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Follow me, please!

Massive groups consisting of more parents than schoolchildren are led around the campus by enthusiastic ‘sample’ students. The white tents, balloons, and old-school music create a festive theme park atmosphere. And the festival’s name is Open Days. Univers was an eye-witness.

A cohort of, paradoxically, paid volunteers gathered in the Cobbenhagen building. Wearing elegant, navy blue polo shirts and armed with umbrellas (to fight the gloomy weather) they were ready to battle for potential students.

One of the organizers proudly introduced a ‘pop the question’ option, which gave the visitors a chance to interrogate a real student. Was it a randomly chosen, objective person? Of course not. The addressees were Tilburg University ambassadors trained in PR talk and they gave their answers accordingly.

The army of volunteers was skilled at picking out the lost souls in a crowd. One of them kindly showed me the way to an English speaking tour guide. And there they were. A group for English speaking visitors consisting of just one couple from Birmingham who were dragging their sons from one Dutch university to another. Are these the only international students interested in Tilburg University?

Perhaps the reason for such a low turnout was that information sessions about the most popular international programs were not held that day. Still, being one of the five visitors from abroad among the sea of Duchies wasn’t very promising.

Before we left for the campus tour, I grabbed one of the Bachelor programs brochures lying around on almost every table and flipped the pages. Why is the information about English taught programs printed in Dutch? The only clues that these are international programs were the tiny English flags next to the names of Liberal Arts and Sciences, International Business Administration, Economics and, surprisingly, Econometrie en Operationele Research. Apparently, despite its Dutch name, the latter was also taught in English.

Although very handsome in his Asset jacket, our tour guide was not always persuasive. He recited the most popular music events and festivals in Tilburg from the official university document, as this impressive list is something the city should be proud of. Confusing ‘kermis’ (fun fair) with ‘carnaval’ (carnival in Dutch), he said rather unconvincingly, that “I’ve never attended, but, yeah, it’s very nice.”

Our tour guide also eagerly ensured the group that there are a lot of housing options in Tilburg and it’s easy to find a room for an average of €280. Either I have been oblivious to those bargains, or the City Hall has classified them as top secret.

Towards the end of the tour, the guide showed us a sample lecture room in the Warande building. For obvious reasons, only one of the largest and nicest rooms on the campus was shown. But I assume that if we were shown one of the Prisma building’s tiny, dark rooms that can barely be found in the labyrinth, the Birmingham family would have run away immediately.

Originally published in Univers no.12, May 2012 (Download PDF

Photo by inbal marilli on Unsplash

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