faith in that a couple of times – sometimes ‘that pen’ remembers less than you would have hoped.”

"Our belief in the shirt number of Johan Cruijff has taken on a life of its own"

Image credit: Ronald van den Heerik

Robert Nieuwenhuis (20), Economics student: 

“Since the death of Johan Cruijff, my friends and I have a superstition about the number 14. We call it an ode to Johan, but our belief in his shirt number has actually taken on a life of its own: the volume of my television is always set to 14, I have a football shirt with the number 14 on the back, and I love it when I’m travelling by train and it departs from platform 14. Even when I’m playing a game I always go for 14, if possible. Recently I even managed to win quite some money playing roulette by betting on, you guessed it, number 14. But now, 14 is no longer just about profit and pleasure for me. Unfortunately, during the last exam I took, I didn’t know the answer to… question 14.”

"Running feels as though you're on drugs"

Image credit: Job Zomerplaag

Natalia Derossi (19, from Italy), Liberal Arts & Sciences student:

“Now that I live in Rotterdam, I go running three times a week. Together with a friend I mark the routes that we have already done on a map of the city. Eventually I hope to have covered the whole of Rotterdam. For me, running is more than just a sport – it’s also a form of meditation. When I run, I feel as if my thoughts are being released from my body. It feels as though you’re on drugs: it makes you feel really happy.”

"I set off loads of fireworks to scare the monster"

Image credit: Ronald van den Heerik

Minglong Shi (21, from China), Econometrics student:

“The most important ritual of the year is chasing away the mythological monster Nian during the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year). Then I set off loads of fireworks and I wear red clothes to scare the monster. Chinese people also get together with their family and eat a traditional meal. In this way, it’s a little bit like your Christmas. When I was little, every year I got a red envelope with money in it from my parents. Unfortunately, that tradition stops when you’re an adult. I can’t be with my family for the next Spring Festival, so I’ll be celebrating it here with Chinese friends and we’ll make dumplings together.”

"I sleep with my summary notes"

Image credit: Ronald van den Heerik

Willemijne Meurs (22), Clinical Technology student: 

“I sleep with my summary notes the night before a difficult exam. So I don’t put that pile of paper on my desk or on my bedside table, I have it right next to me when I crawl into bed. I don’t believe that all the material will just flow into my brain or that I’ll dream about the exam. I also don’t wake up startled in the middle of the night because I need to look up the answer to a possible exam question. I just think it’s nice to have the summaries near me, so I can take a last quick look through them before the exam.”

"That AA drink has to be orange, otherwise it gets to me"

Image credit: Ronald van den Heerik

Patrick van Duivenbode (18), Medicine student:

“For me, the run-up to an exam is a whole ritual in itself. I start the day with a banana for breakfast, and then I leave for university. Just before the exam, I chew two pieces of gum to ease the tension. When I’m at my desk in the examination room, I take out my supplies: a bottle of orange AA drink and a packet of Dextro. That AA drink really has to be the orange version, otherwise that really gets to me. I know that this ritual is a bit autistic, but it is based on scientific research – chewing gum and a good dose of glucose curb stress and help you focus better. The downside of my examination diet is that I’m really hyper from all the sugar afterwards.”

"It's more of a way to refresh my mind"

Image credit: Ronald van den Heerik

Kristien van der Graaf (22), Clinical Technology student:

“My ritual doesn’t take place before or after, but rather during the exam. When I’ve answered all the questions, I always go to the toilet to fill my bottle with water. I’m not always thirsty at this point, but it’s more of a way to refresh my mind. Then I can go over my answers again. Just being able to get out of that examination room for a brief moment is the real strength of this ritual. I have always done it this way and expect to be filling up a lot of bottles with water in the future.”

What’s your remarkable, inspiring or surprising ritual or superstition? Please let us know in the comments below this article!