It is a special sight on Monday afternoon on the Ganzeveld, where the large main tent of CuriousU is set up. Dozens of students are searching on unfamiliar ground and trying to find their way around the campus, with recyclable coffee cups in their hands. Some are resting on a bed in the tent, others are walking towards the campsite near the Carillon, or vice versa. The voice of the Dutch folk singer John de Bever echoes from the music installation: 'Jij Krijgt Die Lach Niet Van Mijn Gezicht'.
A refrain that applies to Alberto Mosso (25). The Italian just scored his lunch on the Boulevard and walks back to the tent at a fast pace. He is visibly enjoying his first full day in the Netherlands. 'I didn't know this university at all, but it's beautiful here. I study Energy Management in Milan and wanted to think about my studies from a different angle. That's why this week seemed so interesting to me, especially the sustainability themes.'
Like most participants, Mosso is staying in a tent this week. He likes that. 'I come from Turin, so I have often been in the mountains. Camping is not new for me, but it is in combination with studying. I am looking forward to the coming days.'
Project leader Elena Tsigki is happy with the return of CuriousU. Before the pandemic, the event often attracted more than three hundred participants, far more than the current two hundred. Nevertheless, she does not speak of a disappointment. 'You notice that students are more cautious and reluctant to travel through corona. Therefore, this is a number we are satisfied with.'
What Tsigki notices is that the field of participants is more diverse than before. 'The participants come from about 45 countries. If you compare that to the number of participants, it is remarkably large. I see groups from Japan, India, but also from ECIU cities and students from the UT. We are particularly pleased with the last group. We do not only receive students, but also professionals and lifelong learners.’
The participants spend the night at the U Park hotel, in tents and in specially set up flexotels. Tsigki is glad that the participants are not sleeping in the burning heat of last week. 'It was no fun putting up the tents, but now the weather is pleasant for the participants. You can see the joy and that is understandable. Many of them had not been able to travel for years. For some, this was even their first big trip ever. The participants mix and make friends and that is exactly the purpose of these days.'
Hasini Lakshika (30) is someone who exemplifies the international nature of the event. The PhD candidate comes from Sri Lanka, works at the university in Tromsø, Norway, and is in Enschede this week to learn about Future Technology. 'This is my first time in the Netherlands, but it is great here. The courses are interesting, everyone is helpful and the welcome was warm. I hope to learn as much as possible in the coming days', she says.
Unlike Derik Harkin (18), Lakshika is sleeping at the U Parkhotel this week. Harkin enjoys spending the night in a tent. For the first time in over a decade, he has left Ireland for a learning week in the Netherlands. 'I am studying in our capital at Dublin City University and am here mainly for the Design the Future course, which seems interesting. My education gave me the opportunity to go here and I grabbed it without hesitation. I don't regret it, because I like it here. On Wednesday I will visit Philips in Eindhoven and I will try to meet as many people here as possible.'
CuriousU lasts until Tuesday 23 August.