A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
In the category of Dutch student language, dispuut is one of the hardest words to translate. Not only is there no equivalent English word for it, simply making it sound English it doesn’t help either, as we actually like each other, so dispute may not be quite right. I’ll just stick with the Dutch word for now. But what are we really? Back in the El Cid, I gave a tour through my association to a group of international students and encountered exactly this problem. In short, a dispuut is a name for one of the different kinds of internal structures within a student association. I don’t know where this need for structure comes from, but I guess we all just want to belong to something. Most associations have either a horizontal structure, meaning that groups are formed within the people who arrived in the same year, often called “jaarclub” (yearclub), or a vertical structure, in which there are existing groups with members from all different kinds of arrival years, and which new people join every year. The latter is a dispuut. It’s one of the things often associated with the Dutch stereotype of students: preppy, rude, slightly slutty and only interested in partying. Beautifully demonstrated in the following clip (Dutch, but I guess you’ll get the gist – body language goes a long way).
My own experiences tell a completely different story. As with all things Leiden, there are not only all kinds of associations, but even within those associations there are very different disputen. We’re all people after all, and human beings (luckily) tend to be very different from each other. I can only speak from my own experiences, so I’ll tell you a bit about my own dispuut.
The people who started Corduroy (don’t ask, this was back in 1997), specifically wanted to set themselves apart from some of the more stereotypical, traditional “right” disputen. To this day, we’re still one of the most open-minded and “left” disputen around. One of our best known and most popular (open!) activities is the McGala. We all dress up in formal wear, bring plates, forks, knives, tablecloths and even candles and dine. At the McDonald’s. Nothing is more hilarious than seeing people walk in, spotting 60 people enjoying an elaborate dinner (we even had waiters last year), and slowly backing away again.
Of course there’s more to it than just some student-pranks. Eventually, we’re just a large group of friends, who get together to have fun within our association and take parts in contests and attend drinks and parties; or who get together outside of it, for movie-nights, trips to the beach or girls/boys nights out.
It’s a hilarious bunch of weirdo’s, some of them misfits back at school, some of them the popular kids, but none of them will judge you. And I’m not saying my dispuut is the only one like that. Yes, some of them bear more resemblance to the fraternity stereotypes, but some of them are even further away from that, and there’s something there for everybody.