Think about your future, set your goals, and go for it. That was the message in a nutshell conveyed to roughly two hundred prospective ESL, Medicine, Health Sciences and Liberal Arts & Sciences students during various lectures, workshops and training sessions. The emphasis was on personal leadership and shaping your own future during the pre-academic programme (PAP) for these up-and-coming Erasmus University students.
This year’s theme, ‘MyFuture’, says it all: you shape your own future. “Anything is possible as long as you’re willing to work for it. It’s OK to think you can do anything and that anything is possible. There’s nothing arrogant about it. Thinking this way is the most important thing I learned this week,” says Esmeralda Hasselbach (21, Law).
An inspiring environment
Carmen Hoepel (21) agrees with her fellow prospective student: “Dare to dream and make those dreams come true.” At first she found it difficult to open up to the other participants. Hoepel explains: “You’re in an intense process of dealing with your personal feelings and you become aware of your own fears.” Looking back, the former university of applied sciences student found it a positive experience in the end. “I met a lot of ambitious people and it was a very inspiring environment.”
In building C, the participants were divided into a number of groups and everyone got to work thinking up statements: pledges based on the knowledge acquired during the PAP. That was how students of the Economics and Law double degree programme came up with ‘Give your all’ (‘Alles geven’), an acronym that in Dutch stands for ambition, loyalty, love, honesty, success, sociability, economics, versatility, empathy and curiosity – all qualities the students feel are necessary for a successful time at university. This tutor group was rewarded for its creativity with the first prize for the best final presentation.
Cor Kanters (Economics and Law) knew right away that he wanted to participate in the PAP. “I thought it was a good idea to get into study mode in advance and get used to university life.” Kanters, who is a highly ranked chess player, learned the most from the goal-setting workshop: “The programme manager got my attention right away with his ‘studying is top-class sport’ slogan. The assignment where we had to write a graduation speech also got me thinking.”
But the most important reason for Kanters to participate in the PAP was to make friends before starting his studies. “I’m very happy I took part, because now it won’t be as hard to get to know people in the first days of my studies.” Cor enjoyed the programme so much that next year he wants to be a student assistant so he can help new first-year students.
Programme manager Gerard Hogendoorn compares the PAP to a time trial. “You have to step on the gas right from the first week of your study, the same way your body’s muscles need to be warmed up for a time trial.” The programme is therefore a kind of warm-up exercise so students are optimally prepared to commence their studies.
Participants also receive guidance in becoming more aware of their personal development and in acquiring skills for gaining scientific insights. Every student has equal opportunities to do this, “regardless of their background,” explains Hogendoorn. When dealing with a large group of students, some of those students may not have been brought up with the idea that studying at a university is something for them. The university is unexplored territory for them.
Hogendoorn feels that what it comes down to is that students feel at home at EUR. “We want our new students to feel they are welcome. The idea that they’re part of something, that they matter, gives them more self-confidence and better academic results. We definitely see the positive effects of this compared to other students when classes start in the academic year.”