As you approach the exam hall, you can hear the sound of the beer drinkers reverberating through the building. “Ein, zwei, drei, ZAUFEN”. The normally dull exam hall is filled with long beer tables packed with nervous first years, who haven’t yet drunk enough beer to see the funny side of the surrounding banality.

In the middle of the hall, there’s a square stage on which a large band is covering familiar party tunes. There’s a relaxed atmosphere and as the evening progresses, the new students dance along to the uplifting music with a new freedom and exuberance.

Squinting at songbooks

You can repeat classes, but not parties’

Business Administration student Jari
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Image credit: Anna Mazur

Near the stage, at the business administration table, there’s Jari. The soon-to-be business administration student is really enjoying the cantus and divulges his promising life motto for his coming studies: “You can repeat classes, but not parties”.

Meanwhile, the organisers continue to replenish the tables with new pitchers of beer. Students squint at the songbooks, trying to read the texts in the semi-darkness. When the band embarks on Billy Joel’s monster hit “Piano Man”, the whole hall becomes one, with students from the different tables standing shoulder to shoulder by the stage.

Brabant folklore

Outside the hall, one of the girl organisers sits on a bench, with an exhausted look in her eyes. “My feet hurt from all that jumping.” But as soon as she hears a Guus Meeuwis hit being played, she immediately forgets the pain and jumps up, eager not to miss this piece of Brabant folklore.

In the course of the evening, the cantus divides into two groups: the quiet nail-biters and the noisy revellers. The first group stares vacantly ahead with a beer in hand, dreaming about a comfortable bed, while the second group lurches from one energetic polka to the next.

During the last song of the evening, the famous Rotterdamlied of course, books are hastily picked out of the beer puddles and wiped down. The song nestles in the heart of the new students.

‘Part of the experience’

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Image credit: Anna Mazur

Then it’s time for the procession out of the building. As they leave, one international student tells her friend: “Shame there wasn’t any air-conditioning or fans or anything, but I suppose the heat was ‘part of the experience’. A kind of ‘bonding’ in the form of drinking each other’s sweat.”

Outside, the promoters representing different student associations are on the lookout for new members. A girl from RSG approaches one group of students and suggests that they come along to her association. They’re having a traditional RSG evening where you can get to know the association, and later there’ll be a visit from Kraantje Pappie. The group accepts and moves off into the dark city looking forward to a new adventure.