We met our first group of students at Supermercado in Schiedamse Vest. The all-female group of first-year students had had a long day in town, having enjoyed first a picnic at the Oude Plantage park and then an exploration of the campus and the societies and the Identity Crisis City Game. “We’ve walked all day and hardly had any food, so we’re all quite hungry,” said Laura, one of the students.
A Supermercado employee interrupted our conversation to ask us not to stand too close to the girls’ table, as this would constitute a violation of the coronavirus rules. However, the restaurant clearly didn’t mind the students hardly being able to keep their distance from each other due to the way the furniture was set up.
When asked what they would be doing that night, Laura answered: “This is quite literally where our evening programme ends.” So it looked like it was going to be a dull evening. A café called Beurs is promoting the Rotterdam Student Week on Instagram for the duration of the induction week, but when we got there, we hardly saw any guests. Every once in a while, a small group of students would enter the premises. They would be asked to find seats and stay in those seats.
Up to eight people
We had nearly given up on finding any significant number of students when, at 10pm, much to our surprise, we suddenly ran into some seventy business administration students at Biergarten, one of Rotterdam’s favourite summer hang-outs in non-coronavirus times. The students were observing the restaurant’s rules to a T, which is to say that they were all at tables seating up to eight persons, and no one else was joining them in that part of the outdoor seating area. However, they were not exactly keeping 1.5 metres’ distance from their table fellows. Biergarten’s manager explained to us that students’ contact details were taken on a group-by-group basis, and that the students were required to stay at their own tables.
One of the groups was led by Floor, who told us that she thought it was a pity that the evening activities were cancelled and that she and her fellow group leader did want to show their students some Rotterdam nightlife. “I’d read on the Internet that this place guarantees sufficient distance between groups of guests, and we wanted to give a little extra to those students who will be embarking on their degrees this year.”
The first-year students themselves were clearly enjoying the initiative. “I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. In this way, we get to meet and get to know our fellow students, so that we won’t be lonely once we get started on our degrees,” said Thijs, a first-year business administration student.
The business administration groups have scheduled activities for the next few nights as well: a picnic, a group dinner and a ‘fun farewell activity’ on the last day.