On the day after the attack, at a meeting in De Doelen, students Emma Verheggen and Fleur Wilbrink heard from lecturer Geeske van Woerden that many first-year students are scared to go back to Erasmus MC. Many students and staff feel that way, and that affects students. “They said straight away: pair students up with an older years student!” says Van Woerden, proudly.

“Not wanting to go to the Education Centre is the complete opposite of what we have always felt”, explains Verheggen. “After three or four weeks of teaching, first-year students don’t yet know their surroundings or each other. For us older years students, it has always been a really great and safe place to learn, more like a second home for us. We want first-year students to feel that way too.”

Read more

A solemn minute of silence, one week after the shooting at Erasmus MC

On Thursday afternoon, students and members of staff at Erasmus MC and the Woudestein…

The next day, on Saturday, Van Woerden got the go-ahead from the programme’s management to launch the buddy programme. “They said: fantastic, it’s great that you want to take this on”, says Van Woerden, who immediately sent an email to all the students. She was looking for first-year students and students from older years who she could pair up with each other. “Within a minute, I had already received the first responses. It’s brilliant, and heart-warming, that such a terrible event can generate so much kindness, and that so many people want to get involved and say straight away: we want to help.”

Our village has been attacked

The attack, in which lecturer Jurgen Damen lost his life and the Education Centre was set on fire, shattered many people’s sense of safety. In a nutshell, “our village has been attacked”, says Van Woerden. That’s how the students see it too. From the outside, the hospital looks like a huge maze, but anyone who works in the enormous building sees it more as a village. “Whenever I walk round, I see ten people I know”, says Verheggen. “We students study here, work here, drink coffee with each other, meet up with people socially and have drinks in ’t Vat (the lounge and bar of the faculty association MFVR). We spend a lot of time here. It’s our second home – sometimes I’m here more than I am at home.”

Not alone

Erasmus MC buddy project buddies strooisel_Noa Zonderland
Image credit: Noa Zonderland

Van Woerden replies to students personally, and that takes a lot of work. It’s hugely appreciated, says fifth-year student Wilbrink. “This personal contact gives me a sense that someone is looking out for me after the attack. Sometimes asking for help from a lecturer is pretty hard, it already was before the events that took place, so I appreciate it all the more.” Van Woerden adds: “We look out for each other here, especially now.”

In the buddy project, students help their fellow students. That doesn’t mean to say that lecturers and students don’t support each other too, say Van Woerden, Wilbrink and Verheggen. Wilbrink to her lecturer: “At the meeting in De Doelen you said: ‘I want to teach face to face as much as possible. That way I can see how students are getting on.’ I thought that was great.”

 Wilbrink and Verheggen don’t want to say too much about the conversations they have had with their buddies, they don’t want to betray their trust. They chat and Whatsapp each other and also meet in person in the Education Centre. Verheggen went back with her buddy for the first time. Wilbrink says that, as senior students, they also gain a lot from the conversations: “It’s great to be able to do something. You feel so helpless after what has happened. Through the conversations that I’ve had, I can feel it’s a great place, once again.”


Lees meer

What happened on Thursday has shaken the very soul of our Erasmus MC

How do you, as a community, deal with the terrible events that took place last Thursday?…

You can still sign up

“It’s completely normal if the awful feelings don’t go away in a short space of time”, says Verheggen to students who are reading this. “If you want to take part in the buddy programme over the next few weeks, you can always get in touch. Everyone goes at their own pace and has their own way of processing things. Nothing is abnormal. You can always send us an email.”

More information on who to email and the details that you need to provide can be found here.