A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
As I mentioned in my last blog post, when I arrived in Leiden I was shown around during the infamous El Cid week – a week full of church dancing, city tours, and parties. One of the only times when Leiden’s fraternities open their golden doors to the non-committing students of Leiden, and freshers alike. There are four main fraternities which I have learned at the very least you should know exist if you study in Leiden:
Minerva – For the hardcore dutchies only.
Augustinus – The arty farty one
Catena – Amazingly cheap cocktails and a karaoke room.
Quintus – The youngest, and therefore insecure one that compensates by doing the most horrendous stuff.
As there is too much effort involved in joining these fraternities (weeks of hazing, speaking Dutch, and other commitments – sometimes you just have to be Dutch!), I was shown by my guides around Njord. Njord is a rowing club that used to belong to Minerva, but broke off sometime in the seventies I believe and although it still maintains casual links, it has a completely relaxed atmosphere where the common binding influence is that people are there to row! I signed up for the ‘Afroeiperiode’ (6 weeks of being taught how to row in small groups, followed by an adapted triathlon event of running, ergometer, and rowing, called the ‘Corbokaal’).
Through Njord I have met a ton of Dutch students who are great fun, and I’ve managed to form my own team for which we compete in the competitieperiode (a competitive season of small races amongst other things). Njord is not void of its own bizarre traditions however, and the first I was subjected to was the ‘Inauguratie’. To become fully inaugurated all budding members must learn about the clubs history, greatest rowers and vintage years (i.e. when Njord last won ‘De Varsity’) and queue outside ‘the board’ room which is inside the bar. If you leave early without being inaugurated, it’s over, as the door is locked and you can’t get back in, but considering there are about 150+ people in front you the process lasts well into the morning with the last member being inaugurated around 8am. Once you are presented to ‘the board’, you have to answer questions about Njord, taking shots of Jenever for incorrect answers, and sing songs, and present gifts you have brought for them, along with an accompanying story. The bar is open all night, all you can drink, as the bill is split amongst all participants equally the following day.
Meanwhile the night gets rowdy. Plastic cups full of beer are thrown across the room, and people become tired of the process as by 6am you just want to be let in and have it over and done with. Once you do produce a satisfactory performance for the board, you are officially knighted and sent packing on your way with a Njord tie which officially proves you outlasted the whole process.