‘Finally we can host a real summer school again’

| Rense Kuipers

With the covid regulations gone, summer schools CuriousU and Inspire-U can take place again, in July and August. Project leaders Elena Tsigki (CuriousU) and Marjolein Lindeman (Inspire-U) are delighted to host fully physical events again, but do see some post-corona hesitation among potential participants.

Photo by: Gijs van Ouwerkerk
At a previous CuriousU edition

So, the summer schools are returning to their full form?

Tsigki (Strategy and Policy department): ‘Yes, finally we can host a real summer school again! Things look a lot better than last year, when we had switch to a fully online version of CuriousU. Although we only received a few covid-specific questions from participants so far, we will take some extra hygiene precautions. And it’s important to have a plan in place should one of the participants become infected.’

Lindeman (Pre-U): ‘We are also taking similar precautions, just in case. Inspire-U is returning after an absence of almost four years; we hosted our first edition in 2018, priorities from the Executive Board were elsewhere in 2019 and in 2020 and 2021, covid threw a spanner in the works. But now we’re back, finally.’

Are there any major changes in the respective programs?

Lindeman: ‘We only changed one out of four courses. The rest of the Inspire-U program remains the same as in 2018. We did make a major change in our location. In 2018, we used to have a festival site with tents for participants. Now we are able to have our participants stay at a central location: the log cabins at Boerderij Bosch. That is also better from a safety perspective, considering the age group of our target audience – high school students of 15-18 years old.’

Tsigki: ‘CuriousU has the same recipe as before: a summer school in festival style, in which we combine interesting courses with fun activities. Participants have fifteen different courses to choose from – over the years we were able to increase our offering quite a lot. The main change for us is that we now also offer a ‘flexotel’ option as accommodation type. It’s like a middle ground between a tent and a hotel room.’

How many participants do you expect?

Lindeman: ‘About sixty participants already enrolled, while we aim for about hundred participants. Interestingly enough, out of those sixty, only ten participants are Dutch. There are a lot of different groups from other countries in Europe – specifically one large group from Turkey. But there are also multiple participants from the US and even one participant from Uganda. The strange thing is that we didn’t have to make much marketing effort to reach these numbers; only a few social media posts and a website with information.’

Tsigki: ‘Over a hundred participants have already enrolled for CuriousU, from thirty different nationalities. We also see a lot of groups attending, for instance from Japan and India. We expect to reach about 200-250 participants. That’s a bit less than previous editions, when we received about 350 participants.’

Is there an explanation for that?

Tsigki: ‘Covid has changed a lot, also in people’s mindsets. What we now see is that participants from non-EU countries signed up quite early – which is logical, considering that they have to arrange visas. But specifically amongst EU countries, there seems to be some hesitation. People seem to be anxious to commit early on, because they’re afraid these kinds of bigger events get cancelled. That’s what we noticed in the questions we received, at least. Probably people will want to wait as long as possible and enroll last-minute.’

Lindeman: ‘It seems that people want some form of certainty, after these uncertain years. But we are both confident and excited that things will go on as planned. We also heard from a participant that she couldn’t wait to finally come, after being stuck in her room for about two years.’

At the first Inspire-U edition.

To what extent will you rely on UT resources, specifically staff and students?

Tsigki: ‘We depend a lot on academic staff at the UT and everyone seems enthusiastic to do their bit. It’s also nice to see new academic staff members applying to give lectures.’

Lindeman: ‘Our courses are offered by students from Pre-U, two per course. It’s a bit different than usual for them; they are used to teach at Dutch high schools. This audience will be a bit more diverse, so we’re preparing them to deal with different cultures. We are still looking academic staff members who want to give a guest lecture. That’s been proven quite difficult, since Inspire-U takes place at the end of July. Most people are on holiday by then.’

Inspire-U takes place from 24 to 29 July. Find more information here.

CuriousU takes place from 14 to 23 August. Find more information here.