A University College Student Association Magazine
Boomerang a University College Student Association Magazine | March 2013
Behind the Walls Perspectives on UCU students’ general happiness and coping with mental wellbeing issues Elena Butti, Ivo Dimitrov, Klementina Ristovska and Welmoed van Ens
nternational Mental Health Awareness Month, Eating Disorder Awareness Week and Self Harm Awareness Week all went by unnoticed this semester. Talk about these issues on campus is rare, but the problems can’t be kept out by our gates. How happy are UCU students below the surface? And how comfortable do we feel to share when feeling unhappy?
No data is available about mental health among UCU students, so it is difficult to claim how we compare to students elsewhere. Opinions are not only subjective, but also varied. We wondered if certain factors, specific to the UCU environment, make UCU students particularly vulnerable to falling into severe unhappiness. Interviewees shared their opinions and experiences of how academic and social life at UCU have affected them emotionally. For some students, the academic standards that UCU sets seem too high. “I pushed my limits further and further but at a certain point you cannot go further,” says a second-year. “I felt like I did not belong at UCU because I did not feel that I had the level needed to be here. I felt like a failure.” The constant academic pressure and competitive environment are, according to many of the interviewees, a major burden upon students’ mental wellbeing. “If you don’t get good grades, you just don’t fit in here,” says another second-year. “You can’t openly talk about how awfully difficult it is to cope with the academic load, because then others see you as ‘just not smart enough’.”
illustration by Laurence Herfs
(Continued on page 06)
Berlusconi (un)explained Did you miss the Italian ambassador lecture? No worries!
» PAGE 04 The Bubble
The 10 Plagues of UCland What if the God of the Bar gets infuriated?
» PAGE 04 The Bubble
It’s like Nutella!
…If you boys ever wondered how warm wax spread on your genitals feels
» PAGE 08 Special Features
Super fun events to visit over spring break!
» PAGE 11 Colosseum
the Boomerang | March 2013
02 The Bubble Eight hours of Chopin
Student profile: Valeria Bonapersona
Roeland van Beek, Class of 2011
ive hours per day behind the piano – it’s nothing unusual for first-year Valeria Bonapersona (20). Miraculously, she manages to combine UCU with the conservatorium Pareggiato di Musica “Puccini” in Italy, successfully completing her Bachelor there two weeks ago. “There was no time to celebrate: already the next day I had a UCU-exam.” Seven years ago, Valeria was accepted at the conservatorium. To do so, she combined high school in the morning with music classes in the afternoon. “Piano class is only one hour per week,” she explains. The remaining time is filled with lectures, composition classes and choir: “Piano and singing is like mathematics and biology: you need some of both to fully understand each.” After a gap year, she had to decide between music and studying abroad. One thing was clear: she wouldn’t be the same person without her piano. “Piano is a huge part of me. It’s hard to explain, but it’s more than a simple passion.” So she didn’t choose. Valeria openly told UCU’s admissions office that she would never give up playing the piano. In return, she was warned combining piano and college might not be as easy as she had imagined. But did they really understand what it meant to her? She made up her mind: “Let’s try it!” However, university and music are two separate parts. “I can’t think of myself with-
out these two parts – I want to grow in both directions.” Still, combining them presents a continuous challenge. Every month, Valeria flies back to Italy to the conservatorium. “I am authorized to organize everything myself,” she says, so she squeezes classes and family time in a few days. So while you were enjoying your winter break, Valeria had to study for eight hours a day for her Bachelor’s exams. “I am exhausted: mentally, emotionally and physically. It’s hard sometimes, but I know I would be worse off without it.” Valeria knew she wanted to play the piano already at the age of two. Her father didn’t give in that easily: even if he supported her involvement with music, being musician was a no-go. So Valeria would ask Santa Clause the same thing every single year – to be able to play. A CD of Chopin’s nocturnes, ironically a gift from her father, was the final incentive. “Chopin is the reason why I started to play,” Valeria says. At 12, she finally got the chance to start playing and mere two years later she got accepted at the conservatorium. Because of her late start, Valeria encountered several problems with technique, speed and confidence. “The beginning was awful. I even
thought about quitting.” But her passion, supported by an excellent memory, prevailed and she managed to catch up through countless hours of work. Now, Valeria plays all musical styles, besides jazz and improvising. Still, she mostly plays classical. And while her mother has always supported her, her father has only recently accepted her passion. Valeria jokes: “I’m just making fun of him. He regrets his initial doubts!” No future plans have been decided upon yet. “My dream is to become a researcher in neuroscience. But I won’t stop playing.” Above all, she considers herself lucky. “I have two passions, while most people don’t even have one! I do what I like, I enjoy it and it makes me happy.”
Who Needs Pillows Anyways? Ivo Dimitrov semester at UCU should be enough to scatter the illusion of a healthy eight-hour night and a
Should you find yourself in the unthink-
alize you have left your keys there. No point in
able situation of having no deadlines looming,
knocking on your unit door, while screaming,
fresh and well-rested you for Monday’s
do not despair – you can always count on your
weeping and sending neurotic texts to your
9 a.m. class. It’s time to move on from
friends for some good sleep deprivation. See,
unit mates. Of course they would be out of
one thing UCU students like more than think-
town just as you find yourself locked out. And
the unscrupulous childhood lies and
ing about thinking is sharing their profound
of course it’s 2 degrees outside, even though it’s
embrace the beauty of a sleepless night.
thoughts with other like-minded highbrows.
the end of March. Now you can look forward
Luckily, on campus you’ll find plenty
A late-night cup of tea quickly evolves into a
to an exciting and lively night, spent freez-
bottle of wine, as the hours pass and you two
ing to death after failed attempts to climb in
slowly embrace the torch of Enlightenment
through the window. Kiss slumberland good-
you were always meant to carry. Kant would
of opportunities to master the different forms of this, to some, mysterious art. No better place to start than the classic ‘midterms’ week all-nighter’. An essay deadline whose existence you ignored passionately, or an exam you conveniently forgot to put in your diary? Perfect opportunities! Once you have accepted giving up that quality time with your bed, the possibilities are endless. Sure, take your time to prepare - a bubble bath (improvise with a bucket), some candles in your room… Create the perfect atmosphere for you and your computer to become one in the
Look, there’s no point in denying it: what-
And in case your friends let you down,
ever your path to wakeful wisdom, UCU will
there still is the prospect of an endless Thurs-
get you there sooner or later. You and sleep
day night. Why waste your time on rest, when
were just never meant to be. Accept it, and
you can gain invaluable life experience on the
enjoy your transformation into a zombie-like
dance floor, preferably with a few shots before-
insomniac. It’s absolutely worth it.
hand? Don’t even think of leaving at 1 a.m. – you are livin’ la vida loca! After hours of dancing you will naturally end up in a weird unit with a bunch of peculiar off-campus people, enjoying some quality döner you most defi-
darkest hours of the night, crafting flawless
nitely did not order. Now, would you miss that
arguments and brilliant APA style references.
for some stupid nap?
In the morning, you find yourself in a state of
Or imagine a different scenario: after being
trance with an essay that hints at weeks of ex-
kicked out of Voltaire at night (because that’s
tensive research. Bingo!
the person you have become at UCU), you re-
You and sleep were just never meant to be
It sucks. When you think you finally have everything under control, having spent three years building a life outside of your parents’ house, living with the most awesome people in the world, and it all falls apart. You’ve always known you’d be graduating, but why does everybody have to go away? Very few of the people I used to hang out with in my sixth semester stayed in the Netherlands after we graduated. They went to London, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Sweden, the US… and I was looking for a room in Utrecht. In a way, it hurt. Didn’t the time we spent together mean anything to them? Shouldn’t we do everything possible to keep those years alive? No, apparently. Numerous likes on Facebook magnified their own excitement over their getting accepted, and as the ones who stay behind, we have no choice but celebrate that they are about to begin a life without us. Then, instead of enjoying our last semester together like the five before, they had to work on their A-plus theses every single night.
Didn’t the time we spent together mean anything to them? All the selfishness aside, of course they had to go. Getting into Cambridge is amazing and I’m incredibly proud of my friends who did. If I could, I would give them all the scholarships they need to do masters and second masters and PhDs. Still, I miss them. The after-graduation separation isn’t easy. Not if you stay here, not if you go there. Longdistance is no fun, and definitely not something that’s taught on this campus. But every now and then, they come back. True, they usually stay away longer than they say they will, but eventually, they always come back to say hello. And when you’re sitting in the good old bar together, sharing years’ worth of gossip, it’s almost like they never left.
A University College Student Association Magazine
The Bubble 03
Dining Hall Policy
few weeks ago people started talking about feeling nauseous. Was this just your regular win-
ter flu, or was it an outbreak of food poisoning? Stories travel fast on campus and soon people started suspecting Dining Hall. Sodexo has been in the news before for similar issues. “There is no need to worry,” says Dining Hall Manager Keesjan van Spronsen. “There was no such thing as an outbreak of food poisoning. There was one person who felt ill and approached us about this.” This is the usual way gossip spreads. One
to implement, such as checking the tempera-
lids and small nametags. Beef, rice, pasta, and
Keeping it Classy
ture control and intake control. Had it been
fruits: small sampled portions of our lunches
Welmoed van Ens
a serious case, we could have sent samples to
and dinners are all stored there.
the lab,” said Van Spronsen.
He tells us that there was an actual case of
We asked him to explain a little further.
food poisoning a few years back. “We had all
“Dining Hall is a combination of foods we
the food he ate tested, but the test came back
make ourselves and pre-fabricated foods, like
negative. It later turned out he had eaten food
the yoghurt. We order those, so if something
off-campus too.” That is why, according to
is wrong with them, it is the responsibility of
him, policies in Dining Hall are strict. “Some-
the producers. However, of the foods we pre-
times your stomach is just not having a good
pare ourselves we always take a small sample
day and you get nauseous, but if it gets more
that we store for a week. After that long, food
serious, we need to make sure we know what
poisoning won’t occur. In a case like the one
case is blown out of proportion during talk
a few weeks back, we can send the samples in
over coffee in the break – but how about that
As much as we like complaining about Sodexo, it seems that when it comes to food
Keesjan himself is the one responsible for
regulations, they have their business sorted
“As it turned out, he didn’t have food poi-
the menus. He takes us back to the kitchen, to
out just fine. So remember: Though their food
soning, so we decided not to take any further
the three big silver fridges. Opening them re-
isn’t really healthy or tasty, there’s nothing you
action. We have certain policies we are forced
veals stacks of boxes with little tubes with red
can sue them for.
A column by Pretentious Pete
This month, I shall be treating the topic of campus friendships. For me, the concept of friendship in itself is of an ultimately relative nature. Two ignorant twelve-year-olds dub their structured, schoolforced association a friendship. A life-long acquaintance from one’s hometown is also labeled a friend – merely on the basis of years of knowing each other! That is an outrageously invalid argument. If I was forced due to life circumstances and out of common courtesy
to keep greeting and remain loosely attached to high school kids, this most certainly does not make them de facto my friends. Hence I tend to be cautious when utilizing the term. On campus, it is yet more difficult to achieve what by my standards can be called a friendship. Frankly, a simple rational reasoning yields a self-evident point: it does not pay off to invest time and energy in connecting to average personalities. Yet, there are benefits that can be gained from transient relationships with certain right individuals. It is always good to keep your enemies under the impression that they can trust you. Thus, I tend to connect fairly well to other successful students. For instance teaming up with them for group projects is useful. Exchange of information is crucial too, so I try to always maintain good relations with ASC members, and to a lesser need UCSA Boards. Plenty of other benefits that one must consider abound. For instance, Eqvites lads seek their place in the group partly due to the excellent networking opportunities it presents. Associating oneself with the children of powerful and successful Dutchmen is a considerable plus. My interests luckily lie elsewhere – in the field of academia that is. While I do not feel
the need for networking in the diplomatic or business world, any connection that might be useful on my future academic path is a gem. For instance, I bet that ninety percent of UCU students are unaware of the fact that our Dean encourages visits from students in appropriate hours. I, on the other hand, make use of this opportunity to converse with him on a regular basis. Naturally, conversations with (some) professors are always on my agenda too. I only have two student friends on campus (both male, of course!). I rather take pleasure in having my Dining Hall meals over intellectually stimulating conversations with these bright enough lads. Most of the time they try to outsmart me – needless to say, futile attempts. I enjoy two things about them. One is their absolute need for own time and space. In fact, when I think twice, we only see each other in Dining Hall and in classes. Second, I am satisfied with the perfect balance in their personality between respecting my superiority, yet at the same time being proud enough to feel their egos hurt and needing to strike back. *Pete’s name was picked at random, in service of the alliteration; any resemblance to real persons, from UCU or outside, is purely coincidental.
The announcement of the grand Bal Masqué was, beyond any doubt, pleasant news to the ladies who had been lobbying for the coveted masks. However, many students are questioning the choice of date – Friday before the break. Isn’t that traditionally the night when our instincts lead us to the bar to dance the stress away in a less sophisticated fashion? And what about the internationals who have already reserved their tickets home and our fellow hitch-hikers, ready to set off for Barcelona the very next day? UCSA board secretary Valeria BoersTrillers explains that “there are quite a lot of events coming up after the break, so there was no room for prom there. The venue we liked was available the weekend before and after midterms, so we weighed the pros and cons. It seemed like a bad idea to organize a prom two days before exams, so the decision fell on March 15”. Though it’s not just the travellers that question the timing of the event. Many don’t feel like being on their best behavior after weeks of stress and rigid work. A night at our familiar bar might seem more appealing, even if it leaves us with a slight headache and only a handful of hazy memories afterwards. Is prom really such a big deal compared to a party in the bar or are we making a mountain out of a mole-hill? A close look at the invitations sent by the Board reveals an underlying theme very similar to midterm parties. In fact, very similar to parties in general. The proposal to “make merry, tempt, seduce, engage in acts of foolishness and wantonness” suggests that the atmosphere will be lively and relaxed, instead of formal and square-toed. When we look at prom this way, it seems silly to dwell on the date. Of course it’s not just a party for which we happen to hoist ourselves into a fancy dress. We spend a fair amount of money on a ticket and the perfect attire. We spend hours dressing up and make an exception to our campus-only rule, heading for the city centre. In return, we expect something special. The Prom Team is aiming for a “mysterious and elegant ambiance”, says member Raluca Ciausoiu. The parade of masks and special outfits should go a long way towards creating this atmosphere. “We have also prepared a variety of entertainment so that everyone will have a good time.” It seems like the Prom Team is doing their best to balance a degree of formality and a relaxed atmosphere. The UCSA board may not have picked the most convenient night, but any other date would have raised different objections. For those of us that are still desperately upset over the absence of a midterm party: prom ends at 3 AM. You can misbehave to your heart’s content at the after party in our very own bar, which will continue well into the morning.
the Boomerang | March 2013
04 The Bubble Purple Walls and Built-in Closets: Life Beyond Campus Eugenia Melissen Ferrer
or the French writer Xavier de Maistre, a voyage around his bedroom proved to be far more interesting than, say, a journey to the equinoctial regions of the New Continent. He even ended up undertaking a second expedition, which he called: Nocturnal Expedition around My Bedroom. Although many students could argue that their daily voyages around campus are very satisfactory, some long for more. I interviewed third-years living off-campus: is the world really that different out there? Freshly baked croissants for breakfast, eccentrically painted walls and frantic cycling: campus suddenly got a lot more mundane. For Mikael Eriksson, the main reason for bursting the bubble is to experience living in
Holland and to see more of Utrecht. Apart from the freedom and the fact that it’s cheaper, he enjoys simple things like biking through town on a daily basis or doing groceries at the supermarket. Despite his changed location, Mikael has kept his campus friends. At the mention of not depending on Dining Hall, a grin appears on his face, which basically says it all.
anyone?), and the students in it to “paralyzed animals who don’t know what to do when the gate before them is opened.” Daniel believes we’re being kept “horribly small” here and likes having a broader spectrum of things to visit. “People have the idea that campus is the world – they always talk about the world but they never get off-campus.” He is doubtful as to how such a mind-
People have the idea that campus is the world On to Daniel Craanen. Daniel has a few interesting theories about UCU; the kind I imagine will appear in his autobiography several years from now. First of all, he compares UCU to an animal farm (George Orwell successor,
set is encouraging the formation of so-called world leaders at UCU. Another student who burst the bubble is Philène Moquette. For her, being able to separate her spaces and “go home” at the end of the
day is a huge bonus. She presents a rosy picture of off-campus life and encourages pangs of jealousy at the mention of her “purple walls”, “built-in closet” and “a landlord allowing test-runs with guinea pigs”. Although she considers UCU a nice environment on many levels, she admits that we are very much pampered. It is nice to have more control over her life. Her identity as a student is a bit messed up, Philène explains, although she doesn’t view this as a bad thing. She doesn’t identify herself as a normal Dutch student, yet she is sharing in the experience of what other Dutch people do by living off-campus. But beware: if this article had you franticly nodding in agreement, leaving campus is only possible in your third year. Until then, perhaps we should combine our passion for the comfortable and safe with a curiosity for what happens outside our gates.
Berlusconi (Un)explained Elena Butti
hen I tell my UCU friends I am Italian, I always get two questions: “Can you invite me for dinner?” and “How come you Italians still vote for Berlusconi?”
Ten Plagues Of UCland
CU students asked their pharaoh Maarten Diederix to let the people of UCland celebrate in honor of the God of the Bar by throwing a big party in 10 Wall units. Maarten Diederix did not recognize this God, so he did not allow them.
The God of the Bar then told BarCo Chair not to despair. He was prepared to demonstrate His power to convince the pharaoh; He would produce potent signs which eventually turned out to be the Ten Plagues of UCU. 1. He told BarCo Chair, take thy rod and tap the tap three times: all streams of water flowing on this campus will turn into beer. And there shalt be beer everywhere and in everyone. 2. And if thou still refuses to let them party, behold, I will stuff all units and all buildings with mice. Not only will the Wall be plagued no more; College Hall and Newton and Voltaire – they will all sink in mice. 3. And if mice are not enough, I will add bedbugs. ‘Nuff said. 4. I will send swarms of fruit flies upon thee – to remind them of olden Dining Hall days when fruit was for free and rotting in rooms. Your rooms and hallways will be infested with flies. Flies everywhere. 5. I shall conduct a very grievous act: all cats on campus will die. 6. Behold, for I shall take away thy chipknips, till no one remaineth on campus. And there shall be insanity breaking forth upon the student, and upon teacher, throughout all the land of UCU, for all need coffee and printed readers to survive. 7. If thy still not complieth, tomorrow I shall cause all the food in thy fridges to turn in Sodexo overcooked vegetables. And there shan’t be no mayonnaise either to cover the taste. 8. Else, if thou refuse to let my people go, tomorrow I shall bring the professors into thy coasts. And they shall drink all thy booze in the bar, and they shall hang out in thy rooms, and they shall want to be your friends and make out with thee. 9. And God said to BarCo Chair: Stretch thy hand towards the drunken heaven and there will be internet-cut everywhere. There will be no Internet in Voltaire, nor in Locke. There will be no internet in Maarten Diederix’s office either, so he shan’t send e-mails that the Internet is down no more. 10. Finally BarCo Chair says, thus God of the Bar saith: At midnight in midterms’ week, when all deadlines are due, I shall make all last-minute essays disappear. They will be gone forever and teachers will have no work to check and Maaten Diederix will be blamed and the apocalypse will ensue.
While for the first question you’ll have to earn my inestimable friendship, I’ll try to answer the second question here, for free. Italian Ambassador in the Netherlands Francesco Azzarello, who spoke in the Auditorium on Tuesday, wasn’t quite successful in this. He did not have an easy task: explaining Italian politics to non-Italians is like explaining nonDutch how to ride a bike on Dutch cycle paths. There are unwritten rules, and nobody really knows them. The results of the Italian elections can be summarized in four key points: 1. Fragmentation: the left-wing coalition (likely winner according to the polls) got less than 30%, just slightly above the right-wing coalition (yes, Berlusconi is back). The Grillo’s protest movement got almost 25%, while outcoming Prime Minister Monti did not surpass the 10% threshold. This means that it is impossible to form a majority coalition, a direct result of our “porcellum” (literally “pig-like”) electoral rule. 2. Grillo phenomenon: five years ago, Grillo used to be a comedian. Today, he did not really change his job – he just moved it from a theatre stage to a political campaign stage. 3. Huge abstention: 25% of Italians did not cast their vote, and 25% of those who voted chose a protest movement which gained consensus by “throwing shit” on the rest of politicians. 4. Berlusconi’s return: everybody thought it was impossible. The trials, the convictions, the sexual scandals, the stepping down: it was simply too much for his reputation. Italians would finally understand that his almost uninterrupted 18-years-long ruling had screwed our economic and social apparatus, and would turn page. Instead, surprise: he’s back again. It is point 4 that puzzles my international
friends the most. Italian journalist Beppe Severgnini listed a list of factors that explain the seemingly unexplainable Berlusconi phenomenon: a. The personal appeal factor. The standard Italian thinks: Berlusconi is “one of us”. He knows how to speak to the hearts of Italians, he is funny and he successfully combined political power, economic success and appeal on women. He also embodies the ideal of the single intelligent entrepreneur who managed to dupe the State and achieve his goals. b. The Church factor. Berlusconi knows how to gain Church support. It is little relevant if he goes with underaged (and overaged) girls, engages in corruption and so forth. As long as he passes pro-Church legislation, he wont be bothered. c. The media control factor. Berlusconi owns 3 TV stations, 2 newspapers and, when he is in the government, controls the 3 public TV stations. d. The chameleon factor. Berlusconi is able to transform – young among the young, all-nighter among all-nighters, humble worker, successful entrepreneur, he switches from one role to another with an impressive ease. e. The Harem factor. Berlusconi gets women. And while many Italians might say they consider this morally reprehensible, deep-inside many also realise that he is what they would like to be. And he promises them that they can become like him. f. The “there is no alternative” factor. For the past 18 years, the left-wing has had very few credible political leaders. When they were serious (Prodi, Bersani), they were not charismatic. When they were serious and charismatic, they lost the primaries (Renzi), or their coalition was too fragmented to enable them overcome Berlusconi’s monolithic and cohesive party. Is this enough to explain Berlusconi’s seemingly ever-lasting presence in the Italian political landscape? My brain says yes, my gut doesn’t want to accept it. It would probably like an Italian dinner better. How about we go back to the first question, want to come over for dinner?
A University College Student Association Magazine
EXCHANGE STORIES 05
Utrecht, March 2013 Coming into my exchange program here at UCU, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d never been to Europe before, and I’d become accustomed to my home university’s atmosphere and style of education, so I wasn’t sure what it would be like here in Holland and at UCU. But I must say that after being here for almost two months already, I have begun to truly love living here. From the very beginning of my time here—from helpfulness at the airport, to finding a fellow UC student on the bus ride to Prins Hendriklaan, to the “Welcome, new unitmate!” sticker on my door, and everyone’s continually smiling faces—I have felt so welcome here at UC, and I am very grateful for that. Of course, I’ve had much to learn. Small, yet important things, like how to pronounce “Utrecht,” how to successfully navigate biking and walking lanes without getting run over, when to correctly use gezellig and lekker, how to eat French
fries with mayonnaise and with a little fork, and understanding that I will never know what the weather will be like on a given day, and also learning that Thursday is party night and the rest of the weekend is totally silent (I’m still getting used to that one). Of course there has been struggles along the way—like learning that my favorite candy (Reese’s—which is basically chocolate-covered peanut butter) is not something that Europe seems to be familiar with, or trying to stop wobbling uncontrollably on my bike when someone’s riding on the back of it. But overall, my experience has been wonderful. I’ve discovered hagelslag, and eating it with peanut butter on bread is basically like eating a Reese’s, and I can unashamedly eat it for breakfast. More importantly, of course, I’ve found that in this small campus a great community in which I’m trying to become involved, and find a home for my semester here. I’m quite happy to say that I think that search has been successful. So thank you, UC, for making a Missouri girl feel at home on the other side of the world.
Home Washin university: gton U St. Loui niversity, s, USA Hos Univer t university: sity Co llege U trecht
“You kn ow you’r e in Am vending erica wh machin en the w es only hole cam sell wate pus has price of r that is m coke. A ore exp lbeit wa e n sive the ter with vitamin s.”
Robert van Sch
Hom Univer e university: sity Co llege U trecht Host un iversi Washin gton U ty: St. Loui niversity, s, USA
St. Louis, March 2013 Five weeks into the semester and people’s ideas of where I am still give me a laugh. “How’s life up there in cold Washington?”, a friend asked me on Skype. Well, cold it is indeed, with an occasional blizzard leaving a pack of snow that lasts for two weeks. But this ain’t no Washington. Another friend consistently asks me how Louisiana is. Louisiana? Really? At least Washington and Louisiana still make sense in some way, contrary to someone else who wondered whether or not I was enjoying Michigan. Maybe College Hall should replace ASAP by a Geography 101 course. St Louis is actually one of the largest cities of the Midwest, roughly six times Utrecht in population and surface, and the Washington University of St. Louis has more students than Utrecht University altogether. WashU - that’s the common shorthand - is admittedly not the most well-known exchange destination in the US. That’s not all too fair, I’d say. First of all, the academics, the main reason people come here, are outstanding. With professors having studied at Harvard and Yale and worked as a Chief of Staff in the Whitehouse or CEO of a multinational cor-
poration, there’s never a silent moment in class. The library, open 24/7, dawns the true nerd in every student. And besides, classes are fun when having so many baseball metaphors flung around you; actually able to beat Americans at commentating St. Louis Cardinals matches. And even if academics may not be the ultimate reason for people to go on an exchange, people no matter where they are need occasional breaks from classes. Even in St Louis, especially sports and music-wise, there is plenty going on. The many jazz and blues bars in Soulard and Central West End provide outcome. Pubs and restaurants offer local fare like toasted ravioli and St. Louis style pizza. The St. Louis Symphony is said to be the second best of the country, after the New York Philharmonic. And Forest Park (it’s in the name) is the second largest urban park of the US, so big that it can host a golf course. Even though this city isn’t on most people’s mind back in Europe, it hasn’t bored me for a minute. For all those of us who are anywhere on one of America’s coasts and plan to visit the other one: remember, St Louis is on the route. Dare to take a stop in what is maybe one of this country’s most American cities.
the Boomerang | March 2013
06 COVER STORY Behind the Walls (Continued)
Elena Butti, Ivo Dimitrov, Klementina Ristovska and Welmoed van Ens
Yet, others think the heavy workload and resulting stress is simply constructed by students themselves. When boasting about spending 10 hours in Voltaire, we fail to mention that this included coffee breaks, prolonged facebooking sessions and chatting with friends. “How many people on campus sit down and work from 9 to 5 every weekday? Hardly anybody. Yet we feel overwhelmed, stressed and unhappy with our current situation, which, let’s be honest, is quite relaxed compared to regular working life,” says thirdyear Paula Kaanders. “I think this view of UCUers being hardcore workaholics is self-generated within the very boundaries of our bubble, with a hint of short-sightedness and arrogance,” adds a second-year.
The chicken or the egg?
Does UCU produce or select overachievers? The selection criteria might play an important role in creating the highly competitive environment here. Director of Education Fried Keesen agrees that “when you look for people with a drive you evoke a natural risk that you select overachievers. If these students fail to meet their own expectations they can indeed develop depressive feelings. Although there is no data at hand, I am convinced that this is sometimes the case.” He explains that the selection standard had to be raised due to the increasing number of applicants. Paula believes we can already see
Gender Imbalance and Eating Disorders One factor that definitely affects us is the gender imbalance among students, currently 2:1. Mr Keesen suggests that the influence of living in a community with twice as many females as males might even be more influential than the residential living. “Girls have a tendency of comparing looks.” Many interviewees confirmed this, bringing the point of constant comparison with others even beyond appearance. “At UCU I started to compare myself to the people around me and seeing whether or not I felt I was ‘as good’ as them. It adds a lot of pressure, and I know from experience that this can have very negative effects,” says a student who has just recovered from anorexia and bulimia nervosa. The same was pointed out by a student who is currently struggling with an eating disorder. Demographically speaking eating disorders are likely to occur at UCU because of the age and gender of the average student here. General statistics show that approximately 9 out of 10 people affected by an eating disorder are female, and almost all are between 15 and 35 years old. Psychologists also mention perfectionism and pressure as contributing factors, both not uncommon at UCU. “The competition between girls that have to “fight” for boys adds to the already competitive academic environment,” says a first year. “This problem stays ‘under the radar’ and it is more common than many of us know.” The imbalanced gender ratio might well have other positive or negative effects, but eating disorders were mentioned most often by interviewees.
the effects: “We are accepting more and more perfectionists who, rather than thrive in our campus environment, engage in self-destructive behavior as they enter an environment where getting As is the peer-pressured norm. Committees see decreased numbers of active members and low turn-out for events, and the bar is empty on most party nights. Meanwhile the Voltaire Quiet Area is busier than ever.”
The bubble effect?
Intuitively, residential living should help against feeling lonely. We are constantly surrounded by fellow students and share our physical and private space with friends and acquaintances. Yet, paradoxically, many factors connected to living in a close-knit community might in fact exacerbate the situation. “UCU is a hyper-social place and people develop a very insular mentality. And when things are very social, for some this can be an additional stressor,” third-year Andi O’Rourke says. “When there is a lot going on around you, but you don’t feel a part of it, then that just makes it worse.” Yet for Andi, it is merely a perception of an all-inclusive social life that makes some of us unhappy. “In essence, it is only a handful of socially dedicated people who regularly go to the bar for example, or participate in a bunch of committees,” she adds. “The UCU social culture is very participatory. The norm is that the more you put in, the more you get out of it. As such, it is questionable to what extent people who do not want to get engaged can still find their place here and feel good,” second-year Michel Goelz says. Facebook is yet another dimension through which the perception of the socially active “everyone else” is reinforced. “Everybody is friends with everybody (on Facebook) and everybody is constantly online. You are bombarded with pictures of events and happy groups of people and this can hardly leave you indifferent. …Mostly, it makes me feel insecure and not sufficiently involved,” says a second-year.
Learning the social rules
According to some, the mere experience of Introweek might set the scene in a ‘skewed’ way. “The very first week that students experience here is so structured and stuffed with events that it even limits people in finding
feel insecure about your problems. It closed me off completely – how come I felt bad while everyone else was having such a great time? It’s an illusion, yes, but it’s definitely an obstacle in socializing,” says second-year Monta Berke. Another second year felt similar: “No one knew that I cried every night because I was struggling with my English. I felt like such a failure. In front of everyone I was okay and everything was great, but having to put on this face for everyone was hard”.
How do we deal with these problems?
“I am always willing to discuss welfare concerns in depth with students (on a repeat basis if that helps) and am also able to refer students to the UU’s own team of professional psychologists - as a priority if necessary - or to a range of off-campus alternatives,” Student Life Officer Mark Baldwin says. Some students think it is unacceptable that there is no professional psychologist on campus. “The UU psychologists are not familiar with the specifics of the UCU environment,” says a second-year. Baldwin remarks that the support structure in place at UCU is extensive. “Students are free to raise any issues with me, their own tutors, the Senior Tutor, or a range of other UCU staff.” Senior Tutor Jocelyn Ballantyne agrees it is up to students to make use of the offered support. Coping strategies employed by students are diverse. Some simply keep themselves occupied: “To get past this unhappiness you need to be busy. I put all my unhappiness into dancing and I still need that to ‘survive’ here at UCU.” For others the solution is talking about the problem. “At first you think you are the only one who feels like crap,” says a second year. “Once you open up, you realize that so many other students feel the same way and you feel less alone.” Ballantyne proposes stepping out of the bubble: “That’s something I always tell my students: do something outside! Get a job at Albert Heijn, volunteer, but do something. This helps to appreciate what we have on campus more.”
Baldwin points out that “the same set of conditions affect us all in very unique ways,
getting As is the peer-pressured norm their own niche,” Michel says. “I felt like I was pushed to do things I didn’t feel like doing and socialize with people I didn’t choose”. Similarly, many feel that from the very beginning, newbies are socialized into a particular “UCU is great” narrative, which becomes difficult to break and resist. One second year says, “In Introweek UCU is presented as some kind of magical place where unhappiness does not exist. When firstyears realize that it’s not all butterflies and rainbows, they might think they are the only ones and that something is ‘wrong’ with them.” This need to conform to a highly positive image of campus might be why some of us feel uneasy to share their frustrations about UCU life. There seems to be no space for negative emotions. “UCU students create an overly positive view of themselves, which makes you
and there are students who react positively to certain levels of stress”. Feeling unhappy also changes over time for every individual. “During one semester a student may feel bad, but it becomes better later, or vice versa. The situation can even change week by week.” We are also not the only ones our age encountering problems. Students everywhere are likely to deal with feelings of detachment, loneliness and coping stress. “This is not something about UCU, but it is more evident here, because for many people the choice to come to UCU is not conventional,” says a third-year.
Ballantyne agrees that “these issues are just more visible here because of the fact that we live in such a small-knit community. If your unit mate has a problem, of course you will realize it.”
Opinions will remain different and confined to the individual experience. The one thing that has become undeniably clear is that there are students at UCU who struggle. Whether it be academic dissatisfaction, unhappiness or a serious psychological problem – some students are dealing with these issues. These problems exist in every community, and UCU is no exception. As one student pointed out, “simply feeling ‘heard’ by someone can already make a huge difference. When we pick up on signs of mental health problems, being there for each other should be something completely natural to all of us.” That way we can reach out, support, listen and eventually overcome problems. Let’s start the dialogue.
Send us an e-mail if you want to express your opinion in response to this story.
Fighting Clinical Depression Unhappiness ranges from feeling “depressed” (due to a bad grade or disappointing meal in dining hall) to clinical depression – a serious, psychological disorder. It is characterized by a depressed mood and loss of interest or enjoyment. Depression is often accompanied by insomnia or hypersomnia, tiredness, feelings of worthlessness and guilt, a change in appetite and weight, decreased ability to concentrate, or even thoughts of death and suicide. “There is a huge stigma around depression and I am constantly terrified that people will not understand,” says a UCU student, clinically depressed and suffering from social anxiety for about three years now. In the first year at UCU she didn’t tell anyone. “It’s the worst feeling ever to know people judge you or discard you as “being dramatic” simply because they do not have the experience or knowledge to understand, while really you are going through a hell you cannot control.” The social and academic situation on campus has helped her to keep on going, but it has also been a source of a lot of pain. “If I have no school or friends around, I sink further and further into my depression. In a way campus helps me to not give up, even though it’s not fun to see my GPA being ruined. At the same time all the social activities and communities I am missing out on (but am constantly made aware of) make me feel really sad.” She shares a quote by Stephen Fry which captures why she continues on going: “Depression is like the weather: It’s real. You can’t change it by wishing it away. If it’s dark and rainy it really is dark and rainy and you can’t alter it. It might be dark and rainy for two weeks in a row. But it will be sunny one day. It isn’t under one’s control as to when the sun comes out, but come out it will. It is not one’s fault. BUT it will pass: it really will.’ “Despite my dark thoughts I realize that this is the truth. I am only 20 years old and it will get better sometime. I know that the value of that life will be worth so much that I can endure this depression for as long as it takes to reach feeling happy again.”
A University College Student Association Magazine
Two thoughts on sexism and sexy thighs Marina Lazëri
very time that I visit my home country, Albania, these years, I notice that I take up gender-ste-
told me to come back with my father while
ship appointments. Secondly, remember that
out to a permeating rhetoric of power plays: af-
trying to register for this or that activity or
‘CEO’s and Office Hoes’ party at UCU a while
ter all, the word ‘hoe’ is charged with negative
program. Most importantly, I don’t feel like
back? Yes, you are going to say about the latter,
implications so female-specific that it hurts.
some sexually frustrated, over fifty male will
we do, but come on, take a joke.
charge at me in assault while I’m peacefully
Ridiculing such things is the best
walking through town. Maybe I’m lulling
way to deal with them, at any rate.
myself into a false sense of security, but let
Is it though? If we find no
me have it! Perfect gender equal society? No.
problem with dressing up like of-
Every time I mention something that has
fice hoes and walking to the bar for
to do even remotely with feminist activism,
some flirty time, then something
men in the bread shop and all those tour
I feel like I need to justify myself and point
is seriously wrong with us. This is,
guides that will only look at my Dutch
out that ‘oh, but it’s rational, you know, not
arguably, not liberation. Libera-
boyfriend in the eye, even though I’m
the radical, man-hating stuff ’. What? Is formal
tion is indeed the freedom to dress
the one speaking the language.
gender equality so institutionalized in Dutch
up like a so-called office hoe and
Coming to the Netherlands opened up
society that people feel awkward address-
flaunt your thighs around without
a world of no more snickering bus driv-
ing the still permeating sexism? Firstly, there
fearing for your dignity or bod-
ers (hey, some of them are women, even!)
are still problems in need of addressing, such
ily integrity. Labeling such actions
or heavy worded taxi-drivers. No one has
as the great gender inequality in professor-
however, is another thing. It points
reotypical behavior. Sure, I feel horribly about it, but I have to adapt to everyday life and I need to get things done. After all, I’m never home for more than six weeks at a time anyways, and I can’t afford insisting on changing the way the bus driver approaches me, all the rude
To Plus and Beyond Aslak J. Palmstrøm Augestad in collaboration with Daniel S. Vale Since the dawn of time, UCU students have been plagued
of the two - Plus. Seeing him confidently measuring his
equately frames the breathtaking satiate abode of Al-
with the age-old question: Albert Heijn or Plus, which one is clos-
way to the store, I was filled with a sense of true purpose. I
bert Heijn. All in all, it had taken me no more than
er? This magical, enlightening and, consequently, illuminating
was sure: we would finally end this debate once and for all.
inquiry seeks to answer our number one gastronomic dilemma.
Last Sunday, the righteous and noble Daniel Vale and
long and cold nights exploring the Northern reaches of Norway,
I were strolling in the freezing cold that currently grasps us
eating nothing but frozen moss and tinned fish, I set off too.
ambivalent and adventurous youths. We were caught in a heat-
As I leapt from one measurement to another I no-
tacked by a gaggle of geese and horribly scary pizza deliv-
ed debate over the aforementioned topic. Deciding to settle
ticed the weird, puzzled and sometimes admiration-filled
ering squires, whilst simultaneously fending of the Dutch
our squabble, Daniel and I set out from the gate. Each armed
looks by the dazed lemmings. These small rodents, usu-
police, he reached his destination after only 0.8 kilometers.
with a pleasantly pink 30 centimeter ruler, we were to see who
ally found near the Arctic or UCU, passed by ponder-
would reach the cave of delightful supermarket food first.
ing what my quest might be. Nevertheless, I didn’t let
this embarrassment and curiosity curve my enthusiasm.
Daniel, being the wiser of us two, appropriately de-
Confident about my skills I had garnished from the
An hour of agonizing research later, sweat was
1.2 kilometers to reach this tantalizing destination.
My ferocious companion Daniel had experi-
enced an amazingly interesting adventure. After being at-
Thanks to our courageous and thought-provoking
adventure, the debate has ended. It is now scientifically proven: The Plus is closer! The pleasant financial benefit of this – taking
cided to remain loyal to his roots in the picturesque moun-
tains of the Southern Eastern coast of South Africa. So he
sporadically dripping down my rosy cheeks. I finally
into account the opportunity costs, average price levels and time
ventured towards the one he suspected to be the closer
reached the wonderfully magnificent façade, which ad-
spent – is that the Plus is by far the more expensive of the two.
The Boomerang Debate
Nepèrs Onmaime UCU love always comes with an expiry date, mostly sooner than later. The basis for a stable and long-lasting relationship is having personal space and time for yourself, and let’s face it: that’s never happening on this compulsively social campus. What happens when you see each other all the time and share dinners, hobbies, activities, even friends and lovers? Pretty soon you are completely fed up with the other, unable to escape them even for a moment. In the beginning this closeness might lead to intensity and passion, but in the long term is detrimental. At one point, you know precisely how the other functions and organizes their life on campus. Your daily life is so entangled and bound to UCU that your relationship basically turns into yet another
Proposition: Campus Relationships Are Doomed To Fail committee. Total buzz kill. Living this close together also means being confronted with their flaws and past mistakes all the time; don’t forget that all those girls he went out with last year are still around! Now combine this non-existent privacy and the non-stop interaction and you have a time bomb waiting to explode. Besides, success of any romantic relationship requires self-knowledge – who you are and where you stand in life. Now think of the ever-doubting and confused UCUer. Most people here have no idea what they are doing half of the time, young, excited, and energetic as they are. We are all still developing and shaping our personas, which makes us fairly unreliable. Before we realize it, we are making out with someone else in the bar. Bye bye relationship!
Cupide d’Amoure “They say a person only needs three things to be truly happy in this world: Something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to.” UCU offers the perfect balance between these three. There is always homework to do, a party or break to look forward to, and if you’re lucky, someone to love to top it off. When you are young and in love, what else could you want besides spending all your time with your better half? Out in the real world, the constant difficulty of making time available for each other destroys many relationships. In our bubble, there’s no such trouble – you can wake up together, eat breakfast together, go to class together, have lunch and dinner together, go to the bar together, and finally end up in bed together. But what if
you just want some quality time alone for a change? No problem! Even while practically living together, you still have your own safe haven back in your room. Finally, what better place to learn about each other’s interests than UCU? Did he hate that song you loved at the Open Mic night? Did she fall asleep during that lecture that inspired you to be a better person? Or were you both left utterly stupefied by the plot twist in the Usual Suspects, loving Kevin Spacey even more than you already did? Now you know exactly where you match and clash, which only makes you like each other even more. The bottom line: if you can survive living together on campus, you can survive anything.
the Boomerang | March 2013
08 SPECIAL FEATURE It Takes Balls Mikael Eriksson
here seems to be a hair removal trend, and it is no longer confined to women. What is it like?
Why do some men regularly pay 40€ to get a wax? I decided to find out and
wax looked a bit like Nutella, and she spread it like butter over my skin, starting from the lower abdomen. It was hot, but not painful, and solidified after about half a minute. “It feels a bit like when you pour candle
made a reservation at No-Hair Studio to
wax on your skin,” I told her. Immediately, I
get a Brazilian.
realized that what I had just said insinuated
In the last two years, three hair-waxing sa-
that I pour candle wax on my genitals regu-
lons have opened within a few hundred meters
larly. Fortunately she did not seem to make
from each on the way to town. While one of
the salons is only for women, the other two
When the wax was solid, she firmly pulled
market themselves towards both sexes. The
it off, and with it my pubes. It hurt, but was
idea of getting a genital wax was foreign to me,
but the more I thought about it, the more curious I became.
She worked her way towards the root of my penis. It hurt the most when she waxed
Before going to the salon I seriously doubt-
the groin along the border of the scrotum, and
ed whether I should do it. Scenarios of how
I flinched a bit when she pulled the hair off.
it could go wrong rushed through my head.
Waxing the scrotum was interchangeably re-
What if I got an erection in the middle of the
ward and punishment. When she spread the
waxing? Or worse: I had read stories of people
hot wax on my balls my whole body relaxed
ejaculating during the wax because they were
and this was the only moment during the wax
nervous or aroused. This was new territory for
where I was close to getting an erection. How-
me. I bought two cans of rum and coke from
ever, pulling the wax off was not as pleasant.
Albert Heijn to boost my courage.
I was close to getting an erection
After about half an hour she said we were almost done. I was a bit surprised since I thought the butt and the butt crack were included in a Brazilian wax, but it turned out a full wax was called a Hollywood at this salon. She used a pair of tweezers to pull out the last
Already late for my appointment, I was still
few hairs and then finished off by massaging
hesitating. What are you doing? Just go! I had
the area with a “calming lotion” that looked
to force myself into the waxing studio. Part of
and felt more like Vaseline. I realized I had made it and I felt as if I had
me was hoping that the beautician would say I was too late, but she just welcomed me with
just gone bungee jumping. On the whole, getting the wax was not too
a smile. Not much later we walked into the room where she would remove my pubes. “You can drop your pants now and lie
painful, although it is not for the timid and it is quite expensive. In return you get smooth genitals that stay hairless for about a month. It
down on the table,” she said. We started talking, and soon I felt more like
is a nice feeling and it definitely beats shaving,
I was at the hairdresser - with a twist. As she
but is it worth it? That depends on how much
started rubbing my genitals with a disinfectant
you desire hairlessness. I can see the practical
cream, I decided that my calm spot would be
and sexual benefits of waxing, but as I look at
the chandelier hanging from the ceiling. The
myself in the mirror, I feel a bit naked.
Kendrick Lamar: The Highlight of My Daily Life in Utrecht Leena Mohammed
’ve been on exchange here for seven months, and I haven’t listened to this much Rap & Hip-Hop since I was sixteen. It took a bit of reflection, but now I have a pretty good grip of why I have solely listened to this music since coming here. To put it simply but bluntly: It’s black people’s music. In Sudan, by the time I turned thirteen I had listened to every Tupac album on record. I’d be in my room spitting every verse, to the last word, of every song on All Eyez on Me. I Ain’t Mad At Cha was especially close to my heart because it told of a close childhood friend of his who converted to Islam in jail. Being Muslim myself, I loved that he was talking about accepting his friend’s new faith. Around that point I also started digging into the back catalogues of the Hip-Hop game. That meant full discographies of A Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang Clan, NWA, and basically every All-Time-Greatest-Rap-Records list I could find. Every kid in Sudan knew Tupac, you could find his name graffitied everywhere on the walls in Khartoum. For me it was inevitable; my brother had me listening to him since I was ten. Yeah, 50 Cent was big back then too, but that was just cute stuff you listened to in order to keep up. The real stuff was underground. The Immortal Technique’s and Last Emperor’s were fire to my soul; this was intelligent, highly stimulating rap. For some reason their rhymes got me rebooted like nothing else could. At about fifteen, female rappers became my best friends. Foxy Brown’s verse in Affirmative Action and Lauryn Hill’s verse in Ready or Not killed and buried the stuff their far more famous male peers had offered. I can’t tell you how much that meant for a girl who honestly thought she’d be a music producer when she grew up. Seriously, I was inseparable from GarageBand. It was through Queen Latifah’s U.N.I.T.Y. that I blissfully discovered feminism. I badly
needed it. I was growing older, my English had gotten better, and I didn’t like the lyrics of the rap I was hearing as much anymore. Plus, the game was getting weak (i.e. Souljah Boy and G-Unit). I started to listen to rap less and less, till eventually it became a novelty of the past. I was more than comfortable with indie bands, folk, and rock; white people’s music. Living here as a minority for the first time in my life was a whirlwind I did not see coming. I studied in Malaysia for two and a half years before coming here, and other than being the biggest chick (width and height) everywhere I went, I had no problem adapting. Shopping at the supermarket was easy, my Malaysian friends and I paid the same price for public transport, and all the international kids got to bitch about student visas equally, even if they were only from Singapore. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I passed off as a Malaysian pretty easily. Here, the number of people that I could relate to pretty much diminished to zero overnight. The angst of Hip-Hop finally made sense to me – I finally got it. I couldn’t be more grateful for those rappers out there who were translating the angst I felt for me. Even the persistent gangsterisms and violence in HipHop I find invigorating, it shields me from what I see to be highly hostile surroundings. Tough talk somehow makes my skin tougher. If I’m feeling alienated, Danny Brown’s shamelessly aggressive lyricism works better for me than any song Taylor Swift could ever write. When the environment you live in becomes a place of infinite unfamiliarity; when your misfortunes are brought up and lathered on your face on the daily, and when family and friends become nothing but pixels on your computer screen, music somehow rises to become a source of indescribable comfort. It is an instrument of surprising mutual understanding. On that account, I hope you too, find solace in what you head-bop to; your own Hip-Hop.
Mediterranean Pasta Brought to you by Cultural Cookery This pasta is simply amazing because it brings together all the flavors of the warm Mediterranean sun. It makes you feel like you’re looking out over a blue see while burying your feet in the sand and sniffing up the blissful smell of good food that awaits your return. It is the ideal dish to cook last minute or to take to a picnic in the park (the pasta does not need to be warm, cold is even better!). Don’t worry about the pesto being ‘arrabiata’. There are very few red peppers in there, so it merely gives your tongue a few tingles, but more importantly it gives an extra dimension to the flavor. Ingredients (2 persons):
So, this is how you do it: start with boiling a pot of water for the pasta. Put the pasta in and take it out as indicated on the pack. Cut the shallots and the eggplant and bake them for
• 250 grams of fusilli pasta • 1 jar of red pesto: ‘arrabiata’ (Albert Heijn) • 1 tin of tuna filet • 2 shallots or 1 onion
a few minutes in a pan with a drizzle of olive oil until they are light golden. The eggplant is one of the most outspoken Mediterranean flavors in this dish. It is predominantly used in Greece and Turkey and simply tastes like summer (especially when combined with
• 1 eggplant
lemon). Next, open the tin of tuna and cut the feta cheese in small squares. When the pasta
• 1 bloc of feta cheese
is al dente, put it in the pan with the eggplant and shallots. Add the pesto ‘arrabbiata’, feta
• olive oil
cheese and tuna filet. Stir for a couple of minutes and you’re ready to serve!
A University College Student Association Magazine
Style Spotlight: Laurence Herfs Many of us mistake our style as simply defined by the clothes we wear. At UCstyle, we believe that style is much more than this, style is about who you are. So we’ve decided to explore just that. This month we are talking Laurence Herfs, the girl behind the cartoons in the Boomerang about how she expresses her style through art:
What was your process of becoming a (comic book)-artist? One day, I woke up and found myself suddenly ‘an artist’. Overnight it seemed, people had gone from peeking over my shoulder at my little doodles and rolling their eyes to squeals of o-my-god-that’s-amazing.’ I’m still not entirely sure what happened. I’ve had the biggest crush on everything Japanese since I can remember, but it took me a long time and a few scratches along the way to realise that not everyone shared that enthusiasm. At 15 I began my amateur manga publishing group Celestial with some local artists I had met over the internet. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me. It meant pure commitment to my art, 50-page stories, killer deadlines, pulling all-nighters on schooldays. I used to be a pretty shy kid, but the sudden respect people started giving me for my dedication worked miracles for my confidence. I realized I could make people laugh with my comics. That art could save me, get me to places and most importantly, make me really, really happy.
How do your comics and art reflect your personal style? You know how they say that when you draw a face, unconsciously you’re drawing your own? I guess it’s a little like that. My art influences my style because it’s a part of me. My roots are in the Japanese girl-manga culture which is about all things cute and romantic. I love my clothes quirky and whimsical and even a little silly, and I like my comics and cartoons just the same.
Where do you get your inspiration from? Music, art, books, cheesy quotes, movies, the campus, my shower. Everywhere. You can literally find inspiration everywhere if you just stop, breathe, observe and think. For my small cartoons in the Boomerang, inspiration basically comes down to living life. Life gets awkward and stupid and painful, the best way to deal with that is by laughing about it.
Minh Tue Le Ngoc and Fisayo Fadahunsi Laurence’s cartoons feature in the Boomerang every month, but for more check out https://www.facebook.com/ laurenceherfsart
Laurence draws UCstyle: here’s Laurence’s interpretation of the girls behind the Boomerangs monthly style page.
With spring around the corner, we got students to tell us 1) what are they most looking forward to about the new season and 2) where they bought the outfit worn in the photo
Eva Pander Maat, 1st year 1. To me the new season, as it goes with the getting rid of layering, means crawling out of a scratchy, fuzzy cocoon. We are finally able to wear exactly what we want. Also, the less pieces we wear, the more accessories we tend to add. These bling up the world like nothing else. I hate pants, so am thrilled to be able to walk around in shorts and leggings all day long again! 2. . I am wearing Nikes which seem to be rather rare here on campus - nevertheless, they’re by no doubt my favorite shoes, always adding a playful touch. With vintage Levi’s shorts one never misses; I have like 3 pairs by now but just can’t get enough. The crop top is from American Apparel and was, cheesy enough, bought on an amazing road trip through the USA. My leather jacket is from Zara and was exactly what I was looking for: it stands out. The vintage headband is a souvenir from Lowlands. The heat was just tormenting and I couldn’t stand another second without it: back then it completed my life, now it completes my outfit.
Bas Nieuwenhuis, 3rd year
Ira Gosselink, 2nd year
1. To be completely frank, I like winter fashion more than summer fashion. I feel like there are more options when it’s cold outside (knitwear, pullovers, flannel shirts, etc), especially for guys. During the summer months, we often have to settle with a T-shirt and some shorts. Still, the summer has its perks. I’m absolutely looking forward to bringing out the shades and bright colored clothes.
1. Trend-wise, I wouldn’t know, because I don’t really keep track of that. I’m not saying it doesn’t affect me; I am influenced by what other people wear and I have to work with what I find in stores. Still, it’s not that I’m actually looking forward to a certain style or piece of clothing that’s supposed to be a trend in the upcoming season. What I am looking forward to, however, is the warmer weather! As much as I love wearing knitted sweaters and cardigans, by now I’m ready to wear shorts and skirts and sleeveless tops again.
2. The camo shirt I bought at River Island, one of my favorite stores. I believe it’s a British chain, with two stores in the Netherlands, in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The jeans are Abercrombie & Fitch. I asked a friend of mine to bring me some A&F laces from the States, since I really can’t afford their European prices. The desert shoes I bought at H&M and the bag is from Primark. Every now and then I go to these stores to get some cheap basics. The white T-shirt with the print and the red trucker cap are from some Australian store that I can’t remember the name of. While on exchange, I found out that Australian fashion is a lot more hipster than fashion here. They still love their Aztec prints and patterns!
2. I’m wearing Levi’s shorts from Episode with studs on them that I bought on Ebay. The top that I’m wearing is actually a swimsuit from an Australian online shop called Black Milk. It’s a really cool company that prints their own clothing, so they have a lot of amazing photoprints. This is an actual photo of Neil Armstrong on the moon. My shirt is from H&M, the shoes are Dr. Martens and the tote bag is from Monki. Finally, my jacket is from Zara.
the Boomerang | March 2013
10 COLOSSEUM Top three discoveries of the month Marina Lazëri 1 – Foltin. A small Macedonian band, alternative rock and electro pop. Think Tom Waits mixed with Latin American jazzy rhythms. Their latest album, Penelope X, is a rewriting of ‘Odysseus’, that captivating story that made us as children believe in the power of love. In Foltin’s postmodern version, the miserable fall from power that Odysseus experiences is combined with his narcissism in giving a dismal picture of a perverted and out-of-favour anti-hero. Bonus point: A lot of their songs are sung in a made up sound system which resembles Portugese, French etc. Check out: If you touch me I’ll die 2 – Belgian Cinema produces very good movies. Check out ‘La Cinquiéme Saison’, a 2012 film about the Ecce Homo effect of a complete natural catastrophe – winter doesn’t go away. Plats don’t grow, bees have disappeared, it snows randomly in summer, cows don’t produce milk, fish casually die. What does this do to human nature? Can we form communal bonds and deal with shortage? Or do we turn against each other? And most importantly, how to we relate to the other, the different, the stranger, the threat? The movie makers focus on still frames intended to capture the contrast between the dissetlement of the human soul and the stillness of an overly troublesome nature, leading to amazingly beautiful visual effects. Bonus point: There’s a guy that chases his cock with a grass cutting machine. You can watch it in: Filmtheater ’t Hoogt, Hoogt 4, Utrecht 3 – Captain Stupendous. A webcomic about a cocky superhero whose ex-wife is marrying an ordinary mortal, whose teenage daughter is an awkward, unpopular high school kid, whose superhero son is manifestly homosexual and whose mortal son’s acceptance to Harvard Law School is a mere reminder of his lack of superpowers. The risqué story line deals in great exaggeration with issues such as ostracisation, the relativity of sexual immorality, teenage disfunctionality and parental irresponsibility. Captain Stupendous has Zach Weiner and Chris Jones at their finest. Bonus point: It’s only 95 pages, it will not make you stop studying for entire days. Link: http://www.captainexcelsior.com
The Way to Go When you Go Klementina Ristovska
know that many out there already know about CouchSurfing. The point is: there should be no one who doesn’t know about CS! The CS project is the one, altogether most amazing travel
experience booster in existence. For those who, when I say CouchSurfing, imagine a tanned surfer catching the wave on a yellow sofa – CS is a community of travel junkies that operates on a simple reciprocity logic: members open their doors to host fellow travelers; and they would rather ‘surf ’ a local’s couch than stay in a hostel when abroad. In essence, sleeping in a stranger’s apartment? Wrong. Although
You’ll be sure that potential surfers (and hosts) picked you solely on profile content. Couchsurfing’s 1999 inception came out of a fun event: 22-year-old co-founder Casey Fenton from Alaska was travelling to Iceland on a budget. In pursuit of a true local experience, but lacking an acquaintance there, Fenton hacked an e-mail network and spammed the entire student body of Iceland University. He received tons of positive replies – students were eager to host him and show him “their Reykjavik”. The idea was born.
these people are technically speaking completely unfamiliar, no fellow
Certainly, CS is mostly suited for hitchhiking, backpacking, train-
couchsurfer is ever a stranger. With some hosts it will only take about
hopping and similar forms of adventurous budget-travel. 18 to 29 is
a minute or so to feel as if we’ve been friends since ever. There is a giant
the most active age range. But, Couchsurfing with your family? Sur-
likelihood that the people you meet through CS are these extremely
prisingly, there are whole families active on this site! Hospitality has no limits. CS is now a global phenomenon – from
interesting, inspiring, free-spirited individuals. Or perhaps, CS simply highlights that quirky, intriguing side in people. Safety is the first concern of CS-skeptics, and the most unfounded one. In most cases I was given a duplicate key for the apartment or left
those initially forced to resort to it out of a need for free accommodation, eventually hooked forever; to those selling all their belongings to couchsurf the world.
alone in the house free to prepare myself breakfast. The site’s reference
In 2008 there were 120 Couchsurfers in Kazakhstan. Today, there
system is meant to ensure safety through accumulating positive refer-
are more than 4000. Today, there are also 43 Eskimos hosting in
ences. Yet, I was as warmly hosted when I had zero references on my
Greenland, and 23 couches available in Antarctica. Practically every
newly-opened profile as I am now; I myself have often hosted newbies too. It’s all in the attitude. Why would someone even take the risk when hostels nowadays are
country in the world is part of the 5.5 million-strong network. And it’s growing as we speak – for a reason.
cheap anyways? And this is the crux of the issue: CS is not about free accommodation. CS is an experience. It’s an opportunity to see the place through the eyes of a local and experience things not marked in your tourist guidebook. From learning and taking up new perspectives on life, to random late-night D&Ms and friendships that last for a long time. One positive stay and you’ll know that not paying a dime for that three-day sleepover and yummy dinner was the least significant detail. Hosting is the other side of the story. The single downside of hosting as a girl is having to maneuver away from those who see CS as a dating site. Easy way to circumvent these picture-browsers: keep an obscure, non-revealing image of yourself as the single profile photo.
Zenpencils – your new everyday pick-you-up Laurence Herfs
henever I open my laptop, my fingers automatically make the following pattern in the url-tabs: f – 9 – g – t. Facebook first to up the social life, 9gag to chuckle
at cats doing silly stuff, Gmail for the serious stuff and a bit of
beauty, family, and the miracles of life. Whenever I need something to kick me out of procrastination, this is my jam. It could be yours too.
tumblr for a few pick-me-up quotes. Yes, I confess, I follow those
Comics are cheesy and sometimes childish, sure, but they are
cheesy kushandwizdom and other wise-words-tumblrs. “No mat-
an art form quite unlike any other because they are so interactive.
ter how good or bad your life is, wake up each morning and be
They’re not quite books and they’re not quite illustrations, they’re
thankful that you still have one” – sentences like that. They’re like
somewhere in the middle. That’s where Zenpencils grabs you, drag-
coffee; they get you to do stuff. But just like with coffee, you get
ging you into a world that promises strength and hope with its sim-
used to the effect after ten rations of the ‘get up and do some-
ple images and bold colors. Admittedly, Gavin gets a little help from
thing, woman’ quote.
the famous people whose words he illustrates. As the often quoted
Lately I’ve switched from coffee and tumblr to a new kind of pick-you-up-drug. It is a little gem of a website called www.zenpen-
Dr. Seuss puts it: “Words and pictures are yin and yang. Married, they produce a progeny more interesting than either parent.”
cils.com, where illustrator Gavin Aung Than adapts inspirational
Don’t feel like studying for that science-test? Read the Zenpen-
quotes from famous people into cartoons. He has produced over a
cils comics about the discoverers of the world like Einstein and
hundred cartoons, ranging from Churchill, Lewis and Dickenson to
Armstrong, expressing their admiration for the Earth and its many
Dr. Seuss, Einstein, Buddha, Bruce Lee and Plato. Most recently, he
wonders. Have a long literature essay to write? Get inspired by the
drew a quote by the 15-year-old Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai, who
comics based on literary geniuses like C.S. Lewis, Dickinson and
was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to
Frost. Comics make the world a better place - so why not let them
go to school. They deal with subjects like strength, happiness, love,
improve your grades too?
A University College Student Association Magazine
Lincoln A Review
Auke van der Veen
At the 85th Academy Awards ceremony, Steven Spielberg’s
commercial success Lincoln was awarded with two golden statuettes. Set during the last months of the American Civil War, the movie deals with Abraham Lincoln’s attempts to abolish slavery.
When you think of the individual Lincoln, images
emerge of a tall guy with a high hat and a beard, somehow capable of solving big issues. But what was he really like? And how did he accomplish all his achievements? Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner
but the movie depicts an exciting fight for justice and a great study of people. Particularly Sally Field as the First Lady impresses. It may come as a surprise that various crucial parts of Lincoln’s life and fame, such as the Gettysburg Address, are not shown in the movie. Yet contrary to my expectations, this didn’t matter: it just makes the story more powerful. Rated 4/4
SPRING BREAK: Five Fun Events for Campus Dwellers 1. Holland Animation Film Festival: 20-24 March (Utrecht) A unique, five-day festival for producers and lovers of all things animated. It’s a platform for both professionals and students, and a great way for the general
answer those questions brilliantly by portraying the man as a real per-
audience to see what’s happening in
son – as someone we might know from our daily lives.
animation right now.
The Oscar for best actor is more than deserved: Daniel Day-Lewis 2. Theaterfestival Tweetakt:
doesn’t portray Lincoln, he is Lincoln. We see a down-to-earth figure,
22 March – 7 April (Utrecht)
who knew how to practically solve matters. We see a man who spent
This festival has theatre, music,
many hours alone in his study, who made his speeches so short peo-
dance, cabaret, even games, in all sorts
ple would laugh. Abraham Lincoln was no oiled-up politician like the
of styles, and for very reasonable prices.
ones today are; he was simply an ex-country lawyer with a little politi-
Tickets are between €7.50 and €15.50, but some events are for free.
cal influence and a burning desire to change things.
The movie is a historical drama, with the action happening
3. Movies That Matter Festival : 21-
mostly confined to government buildings. Lincoln and his staff have
27 March (The Hague) Born from the Amnesty International
to go to great lengths to get most of the Democrats and even some Re-
Film Festival, the MTM Festival screens
publicans in the House of Representatives to vote in favor of the Thir-
movies about human rights and human
teenth Amendment to end slavery. We all know how the story ends,
dignity, and the breaching of those, in an effort to spark and sustain debate on those topics. Individual tickets are €8.75.
Lost in Translation
4. Imagined Places: until April 14th (Amsterdam)
allow myself a moment of doubt when I face the small sign saying Manga Kissa. Should I have come here with my Naruto-loving friend? It could have helped to protect my soul
from this obviously dangerous and perverse art. But it’s too late now anyways. I will have to experience ‘Europe’s first and only public manga library’ all by myself. Though I better watch my back, for one can never be truly safe when going off-campus. I have a hard time pushing the door open, thanks to a mini Everest of shoes obstructing the entrance. What the hell?! Already images of weird feet fetishes invade my mind and I am instantly ready to leave this place of sin. But alas, a surprisingly normal-looking middle-aged guy has noted my unfamiliar presence and is already approaching me. I can’t blow my cover now. So before I know it, I am professing my supposedly infinite love for Japanese comics in front of him.
take a look around the room. Shelves stacked with colorful books, drawings on the walls, cozy couches full of teenagers – the relaxed and hippy setting surely must be a façade, destined to lure me into an indoctrinated underground cult. The tour I receive is even more suspicious: no way on Earth are their only goals to “popularize un-
This exhibition in the Tropenmuseum looks at the impact of location on identity, through photos and video installations. It is about “the desire to be elsewhere and the reality of forced migration”. Student price is €8.
derappreciated art and culture”, or to “inspire people and give them a safe haven to express themselves”. Hello, I was practically born in the Soviet Union, I know brain-wash and mind-control! At this point I am waiting for someone to lock the door behind
5. National Geographic Presents: The Amsterdam Canals: until June 2nd (Amsterdam)
me and force me to read sexually tinted comics and wear a slutty
What’s the best thing about Am-
school girl uniform. To my complete shock, people greet me peace-
sterdam? The canals of course! This
fully instead, inviting me to grab a book and enjoy it with some more tea and cookies. No, I don’t need to pay for anything. Yes, I can leave and come whenever I wish and no-one is going to bother me. I am even offered a basic lesson in Japanese.
exhibition in Het Grachtenhuis, curated by National Geographic, presents 400 years of canal-history. Admission fee is between €8 and €12.
The excited glimmer in his eyes does not indicate any good. I
This does not make any sense whatsoever. What, are they just
instantly know it: he’s found a new lost soul to recruit in his ever ex-
going to welcome me kindly and embrace me in their community?
panding army of manga-craving nerds. Do I have a choice, when he
And then it finally hits me: these folks might be nothing more than
ever so kindly insists on giving me a tour? But first things first, I am
a bunch of inspiring and generous young people. Boring! How am I
reminded to take off my shoes and to embrace the ‘homely atmos-
supposed to infiltrate if there is no danger involved? Upset, I leave,
phere’, while a hot cup of jasmine tea materializes in my hand. Not
nothing! See tivoli.nl/pompas for more
hoping I will find more excitement elsewhere. And if you’re the man-
info (Dutch only, but it’s pretty straight-
too bad for a conspiring society about to kidnap me, I guess.
ga type, this is definitely the place to check out.
Once my feet have found their way into the comfiest pair of slippers (like I am going to be fooled by warm and fuzzy footwear!), I
Manga Kissa, Pauwstraat 13
Finally, a heads up about the new student pass Tivoli has. The Pop-O-Matic student card gives you a number of nice discounts and free stuff, and it costs
the Boomerang | March 2013
Which imaginary means of transportation would you pick and to which space anywhere in space and time would you want to go during the break? Petra Zaal 2nd year
Marijn Maas, 2nd year
Witold van Ratingen, 3rd year
“I’d use apparition and travel the world in 7 days instead of 80”
“St. Petersburg, October 1917, by coach”
Haris Kalic, 1st year
Philene Moquette, 3rd year
“I would use time travelling roller skates to go back in time to when I was three years old. No worries!”
“I’d use a flying carpet to stalk Jasmine’s room”
“Witness the moment the universe was born using epic Doctor Who TARDIS tech”
Ella Bosch, 3rd year
Robert van den Heuvel, 3rd year
Reinder vos de Wael, 2nd year
“Portal gun, I’d fling wherever!”
“No! Apparition is the way to go. To Buenos Aires”
“I would take a death star to go into orbit of the Earth”
The Boomerang Team 2012|2013:
Julie Albers Elena Butti Ivo Dimitrov Welmoed van Ens Marina Lazëri Minh Tue Le Ngoc Klementina Ristovska Januschka Veldstra
Editor-in-Chief Klementina Ristovska Managing Director Elena Butti Off-Campus Editor & Secretary Januschka Veldstra Campus Editor & Treasurer Ivo Dimitrov Managing Editor Marina Lazëri Art and Layout Director Minh Tue Le Ngoc Layout Designers Emiel Stegeman, Danielle Bovenberg Cartoonist Laurence Herfs CAO Martijn Scholtemeijer
The Boomerang is now online! Visit, read and comment on ucsaboomerang.wordpress.com Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org