Initiation Rites

Street View
I was up early this morning and found myself wondering if the annual student invasion of the street was going to be tomorrow or next weekend, since they didn’t seem to be around yet. I’ve been expecting them all week. A little later, I heard some noise and saw someone walking past wearing a morning coat and carrying a walking stick. Aha! I was simply up before they were!

So yes, today was the annual induction/introduction/initiation/something-or-other at one of the student associations. Unitas, perhaps? I still don’t know exactly what they get up to or the reasoning behind this little ritual, but it always amuses me nonetheless. The (new?) students line up along the street with bags and sleeping bags and slowly work their way down the street to the back entrance of one of the associations. They’re watched over by upperclass (?) students — although only male students, even though the ones in line are both genders — and are occasionally given instructions by these well-dressed guardians. Every year they wear morning suits and drink champagne throughout the process. I don’t think all associations are quite so glamorous.
The Guards

There were a few things this year that were either new or that I just hadn’t noticed last year. For one thing, some of the students seemed to be singing the national anthem (multiple verses) throughout part of the morning. Secondly, toward the end of the morning, some of the last ones still to go started pulling out matching white tablecloths/sheets and started going through their bags and putting various items out on the sheet on the ground. It looked a bit like Queen’s Day, the national yardsale day.
There didn’t seem to be much rhyme nor reason to what they pulled out, although it did sound like they were given a list of items to put out. The upperclassmen seemed to be reading of cards of certain items. Whether they were contraband or simply a silly game, I have no idea. There seemed to be toilet paper and plastic plates among the items set out, so maybe the association was trying simply to stock up on some necessary items.
Bits and Bobbles
From what I saw last year, similar events are going on around town for various student associations. It’s a bit warm and humid today, but hey, at least it’s not raining. 😉

9 thoughts on “Initiation Rites

  1. Greeting from family Kiwidutch on holiday in northern Portugal 🙂 I’m trying to work out what they are saying on the video, much of it is unclear or not really loud enough to make out well… “a plate a plate”, is clear and Thank you lady (I think he follows that with “superb, everything is in order” and later after returing the inspected belongings one of the guys in a morning suit asks the girl if she has a “stok” (= the stick that they are tying up the bundles of “possessions” with. ). What a cool initiation ceremony, I think it’s something to do with arriving here with possessions to prepared for campus life. I WILL have to ask my nephew for more info as he studied in Leiden and maybe knows a bit about some of the traditions that Utrecht students have. (they might hear stories from campus to campus). I’m SO glad they didn’t get rained on… here in sunny Portugal it’s a lovely dry 35 degrees btw LOL.

    • I hope you’re having a good time in Portugal, although 35 is way too hot for me, but then I think 25 is too hot. 😉 Do ask your nephew if you think about it. I was asking an acquaintance about some of it the other week, which is when I learned about the ontgroening, but he was never a member of any association, so he didn’t know about all of the details.

  2. The guys are wearing a morning suit indeed. It sounds like he’s singing heigh-ho from snow-white ( Also, i think they’re making a knapsack and the guy is calling out what should stay at the building, and what they have to take with them.

    Feel free to ask them when you see them. Student might act arrogant, but generaly they are proud about their traditions and rituals, and love to tell you about it. Especially when you’re foreign.

    • I did notice the Snow White song! I forgot that was in the video. The one with the cane definitely used it as a stick, sort of like a hobo, to carry the one girl’s pack around for a while, probably as a test, since she seemed to have one of the heavier packs. I guess she packed smartly, perhaps.

      I guess I should ask some of them about their tradition next time I see one who is obviously a part of the group. Who knows, maybe I could write a proper article about it all!

  3. I was in Leiden the other day and I saw a lot of students (I’m guessing new ones) cycling around in bright colour tshirts. I don’t know what else they were doing besides that.

    A few years back when I lived in Haarlem I also saw new students on what seemed to be on some kind of scavanger hunt.

    This is the first time I’ve heard about the Utrech tradition though (Is it just an Utrech thing?)

    • There have been lots of student wandering around town this past week with brightly colored matching bags and such. That’s just part of the official welcome that the university does. We’ve had some come by on a scavenger hunt of sorts in the past, too, although in that case it was more specifically the student association/club. As for this particular event with the morning coats, there are other associations in town that do different introduction events. I think it’s just Unitas specifically that does the morning coats.

      • Most students have an eveningsuit instead. As they’re not that active in the morning.
        Usualy they wear a normal suit with a tie for official events. For the special events (like a gala, introduction or lustrum), they suit up in their eveningsuit.

  4. You’d be surprised how readily student club committee members suit up: usually matching colours and definitely a matching tie. The only clubs that would do that in Australia would be the business students’ clubs. Morning suits I’ve not seen before though.

    I do a good job of avoiding Intro Week in Eindhoven: in my experience the freshers come to campus on Monday and then sleep it off until Friday when there’s a massive party somewhere (I only found out about this party last week, but apparently it’s a long tradition). Here’s some observations from 2008:

    • I know we had a series of lectures, discussion groups and parties when I first started at university, but the only thing I specifically remember is the riverboat cruise on the Mississippi for a few hours one of the first evenings. One of the benefits of going to school in New Orleans. Of course, going to school in New Orleans also meant that most people didn’t bother with the majority of the school-organized events, choosing to go explore the French Quarter instead.

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