Thirty pupils, eight intensive days of lectures, and one presentation to close things off. That, in a nutshell, is Erasmus University College Junior, a project designed to introduce pupils from various backgrounds to the joys of attending a university.
Things are written down, muttered, crossed out and practised in Room 10 of the EUC Building at Nieuwemarkt. “Think Obama,” says Rhetoric lecturer Niko Schonebaum while pacing the classroom. “Write a speech that will make us quiver in our seats with enthusiasm.”
Today, the pupils will give a speech on an event or lecture that impressed them, in front of their own parents and other parents. They are given feedback on their speeches immediately afterwards. It turns out that writing an impressive speech is not an easy thing to do. “You speak calmly and your voice is clear,” one of the pupils is told. Another is given very honest feedback: “It was a good speech, but please get rid of your chewing gum next time you do this, because it was quite distracting.” They are not Obamas just yet, but they are on the right track, it seems.
Not a matter of course
‘She is very smart and mature for her age, but she should enjoy her adolescence, too.’
The pupils participating in the project had different reasons to do so. For Sevval Demir, 16, a cheerful and intelligent young lady who is not afraid to speak her mind, attending EUC Junior was mostly about getting more self-confident. “I’ll be the first person in my direct family to attend a university,” she says, while her mother proudly nods her confirmation.
“My parents would have pushed me to go on studying, anyway, but now they won’t have to any more. I was having some doubts because I was concerned about the workload. I was wondering if I was up to it. When I found out that everything we did here and were taught here was the same as for an actual academic degree, I was hugely relieved. I thought, Hey, I can do this, and now I really want to read Humanities here.” Her mother, Yadikar, is proud of her daughter, but wouldn’t mind her behaving more like a 16-year-old at times. “She is very smart and mature for her age, but she should be enjoying her adolescence, too.”
Gift of the gab
Noah van Broekhoven, 16, originally wanted to attend a pre-university programme at Leiden University, but ended up opting for EUC. “You learn a lot in a short period of time, and it looks good on your CV, but in Leiden I would have attended lectures with three thousand others, whereas EUC Junior is very small scale. This appealed to me, and I haven’t regretted my decision in the slightest.” Noah’s father, Willem, did not attend university himself, but saw quickly that Noah was a clever boy. “He picks things up quickly and has the gift of the gab. We are extremely proud of him and hope he will be very happy.”
Lucienne de Rooij, 16, who currently attends the Marnix Gymnasium, found the project enriching. “At school I got bored a lot, and classes were always the same,” she said maturely. “Here I learned new things, such as academic writing, presenting and listening to others. Nothing is entirely objective, things can be perceived in several ways.” According to her mother, Vera, Lucienne has grown tremendously. “She now has a feel for what attending university is like. She has a better idea of what she likes and has also become more self-confident and more curious.”
After the speeches, it was time for the formal presentation, where each pupil was personally introduced by the project co-ordinator, Iris Bos. They were then handed certificates by Maarten Frens, the Dean of the Erasmus University College, while the attendees loudly applauded and cameras flashed.
“I liked it a lot,” said Frens after the presentation. “Initially, they were a bit ill at ease and felt they didn’t belong here, but that changed completely. Yes, we will probably do this again. The pupils gave the programme positive feedback, and we do have a blueprint. Of course we will first evaluate and discuss the feedback we’ve received, but we are optimistic.”
Initially they felt they didn’t belong here, but that changed completely.