“When I did Eurekaweek last year, my group was pretty awkward and no one talked at first,” says Morad Farag, one of the guides. “This group isn’t like that. I’m impressed by how quickly they’ve started getting along.”
While the opening introductions start smoothly, the day’s activities do not. First a swarm of bees leaves stinging souvenirs on the hands of three students, and then the bike-less group get lost in Rotterdam-Zuid after the metro stopped near Maassilo due to construction reasons. “We’re supposed to start our tour of the city at Beurs, but I guess they’ll get to see the south of the city first,” laughs Farag.
After touring the city where these students will spend their next three years, the group heads to a house in Kralingen where both guides live. Pasta is on the menu, followed by Desperados and Heineken. As the drinks start to flow over a game of King’s Cup, it becomes easier to see the age gaps between the students. Some of them barely hover above the age of 17 (those who are 17 may not drink), while one student tops off at 23 years old.
“You can tell that for some of these students everything is a completely new experience, and that does make me feel a bit older than everyone,” says Valentin Marchon, the bearded 23 year old from Switzerland. “But I expected this coming into the week, so it’s not a problem at all.”
Any outsider walking into this post-dinner party would easily assume that these students had been friends for a while due to the complete lack of awkwardness in the room, something that was readily apparent before the opening ceremony earlier in the morning. The students are already putting their arms around each other’s shoulders, dancing together and diving into good conversations.
“I think the only way to describe this group is with the Dutch word ‘gezellig’,” says Sem Koelewijn, a Dutch student from Amersfoort.Another student, Myrna from Limburg, credits the guides for the good atmosphere.
“From the beginning, the guides have been open and genuinely interested in us, so that’s made everyone really comfortable with each other,” Myrna observes. “At the opening ceremony, several people said ‘you’re going to find friends for life’, but to be honest I don’t think they should emphasise that because it feels so forced. I think it all depends on your group, and luckily our group is a good one.”