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Welcome to Tijuana

Did you know that the city of Rotterdam organizes a Summer Carnaval in June? Me neither. It’s all very confusing, because the festival has nothing to do with Carnaval celebrated by the Southern Dutchies, but rather with the Latin American celebrations in winter.

In any case, Rotterdam lured me in for the festivities with the Manu Chao & La Ventura concert. It didn’t feel like the Netherlands anymore because of the exotic atmosphere brought by all the Mexicans, Spanish and Portuguese fans. If you feel as lost as I was in the multiculti setting, here is a short guideline of how to melt into the melting pot.

Chant football songs regardless of location. A concert is a perfect occasion to clap and roar “Oé, Oé, Oééééé, Oééééé, Oééééé!” Engage as many people as possible, pointing fingers at them and yelling two times louder, hoping that they will follow your lead and not leave you hanging.

If you don’t know the song lyrics, especially when they are in Spanish, French or Portuguese, accentuate international words that you recognize and know. If you attend a Manu Chao concert, just sing “na-na-na-na-na-na…MARIJUANA!”

Share the love. If you bring your own booze and a million extra plastic cups, distribute them to the people around you. If a lady refuses to accept your kindness, cram the plastic cup into her hands. The moment that rosé wine lands in her cleavage, cry out “Oééééé!”

Taking girls onto your shoulders is much appreciated, but if you want to be worshiped as a real hero, you have to do better. Spot a guy already with a girl on his shoulders and take him onto yours by surprise. It looks especially impressive after you’ve had a few too many beers. Girls like it when being all wobbly adds additional excitement to seeing broken pieces of glass on the ground from three meters high.

Published: Univers no. 14, 27 June 2013

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Student Apps you Need

Thank God for technology. It makes our everyday lives much easier, especially when yours is a life of a busy student. These three apps will cover the most difficult areas of your student life:

Studying – Nerdo app works in a few easy steps. It scans your texts if you still don’t have them in digital version. It identifies keywords in your assignment question, and scans your texts looking for these keywords. Then, it puts the selected pieces of text together into neat paragraphs, sorting them out thematically. If your professor asks you a question, Nerdo reads the text to you straight into your ear throug the invisible earphones. If your printer is properly connected to your device, it prints the assignment on a piece of paper with customized logo and initials, and laminates the final product.

Being yourself – Let’s face it- you make everyone on facebook nauseous by Liking pages like Traveling!, iLove Apple, and Purple Skittles 4Eva. Creating an original identity is now much more challenging than just generously telling the world what your interests are. The newest app Hater does not deny that there are more things we grumble about than the ones we like, such as your bike breaking down on your way to the campus, your teacher’s squicky vioce, or your ex having moved on way too fast. Hate is the new Like. There are a set of interactions you can have with other Hater users: Invite to a Duel, Proclaim as Enemy, and Poke. With a knife.

Dealing with consequences - NoPanic app with its amazing options erases the consequences of whatever stupid thing you’ve done. You can apply a HangOVER filter on your photos that lightens the dark shades under your eyes and adds a youthful glow to your skin. The iApologize option saves the contact details of people you’ve been partying with and the next morning it automatically sends out the “I’m sorry for my behavior” text messages. And, the cherry on top, the Pill2Thrill option sends an automatic request to your GP, locates the nearest pharmacy next to you and forwards his prescription. In a few hours after a night out you have a fresh morningafter pill waiting for you on the pharmacy counter.

Published: Univers no. 10, 21 March 2013

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(Post) Student Survival Kit

Do you remember getting a Tilburg University Survival Kit brochure as a freshman? It scrupulously listed all things you needed to know to stay alive in such a deadly environment as the campus. But the real survival kit should be handed over to you at the day of your graduation, wrapped tightly around your diploma. Here is what’s coming to you:

 

Geographical Confusion
Forget the times when you knew every bar, every bartender and every kebab selling guy in town. Now you can navigate to the gym, the tobacco shop and the nearest supermarket but if someone asks you for directions to this fancy club everyone’s talking about, you stutter worse than Colin Firth in The King’s Speech. As a last resort, not to come off as a hermit suffering from vitamin D deficiency, you declare that you’re not from here. In Spanish.

Solitude
Do you remember having awkwardly run into your crush in a supermarket while buying cheap bubbly wine and desperately trying to hide a pack of Durex Extra Sensitive behind a box of strawberries? Now you can buy a whole Voordeel pack of condoms if you wish. Your friends won’t catch you red-handed anymore simply because they all have left chasing for their dream jobs.

Starvation (and thirst)
Even on a student loan you could somehow afford countless bottles of wine, city trips every month, and those awesome, wireless Apple speakers. With your graduation end all your study grants, and so does your excuse to be tipsy on a Tuesday afternoon. From now on you will also buy full fare train tickets, pay €10 extra for a haircut and get pissed at the outrageously high prices in movie theaters. All you’re left with is a debit card excruciatingly beeping in every pin machine and a cardboard sign tied around your neck that reads:

SAVING TO PAY OFF DUO.

Published: Univers no. 11, 18 April 2013

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How to Master your Thesis

Just a few weeks left to your deadline? To win the final battle with the dreadful thesis, you can’t fight unprepared. You have to go through a lengthy and challenging training in order to survive.

The first step is to find your Master. Have your eyes wide open, for he can go under many names: Google Scholar Citations, Ice-olator, or Monster Energy Drink. Just remember to keep believing in his power until the very end. The moment of your doubt will be the moment of your defeat.

Practice swift and precise finger moves by doing a sport commonly known as origami. You will need to be quick and extremely focused to type a thousand words per day. Making a swan, a turtle, or your supervisor’s face out of a neon-pink piece of paper might also have a therapeutic effect.

Practice the art of moderation. You will be locked in for the upcoming days, so eat only what you have left in your fridge to save time on grocery shopping. Save water supplies and drink beer instead. And remember: you only have one pack of cigarettes a day, so use them wisely.

Learn to listen to your body. A long night of sleep will make your productive day dreadfully short, but pulling an all-nighter will just makes you collapse face-first on your keyboard. Also, seeing blinking spots where the typed words should be is probably a sign that it’s time to look at something else than your screen. Find your bal/A\nce.

Practice the art of focus. Ignore the temptations coming from the outside world, for they are not worthy of your attention. The warm sunbeams, the juicy smell of grilled meat, the sweaty sounds of a Salsa party next doors- all of them are nothing but superficial, earthly pleasures that are there to divert you from your righteous path.

Oh, and you might also want to give your brain a little stretch. Go solve a crossword puzzle or something.

Published: Univers no. 12, 16 May 2013

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A Cup of Joe

Coffee is not just one of many available drinks that make your day more bearable. In fact, the whole student life revolves around it. Have you ever noticed how the campus infrastructure is designed to please coffee addicts and discriminate lovers of alternative liquids?

The vending machines, providing urgent access to hot drinks in every building first and foremost, give all kinds of coffee as options to choose from. There is black coffee, cappuccino, wiener mélange, espresso, cafe latte; all of them with options of regulating strength and sweetness. And only at the very end, there it is – a lonely looking tea offered in no variations other than the disgusting one.

Coffee also defines our campus notion of time. The breaks between lectures are not called ‘coffee breaks’ for no reason. But if we name the break after the most urgent thing people do during  these brief few minutes, shouldn’t we called them pee breaks? Or, to include both coffee drinkers and toilet goers, coppee breaks?

Drinking coffee is also part of an identity of a troubled student. Dragging himself to a morning lecture, he carries a massive, artsy-looking thermos, a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and
dark circles under his eyes. But in a battle between coffee and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, wouldn’t the latter be of more use if you want to get your creative juices flowing?

On top of all that, student courtship behavior is entirely based on coffee. A mini-date invitation is rarely for a cup of tea. For some reason grabbing a cup of java with someone is just much sexier and has more potential for a follow-up rendezvous. Maybe it’s because of dirty associations that the act of drinking coffee arouses – all the sugaring, creaming, swirling, spooning… A cup of fair trade green tea just doesn’t stimulate imagination in the same way. Well, perhaps except for a certain activity involving bags of these fine leaves.

Published: Univers no. 13, 6 June 2013

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A Matter of Life and Death

Standing on the platform, you look around at your rivals to estimate your chances. You take one, two, three small steps towards the train tracks, with small time intervals in between not to attract attention. You notice the train approaching, but you’re not the only one. You feel the crowd’s saddle movements towards the track and you know you can’t deceive them anymore. They all push forward to stand so close that their noses are exposed to being bloodily crashed against the moving train.

When the vehicle almost comes to a standstill, you look right, left, and right again. “Which door is the closest?!” you ask yourself in panic. In a moment of doubt, use this formula to enhance your chances against the crowd (Y= your location; D1= first door’s location; D2= second door’s location):

A= Distance between Y and D1 [m]

B= Distance between Y and D2 [m]

Life altering choice:

If A>B, you run towards B.

If B>A, you run towards A.

If A=B, forget the math and sprint!

When everybody chooses their entrance, you all wobble towards it like a colony of penguins during a breeding season. Once the door opens, a person closest to the entrance hastily puts one of his body parts inside the train; usually it’s a foot, a hand, or an extension of a body such as a suitcase or a gentleman walking stick. By the rule of I-can-do-it-if-he’s-done-it-first, other passengers stick whatever they have into the train. Then they impatiently wait for outgoing passengers to squeeze through, jittering like restless insects.

When you finally get in, you call dibs on a seat by throwing your suitcase with a precision of a Belarussian shot putter. But prior to situating your behind on it, you look around to see if there is a better option: a seat with nobody next to you; a seat with nobody next to you and nobody in front of you; a seat as far as possible from that dog; a seat as far as possible from the girls practically screaming about speed dating and vanilla body sprays. No, this one will do. You can now sit with a triumphal smirk on your face and enjoy your fifteen-minute ride.

Published: Univers no 4, 1 November 2012

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Driving (away from) Home after Christmas

Have I written an article about homesickness in the last Univers? What was I thinking? Apparently I’ve forgotten what Christmas at home looks like.

I can’t talk to my teenage brother without flinching. He bet with his friends that he’s going to stretch the hole in his ear until he can carry a pack of cigarettes in it. I got used to his little earring, but a giant bison horn stuck in his ear just makes me nauseous.

My Grandma thinks that eating (or talking about eating) should be the primary occupation in one’s life. Even though she is skin and bones herself, she suspects anorexia in everyone around her. You want to know our little Christmas tradition? It’s her trying to force a fried carp down my brother’s throat. She still doesn’t get that shaking a plate with the mentioned fish under his nose year after year is not going to cut it.

On top of all that, I made my little brother hate Santa. I didn’t buy him a toy because my dad ensured me that he has everything a four year old can possibly want. Instead, I brought him some candy and a Santa-shaped chocolate that I used to love so much at his age. Who wouldn’t want to bite off a head of a saint and be spared the consequences? My little brother, having noticed a new gift under a Christmas tree, dropped a plastic truck on the floor causing all four wheels to fall off, stepped on a snowman singing “Jingle Bells” (insensitively interrupting the chorus) and seized the package. After throwing the chocolate Santa out of the bag and decapitating him prematurely, he grumbled: “Where’s the toy?!” Since my explanation that Santa has a toy limit per child, I think he has started designing the Invade the North Pole plan.

Published: Univers no. 07, 17 January 2013

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It’s a Test

Getting a degree isn’t about your academic skills. It’s not about research, it’s not about close reading, and it’s not about critical thinking either. In fact, the universities secretly test our skills to prepare us for future jobs. As spies. Or secret agents. Or double agents to spy on agents from other universities and trick them into spilling information about top secret research.

Take the course registration, for example. It’s clearly a test to assess your patience. The system of links on the website is, in fact, a riddle that you have to solve. You click on one that seems to be redirecting you to the registration site, but it’s not. It’s a link in disguise. It gives you a list of other links instead. You click on every each and one of them, and somehow you end up where you’ve started. Unless you prove your persistence, you’ll never be allowed to continue your mission.

So you’ve passed the first test. You now have access to the desired registration page. This time, it’s your attention to detail that is being evaluated. The site is full of buttons, links and tabs written in font size 9,5. Look closely, because if you click the wrong one, you’ll be logged out and have to start over.

Finally found a course catalog? You’ve been brave. But now you have to face the hardest test: trusting your intuition. The course catalog system doesn’t work according to course names. The course doesn’t exist unless you enter its code. Forget browsing the catalog by keywords to see what courses are interesting. You have to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and guess the desired course code. And remember: always trust your heart.

A final test is on your ability to identify a suspicious element. To register for course you have to select it and click… “add to shopping cart”. Then you go your virtual shopping cart and purchase the course you wish to attend. If you fail to recognize this incongruity, you credit card will be charged an amount worth a three-month rent for a classroom, three monthly salaries of a lecturer and a supply of white chalk.

You’ve done a good job. See you on the other side.  

Published: Univers no. 06, December 13 2012

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Weirdos of the World, Unite in Amsterdam!

“Don’t go to Amsterdam,” they said. “Your car will be burned, you’ll get stuck on a train, the noise will perforate your eardrums,” they said. Bullshit. Queen’s Day in Amsterdam was actually quite bearable. But walking down the crowded streets overflowing with orange, I was wondering what is it with this particular day that it lures so many tourists, Dutchies and people with mild mental disabilities to the capital? I found a few psychological explanations.

It is deeply rooted in our primal nature to belong to the crowd of similarly looking co-members of the tribe. Jumping in perfect harmony, chanting mysterious noises unknown to the outsiders, and feasting in times of prosperity is a hard-to-resist tribal instinct. I even noted some elements of the Viking heritage. At daybreak, just like their ancestors, small groups of adventurers board the boats in a quest for entertainment, alcohol, and women. After a few hours of floating around, they might not remember their initial goal anymore, but they certainly still enjoy the journey.

Another reason has more to do with the individual self than with social needs. Queen’s Day is a great opportunity to boost your confidence and feed your feeling of superiority. If you see someone whose enormous orange bow pinned to their hair miserably slide down to the level of their ears, whose painted Dutch flag has been sadly smudged from the cheek all the way to the forehead, and whose high heels can no longer hold a shaky figure, you feel like pointing a finger at them and, quoting the Simpsons, proclaim the judgmental ‘ha-ha!’ And the beauty of Queen’s Day is that you can.

Or perhaps you feel trapped in society, with your creativity suppressed by rules and your originality drowned in a sea of mediocrity? Then it’s high time to take off your grey suit and toss it into the canals, for Amsterdam on Queen’s Day is full of fascinating people freely expressing their individuality. Some of them were creative enough to get their inspiration from the art of cinema, and looked like douchebags in their blindingly orange Borat outfits.

Published: Univers no 12, May 10, 2012

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Slow News Day

The entrance door of the Prisma building ceased to work. The automatic photocell system broke down just before the lunch break. This caused much inconvenience for three University employees, who were forced to use the other entrance. One of the victims, who did not wish to reveal his identity, is infuriated: “I value my working hours too much to take such detours. I am very upset over this incident.” The University’s maintenance service ensures us that they are doing their best to overcome this problem: “We’re trying to fix it as soon as possible, but our hands are tied by safety regulations,” says the manager.

The fate of a lost sandwich is still unknown. The unfortunate incident happened at the edge of the campus fountain, when a student dropped his sandwich into the water. “The bulky slice of bread slipped from my hand. The University’s catering services should pay more attention to the size of the sandwiches they sell,” says the student. The specialists are still investigating whether the sandwich was eaten by the local fish. Univers asked an ichthyologist for a comment: “The local species is undoubtedly herbivorous. If the sandwich contained any sorts of vegetable products, it is very likely that is has fallen victim to the aquatic animals.” The student, in despair, is still waiting for more information.

A Univers columnist embarrassed herself in front of Dante building, as a summer breeze lifted her skirt. There is a heated debate about who should be held responsible for the misfortune. 52% of the surveyed students blame the unpredictable weather conditions. “The wind has caused us many problems over the years. It’s out of control and the government pays no attention to the issue whatsoever,” one of the students complains. The remaining 48% stands up in defense of the wind and hold the girl’s fashion sense accountable. “It is her responsibility to adjust her clothing to the circumstances! She should have paid more attention during selection,” says one of the students furiously. The girl also desperately tries to explain the humiliating incident: “I was going for the Marilyn Monroe imitation.” The Univers team objectively judged that this attempt has failed miserably.

Published: Univers  no 14, June 28, 2012