An hour before the show, presenters Tessa Hofland and David Boeren are rehearsing their lines. House band The Empa Nadas are practicing in the background. The stage is ready for the big party. EM art editor Esther Dijkstra is responsible for the set and has put over twenty lights there. She rented these from a friend. “So it’s dark at her house now”, she jokes.

Nervous but excited

Meanwhile, the finalists have arrived and are chatting with each other in the foyer. “I am nervous but also excited”, Mahika says. Mohammed seems calm. He praises his fellow finalists: “They have set up beautiful initiatives, especially Emma and Fleur with their buddy programme after the shooting at Erasmus MC definitely have a chance to win.”

More than two thousand votes

The finalists then walk to the Pavilion’s Theatre Hall, accompanied by ‘Desiderius Erasmus’ and student Richard playing the bagpipes.

More than two thousand people voted, Hofland says at the opening. “And every single one of them tells me that you all inspired them.” After brief interviews with the finalists and poetry and music performances, the presenters announce the winner: Mohammed. The student who works tirelessly for his homeland Palestine accepts the award resignedly: “I feel guilty, that I am safe here. I’m not doing it for this title, I’m doing it for my people.”

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