Now

Foto: Sam Rentmeester Tonie Mudde is chef Binnenland bij de Volkskrant. Hij studeerde lucht- en ruimtevaarttechniek  van 1996-2003.

Foto: Sam Rentmeester , Tonie Mudde is chef Binnenland bij de Volkskrant. Hij studeerde lucht- en ruimtevaarttechniek van 1996-2003.

While I was on holiday I bumped into a student from Delft. Her: twenty years old, studying at TPM, living on the Jacoba van Beierenlaan. Me: 36, studied at AE, also once lived on the Jacoba van Beierenlaan. ‘So, these mobiles phones…’ I began. ‘We didn’t have those in my day. So I’m a bit curious: when you’re at the clubhouse of the student association with your friends, do you all stand around playing with your phones, chatting and calling?’ She smiled in the same way that she probably smiles at her ninety-year-old granddad when he asks daft questions about young people today. ‘Oh, no. ‘The use of phones is prohibited there, just as it is in the dining room. Anyone who uses their phone gets a glass of beer poured over it.’ What a great vision, I thought: a high-tech university city like Delft, full of teens and twenty-somethings who have decided to create a mobile-free oasis. So you can you still sometimes speak to each other without having one eye on Facebook or Google at the same time. The conversation continued and I became more enthusiastic about my old university town, and especially the generation currently studying there. In the study circles that I once moved in, a job at a multinational company was practically the highest achievement you could hope for. Think of Shell, Airbus, important consultancy work. That ambition is now less widespread, she assured me. Starting your own business with your own great idea is a prospect that she and her friends find at least as attractive these days. She told me about what is happening at YesDelft, where students prepare themselves to start up their own companies. They really think of everything, from cheap office space to help with redeeming patents. ‘You know the storm umbrella?’ she asked. ‘That umbrella that you can use even in the middle of a force-ten gale? That all started at YesDelft.’ Yes, I did know the storm umbrella. The inventors of that umbrella must be millionaires by now, and no doubt all at the expense of some cumbersome umbrella multinational which saw no real need to innovate. As we said goodbye, she told me about her plans for the coming academic year. She was going to Amsterdam for six months to study how intelligence services operate. She thought it would be good to go and study something totally different outside Delft for a while. Different people, different culture, different ideas. ‘And the credits that you get in Amsterdam…’ I started to ask, expecting her to launch into some lament about how different universities refuse to recognise each other’s study credits and other Kafkaesque woes. But she had already finished my sentence for me: ‘…they count towards my minor in Delft. No problem at all.’ She waved goodbye and off she went. I sat there thinking of all those newspaper columns written about students and studying in the year 2014. Everything was better in our day is usually the gist of them. But nothing could be further from the truth, it seems. The best time to be a student is now.

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