First-year students are still going into town: ‘It feels like an ordinary orientation week’
The university called on orientation groups to stay out of the city centre because of the coronavirus. Did first-year students heed that call? According to bar staff, they're coming anyway. ‘They’re just wearing normal clothes instead of Radboud hoodies.’
It was a busy Tuesday night in the Molenstraat, where a cosy buzz could be heard from the terraces. Bar staff rushed to serve all the tables while a long line of young patrons waited to use the toilets.
The orientation organisers stressed to the mentors that there was really no intention apart from the planned online and offline events. But then who are these young people who are populating the bars?
‘Of course, you can’t be sure that they’re first-year students’, a bartender from Café van Rijn says the next day. ‘But I do feel like a lot of groups go into town and then make a last-minute decision about where they want to go.’
Other bar staff have also seen groups of first-year students wandering around the city. ‘It feels like an ordinary orientation week’, says Max de Rooij from Camelot. ‘We had a lot of first-year students on the terrace on Tuesday night, although of course nobody says they’re part of an orientation group. Now they wear their own clothes instead of the intro shirts and Radboud hoodies they normally wear.’
People who approach these fresh-faced groups are surprisingly often told that they are really not first-year students. A group of law students admitted to having had a few drinks. ‘But only the three of us. I don’t know if there are many other first-year students in town’, they said.
It’s clear that there are first-year students at some bars. The Bascafé is filled with ‘intro kids’ (as some people refer to these students) every day. ‘They have to reserve a place and then sit here for an hour’, says bartender Evi. Even on a Wednesday afternoon, the bar is overflowing with students. ‘The turnover isn’t as good as during a normal orientation, but it’s something.’
Groups of students keep flooding in until closing time, which is 5 am in the case of the Bascafé. Do they still follow the rules? ‘As it gets later and they drink a little more they’re a little less likely to follow the rules, but then you just have to be strict’, says the bartender. It’s important to the bars to keep the first-years in check because in the worst-case scenario their businesses could be closed. For instance, the mayor of Nijmegen, Hubert Bruls, ordered the closure of Café Twee Keer Bellen because the owner did not comply with the coronavirus rules.