Column Ilja: Parents’ day

‘Looking through my father’s eyes, I can see how great my studies are.’

I recently took my father to my study association’s parents’ day. Considering that his frame of reference is his own student life and student time at the end of the eighties, I made it my mission to show him what studying is like in 2022.

The day kicked off with an introduction (a study association is not a student association, and ours is, of course, the very best), followed by a professor with rock star status explaining the content of the programme in broad strokes. All of it in one hour: forests in general, forests in Europe, forests in the Netherlands, tree biology, scenarios of doom, global politics, obstructionists and, above all, what to do about them.

We join the coffee queue, somewhat overwhelmed. ‘There are many doors open in my mind, but it is a lot of information to process, isn’t it?’  my father says. I feel a slight sense of superiority. ‘I hope you manage to process it during lunch because we also have an afternoon programme.’

For the real Wageningen student experience, I urged my father to bring his bicycle

For the real Wageningen student experience, I urged my father to bring his bicycle so that we could cycle to the afternoon field trip together. We are the only ones. Upon our sweaty arrival, we are told we are ‘ hardcore’. The weather is beautiful this Saturday. All parents donned their hiking boots, but the excursion leader showed up in slippers. My fear that I might be bored because I’ve heard it all before is unfounded. Today, I see everything through the eyes of the outsider. This is actually a great programme.

On the way back to my house, we evaluate the programme: a very current study and an informative day, but a physically and mentally challenging day. My dad, who ran half a marathon the previous week, struggles with the Wageningse Berg. ‘ You go on ahead,’  he says, panting. Cycling ahead with determination, I remind him that this is a typical day at the university. ‘Yes,’ he gasps. ‘I’m afraid you will remind me of that fact for years to come.’

Ilja Bouwknegt is 23, a bachelor’s student in Forest and Nature Management, and is an active member of the study association WSBV Sylvatica en occasionally does nocturnal bat research.

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