You name it, Wageningen has a club for it. After the introduction days (AID), everyone has heard of the main student societies with their clubhouses, year groups and publicity teams. But what is it like to belong to a small student society? What brings these people together, what do they do, and who organizes it?
Lodi van Herwijnen (Ichthus, 60 members), Eva Everloo (Vegan Student Association, 50 members), Anne Swinkels (Yggdrasilstam, 31 members) and Rick Baats (Brabant Student Guild, 37 members) are all members of a ‘mini’ society. To introduce them briefly: Ichthus is a Christian society, which is not linked to one specific denomination. The ‘Ichthians’ get together every week in Ons Huis community centre and run events including the annual Saint Pancake’s day, when they make hundreds of pancakes. The Vegan Student Association (VSA) is all about – no surprises here – the vegan diet and all that it entails, such as ethical, environmental and health aspects. They often get together at ThuisWageningen or meet out of doors. The Yggdrasilstam is a scout pack, which shares a clubhouse in the woods with the Wageningen scouts. The Brabant Student Guild (BSG) is primarily (but not exclusively) for students from Brabant province, spends a weekend a year in a Brabant village, and came into existence, rumour has it, after a row about whether Bavaria counts as a drinkable beer.
So what convinced the students to join these clubs? Van Herwijnen: ‘Ichthus members share the same worldview so you understand each other better. At the same time, the membership is very diverse and that appealed to me.’ Baats was initially attracted to BSG out of amusement. ‘When you first arrive in Wageningen you hear loads of crazy stories about the big societies. I saw the funny side of joining such a tiny little club.’
Small but diverse
You might assume that the student scout pack mainly exists for students who were scouts as kids, but that is not the case, says Swinkels. ‘We have members who’ve been scouts since they were four, but we also have people who’ve never tied a knot or pitched a tent in their lives. That makes for some nice interaction, and we also have activities like cocktail parties or laser gaming. It’s not all cooking over a campfire.’
Activities are diverse in the other societies too. Needless to say, the Vegan club VSA often eat together, but they also host lectures, workshops and drinks parties, says Everloo. And in Ichthus, the Praise & Prayer evenings are popular, but they run sporting activities and games evenings too.
Precisely because the society is so small, everyone can have a lot of say in what happens on club nights. Swinkels: ‘We really do decide for ourselves what the programme is going to look like. With us, you have far more say in things than in a big society.’ Van Herwijnen: ‘Because we are so small, there’s a serious chance that you will do a year on the board at some point. Then you can really influence policy and the direction the club goes in. And you can invite the whole society to your house.’ Other advantages are mentioned too: there are few obligations, you know everyone, the ties are closer. Everloo: ‘You always see the same people at activities, and you pick up the conversation where you left off last time. You really make lasting friendships.’ Swinkels agrees: ‘It feels like an extended friendship group. But it is big enough to choose who you hang out with; you are not saddled with each other.’ The only disadvantage? Baats: ‘It can be difficult to find people who want to be on the board. It is a lot of work, and we don’t have a big pool of people to choose from.’
You can invite the whole society to your home
Misschien toch wel handig om nét iets meer leden te hebben. Stel dat er na deze AID 300 nieuwe aanmeldingen zijn, is So a few more members might not be a bad idea. What if 300 people signed up after this AID? Would that be cause for celebration? ‘Well, a slight expansion would be fine. About 90 members would be terrific, but we don’t really want more than that,’ says Van Herwijnen of Ichthus, which currently has 60 members. The scout pack doesn’t need to get any bigger either, says Swinkels. ‘The strength of the society is the tight network. If we expand, it will turn into a different kind of society. And organizing things would get a lot harder too. Now we can easily cook for 25 people, but once you get towards 40, you need more professional equipment.’ Baats: ‘We wouldn’t have a clue what to do with all those members. Being so small is precisely the charm of it.’
If we grow, it will turn into a different kind of society: now we can easily cook for 25 people