New campus columnists see things a little bit differently
The winners of the 2023 Campus Columnist competition were revealed on Wednesday, during DUB’s new year’s gathering, which took place at the Goliath bar in the David de Wied building. DUB hadn’t been able to organise this event in person for two years.
In his speech, editor-in-chief Ries Agterberg acknowledged that the 18 entries submitted this year paint a picture of student life right now. One of the judges added that the columns demonstrate the impact of not being able to take back the years lost to the pandemic.
A few years ago, the columns talked about the crowded bus number 12 but now they are about a soul-searching generation struggling with identity issues, loneliness and the pressure to perform. Many entries were about being queer or bisexual. One of the contestants, for example, wrote about feeling misunderstood because she is asexual. “Being asexual does not mean being an emotionless robot,” she concludes. “Our generation is soul-searching in a world where one cannot escape negative messages”
Another contestant pleaded for candidness: admitting that you’re depressed and addicted instead of getting good grades to please your parents. When he finally dared to be honest and ask for help, the support he got helped him to “take off the mask and find the strength to change.”
This year, there were five finalists – three of them running for a spot on the Dutch page and two of them were competing for a spot on the English one.
The new Dutch campus columnist is…
The panel of judges chose Quintijn de Leng to write for the Dutch page. A student of Geography & Planning, he is ambitious. In addition to his studies, he’s following the Descartes-honoursprogramma
and working as a student assistant for the Faculty of Geosciences, integrating Community Engaged Learning to the Honours curriculum. Their goal is to establish a direct relationship between education and society. In Quintijn’s case, for example, this is about working with the New Dutch Connections project, helping to set up and build the network for refugees.
In September, he’s going to start a Research Master’s in Global Urban Transformations. He also hopes to get a PhD someday. In his spare time, he plays the drums in a rock band.
As a campus columnist, he hopes to write about “personal” matters, things that happen in his life. He would like to move readers by shedding light onto everyday experiences from a new angle. That’s what he did in his winning column, Ode to the slacker. “Since the beginning of my studies, I’ve found myself doing other people’s work. Writing about it makes this sort of annoying subject easier for myself and, hopefully, for others as well.”
The panel of judges appreciated the smooth writing style and the ironic, humorous way he approached the topic. “He figured out an accessible way to start a conversation about a phenomenon to which many students can relate.”
It wasn’t easy for the judges to choose a winner, however. The column The time of your life, by the Liberal Arts & Sciences student Irem Zoodsma, stood out due to its critical tone.. She thinks that UU resembles less and less an intellectual community. Instead, it’s just a place you attend to get a degree and then you go back to the others aspects of your life. It’s good when a columnist dares to express themselves in such a strong way,” says the panel.
The other column in the running, Get the best out of both worlds as a first-generation student, was equally appreciated. The panel was inspired by how Charisma Hehakaya made the topic of first-generation students personal. She used to work as a cleaner before getting a PhD from the University Medical Centre in Utrecht. Thanks to her experiences, she’s realised that it can be hard for first-generation students to get used to the university and know what is expected from them. In her columns, she covers the obstacles faced by these students in a constructive way, also talking about how they can be overcome.
And the English-speaking winner is…
The international winner of the 2023 Campus Columnist competition also had a hard time getting used to the university. That’s because she moved from South Africa to the Netherlands. “It was the first time I’d be living in a foreign country and that had a real impact on me,” says Helen Aadnesgaard, who is pursuing a Master’s in Gender Studies. In her column, titled Am I Dutch now? she looks back into those times. “I’m curious about how I was in the beginning. It’s so weird that certain things used to be so hard for me while I feel totally happy and home now.”
The panel of judges appreciated the light way Helen put those feelings into words. Expect the same exploratory attitude from her as a campus columnist. “I want to experiment with different writing styles to discover my own voice in a creative way. That’s why I think a sense of humour is so important.” Helen got her Bachelor’s degree in Communication back in South Africa, where she worked with advertising, and writing assignments for others. “As a columnist, I want to make my own voice heard. I’ll be able to address the subjects that matter to me.”
Helen was chosen over Luca Salan, a Bachelor’s student of English Language & Culture from Germany. Her column Loneliness as a student caught the eye of the judges because she managed to talk frankly about loneliness. Luca: “When writing columns, people have the tendency of sharing positive experiences. They’re not so inclined to open up about things they struggle with. Loneliness is such an awkward topic but everyone goes through lonely moments. I think talking to friends and family about it can help. My goal with this column was to overcome my fears, and I hope to break the topic down until it becomes something manageable.”
Quintijn de Leng and Helen Aadnesgaard will both get the Erik Hardeman stipend, worth 1,000 euros. They will be succeeding the campus columnists from 2022, Leonie van Bruggen and Chandni Shyam.
This year, the panel of judges consisted of comedian Boban Braspenning; Project Manager in Public Engagement Stephanie Helfferich, who works in the Centre for Science and Culture; UU graduate Samuel de Weerd and DUB’s editor-in-chief, Ries Agterberg.
Interview with campus columnists on Instagram
On January 27, you can also watch an interview with the new campus columnists on our Instagram account. We spoke with them about their plans for the coming year, shortly after the announcement.