| Niels ter Meer

A new quartile, new courses to pick — again. So how has that ‘new nominal’ been going, student columnist Niels ter Meer?


I’m really making it a tradition — signing up the day before the deadline for courses. As in, I’ve signed up for some, but I still have to pick: two courses, not three or four. The amount of work I want to take on hasn’t changed either. What has changed, is how well I feel about it.

Don’t worry, I’m still behind my ‘new nominal’, but more of the math behind it has sunk in last quartile. The idea for that new nominal is to spread out the study load, those 42 hours of hard work per week, to stay sane and have time for other things besides studying. But if I want my Master’s diploma someday (I mean, that’s the preferable scenario), all that work still has to happen. Fewer credits per quartile means they’ll spill over into the future. Half a year extra just for the courses, more if you extend this to the rest of the programme. Nominal-ish, but still yikes.

You (or me in this scenario) taking more time with your study, consciously or not, will cause you to slowly shear away from your peers. They’ll do everything in just one year; after which they’ll move on, while you move to the lecture halls still. They’ll start with their internships and graduation assignments, leaving you to struggle during your exams. The people who you’ve spent most of your bachelor’s with continue on, while you stay behind. I want to take more time, but this sucks — am I not doing something right..?

While that feeling is somewhat annoying, placing this in the context of the discussion of ‘who belongs at a university’ makes it sting even more. With the Binding Study Advice (a contradictio in terminis if I’ve ever seen one) looming on the horizon already, that aforementioned discussion will inevitably break loose soon. Endless discussions about how many ECs we should require, whether we should make exceptions again or not, about that we shouldn’t encourage those who can’t perform up to those high expectations and pressures to stay — you know the drill. If you’re spreading out your studies, you’re not earning as many ECs as expected, you don’t fall into any formal exception — you don’t really perform up to those standards. You feel called out, as if you don’t really belong here.

That’s not to say you’re doing something wrong, or that you don’t belong. The study advisor can tell you a hundred times that most don’t make it in a year either, and what you’re doing is okay; your track coordinator can tell you a hundred times that you just like to take more time to think and that that’s okay; you can tell yourself a hundred times that you do it to manage your mental health, and that that’s okay — but it won’t matter. It’s an irrational itch. Other people (seem to) manage, so you should too. Somehow.

Taking more time was a conscious decision. I want to take more time, both for myself to do other things and to study, I want to let everything simmer so that it properly lands. But my new nominal isn’t the actual nominal; the system isn’t set up for what I want to do. That causes both these feelings of unease, and the study delay. It’s going to suck and sting for a bit, for at least half a year longer —  nominalish. But it’s worth it. I think.

Or, in other words, you’re all stuck with me for just a bit longer. That must be fun, right‽

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