Former orientation mentor advocates physical intro, but outdoors

16 Jun 2020

OPINION - The 2020 orientation week can be organised another way than just online, in the opinion of Business Administration student Jop Zegger. He advocates physical encounters, so that students can get to know each other. ‘The solution is really simple: have all the activities take place outdoors.’

The orientation week is a defining moment at the beginning of your student days. During that week, you meet people and build a network for yourself. With all the corona measures and online lectures, it’s going to be hard enough for first-year students to start their new life in Nijmegen and get to know fellow students. So why is an online orientation being organised, when there are so many better alternatives?

Uncomfortable

The idea sounds good: instead of a physical orientation week, a three-day online orientation in which you get to know your own group and even take part in an actual online ‘sports day’. However, this is likely to turn out to be an uncomfortable couple of days and there will be very few actual friendships started. If you really want to get to know people and build bonds, you have to physically meet each other and be together.

‘Give students the chance of a normal start to the best time of their lives’

Given the current favourable corona developments in the Netherlands, I think we can come up with better alternatives, in which students who want to can meet each other in a safe way. The solution is really simple: have all the activities take place outdoors.

Studies in the past months have shown that the risk of spreading the coronavirus in the fresh air is negligible, even when people fail to maintain the 1.5 metres distance from each other. We saw how large groups of people got together outdoors on Ascension Day without resulting in the new wave of contaminations feared. I was on the Waalstrand that day, which was jam packed full of people ignoring the distance protocol. Three weeks after that infamous day, there is still no rise in the number of contaminations (in fact, the fall is continuing).

Outdoors

Obviously, I understand that the university is wary of deviating from RIVM guidelines and generating negative publicity, so let’s take that into consideration. My proposal for the coming orientation week is to put together groups of students, the maximum size of which will be determined by the university. Those groups would consist of a number of mentors and future first-year students (who want to) and we let them get together outdoors. You can spread this out across one, two or even three weeks and locate it at different places in the city so that groups can’t just merge.

That way, you can let students get together safely and you give them at lease a chance of a normal start to the best time of their lives.

Anyone who still has doubts about the risks involved, please read Maurice de Hond’s webpage.

Jop Zegger is a fourth-year Business Administration student at Radboud University and a former orientation mentor.

1 Comment

  1. hh wrote on 18 juni 2020 at 16:49

    I fully agree, a large part of the value of the introduction will be lost if it is held mainly online. There are safe ways to spend time together outdoors and to really get to know your fellow students. However, this would have required to be creative and develop a different program rather than just try moving the introduction as it had been done up to now to an online environment. Nijmegen has got such a nice surroundings, organize a few activity in the nature, that way students would have ample opportunities to form new friendships, and the introduction may also become attractive to students not interested in the usual visits to pubs and activities such as bowling in a store with melons. Forming close personal contacts with fellow students will also be essential in a time when a significant part of teaching may remain online, as students left on their own may feel lost and drop their courses if they didn’t have the opportunity to establish a safe social network.

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