As Sandra was pacing into the examination hall for her last exam of the term, a classmate alluded to the invasion of Ukraine that had just unfolded and facetiously asked: “Why do you stress so much? This might be our last exam, ever.” Sandra, being Polish, felt the war hitting particularly close to home. This was not a laughing matter to her.

After her exam, Sandra went on a trip to Zeeland with her aunt – who also happens to be her boss – and they reflected on how they could replicate the aid relief campaigns their friends and family were organising back in Poland.

Studium Generale and EM are looking for the Student of the Year. Not someone who excelled with high grades or a lot of study credits, but a student who has selflessly committed themselves to others. This can be within the study, outside the study, in student life, in a personal capacity or something completely different. The polls are now open!

The Instagram post

Initially, the aunt-niece duo envisioned a campaign destined solely towards the Polish clients of their company, but Sandra promptly made a post on her Instagram account that shifted the course of this story. “Tomorrow I will put a big box on the ground floor of Polak, where you can donate goods until Thursday. I will be picking it all up by car myself to transport it from the campus and eventually deliver it to Poland by the end of this week”, her caption read.

Sandra woke up the next morning with a dozen shares and messages. “Fuck, they’re going to kick me out of school”, Sandra recalls telling her boyfriend. “I didn’t ask anyone at Erasmus if I could organise this because I never thought it would grow this big. I was so stressed.”

Despite the virality of her post, Sandra was still doubtful whether students would come and donate. So before setting up her box in Polak, she made a quick stop at Spar to buy some items herself and make the box appear a bit fuller. But she would soon realise this was not necessary as Polak’s ground floor was quickly taken over by boxes upon boxes of aid relief items donated by her fellow students.

Berfu Ege Söbe , Sandra Gartska, Kyra Mulder, GIDS, Amir Abdelmoumen – Student of the year 2022 – Alis Mahaletska elmers montage

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Who is your Student of the Year? Sandra Garstka, Kyra Mulders, Geneeskundestudenten In De…

Under the spotlight

Sandra received numerous congratulatory messages during and after the development of the campaign. Nevertheless, she confesses she does not like to be ‘under the spotlight’. “I realised this when I had my first Academic Skills tutorial and the girl who was checking the attendance saw my name and said: ‘Oh my god, is this that Sandra?!’ I was like ‘fuck, this is really bad’”, Sandra laughs. “From the beginning, that attention already felt really weird. Now with the nomination for Student of the Year, one side of me feels really appreciated and honoured, but I always have a part of me that says that it wasn’t just me. All the people who helped out should get the award. Without the priceless support of the Eastern European Student Association’s and all the student volunteers, this initiative would not have been possible.”

Get to know Sandra in a different way:

Fun fact? “I cannot remember the lyrics to any song. People made fun of me during the Eurekaweek’s cantus. I just moved my mouth and was holding on to that booklet with lyrics like I was in church.”

Favourite colour? “Royal green. There are many cool Instagram outfits with that colour.”

Favourite book?Principles by Ray Dalio. The author explains the unconventional principles that he has used to achieve extraordinary results both in life and business. It’s a book you should go back to a couple of times in your life’

Do you have any pets? “My dog Pusia. I named her when I was 7 so I didn’t know her name sounded like ‘pussy’ back then.”