At 2 pm on Thursday, there are just fifty people gathered on the small festival grounds next to De Kuip. That soon changes, and about an hour later the site starts to fill up.
First-year students hit the dance floor or wander around past the silent disco, the table tennis table or the Xbox, a ball pit, a tote bag-pimping workshop and promotional teams from a range of companies. In the dining area, pizzas sell like hot cakes. Jumbo hands out car-shaped liquorice, although international students grimace at the first bite. When a remix of Hips Don’t Lie resounds over the festival grounds, the party really gets going.
The body of Russian Urban Management master’s student Andrew (23) is slowly shaking to the shuddering of his massage chair. “The chair feels really relaxing. The only thing that hurts a bit is the neck massage. I think it’s on the wrong setting, that’s not my fault. I’ve gotten through the week pretty stress-free.” Andrew found a house in Blijdorp a few weeks ago and studied mechanical engineering in Enschede before coming here. “Rotterdam really feels like a city where a lot is going on. Thanks to the Eurekaweek, I made a lot of friends and decided to join the climbing club. I’m really looking forward to starting now.”
Not far from the massage chairs, first-years and guides are dancing away at the silent disco. The headphones have three channels which students can switch to sing along to karaoke tracks of well-known pop hits. Standing among the dancing students is Emily, an Austrian communications student. She arrived in Rotterdam a fortnight ago still feeling slightly nervous. “That’s gone now. I have friends, we’ve planned some concerts together and I definitely have an idea of what I can expect from my studies.” She cheers loudly as a friend readies herself for her rendition of Sorry by Justin Bieber.
60 degrees Celcius
At the food trucks, communications student Laura (21) points out to her friend Lily (19) the red pasta sauce dribbling from the corners of her mouth. Both come from Germany, but they did not know each other before Eurekaweek. Laura laughs: ” I made some friends during the week and learned a lot about other cultures. For instance, I made friends with a girl from Kuwait who told me that it is usually 60 degrees Celsius there. I couldn’t understand how you can live like that. But I find these kinds of stories really enriching.” Lily has not just made friends among first-year students. “We also met a lot of the guides’ friends and now we have all kinds of WhatsApp groups.”
Despite the good start, the two still do not know what to expect from their time in Rotterdam. Laura: “It could go in any direction, but we already know that we will join a student association. I’m thinking about rowing myself. And I’m sure that we will keep on seeing the people we met this past week.”
Second-year economics student and guide Shyievi uses several markers to pimp up tote bags. She says that it is thanks to the Eureka programme that her students have realistic expectations of their first year. “I’m afraid I may have put them off a bit with horror stories about students who didn’t manage to get all their credits or who couldn’t handle the pressure. But that’s a good thing, because at least they know what they are getting into. I personally know lots of people who dropped out in the first year.” Shyievi is confident that the introduction period went well: “They are never going to forget this. Our group had its own dance at the Cantus. They will still be able to do that dance in three years’ time.”
Meanwhile, Andrew drops another coin into the massage chair. “I’ve already planned my first get-togethers with my new friends at the Biergarten. I really love sitting there and it’s just around the corner from where I live.”