Three days to bring out the best in yourself and get to know the UvA community: this summer's edition of the three-day Get Ready introduction programme was another resounding success, with useful workshops, an inspiring session with none other than Jandino Asporaat, and the chance to meet and receive coaching from an enthusiastic group of student mentors.
Get Ready is aimed at first-year students from all faculties who are first generation students; students who are the first in their family to attend higher education.
The programme is also open to students who have transferred to the university from senior secondary vocational education and/or professional education. As it turns out, studying in Amsterdam isn't easy for everyone. For example, students' socioeconomic class and ethnic background appear to determine their advancement through the education system and chances of academic success. We also know that students experience many exclusionary mechanisms once they enter university. Raisa Sambo, Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) team project leader: ‘I believe that success occurs when opportunity meets preparation. The challenge of connecting with the academic world, for example, has to do with building a relevant network, cultural capital and the combination of not immediately recognizing yourself in the students around you.’
Get Ready got off to a strong start with a visit from stand-up comedian, actor, television presenter and entrepreneur Jandino Asporaat. Over the course of a candid and memorable interview, he described his childhood, the difficulties he faced growing up and his own personal sources of strength. He shared some words of wisdom and advice for the attending students; everyone gets insecure in new situations, but things always work out for the best if you believe in yourself. Jandino: ‘You always need to find opportunities. If you can't: just create them!’ Jandino's appearance marked the end of the first part of the morning. The rest of the session – led by enthusiastic moderator Mahutin Awunou – was all about getting to know yourself and others. Student mentors from all faculties supervised the event with great care and enthusiasm.
As student mentors Marwa Ahmed explained, the mentors learned as much from the experience as the participating students. ‘Offering students tips and tricks to boost their self-confidence also helps us to reflect on ourselves. It made me more aware of my own progress and the things I'm still struggling with. I hope I'll also reflect a bit more on some of the things Jandino mentioned, such as “who are you when there's no one else around?”. That can really help you to focus: Who am I, what do I want, where do I want to go? After all, I'm the one who lends my own diploma its real value. You can earn all the certificates in the world, but you'll never get anywhere if you don't believe in yourself. The programme really inspired me as a mentor.’
The students also attended useful workshops on resilience (provided by Meike Heeremans of the Student Career centre) and recognising and appreciating cultural capital with Imane Chentouf of ECHO. The event also included a workshop on the Ikigai model by Marie Hoogstraten and Anna Holland and a storytelling workshop with Ian Kenny. The second day offered an opportunity to get to know the UvA and broader academic world. Michel Leezenberg inspired the students and mentors alike with his lecture on the origins of science, questioning the prevailing image of Western European universities' central role and their scientific history and traditions. His talk ended with an urgent appeal to the students to stay critical and keep asking questions. After the lecture, students had the opportunity to attend various workshops on planning and enhancing their studies as well as practical issues related to studying.
Day two ended with a very special assignment by Raoul Vertrouwd of the Passie voor je toekomst (Passionate about your future) foundation: write a letter to yourself. Where are you now and where you do you see yourself in a year's time? The students will receive their own letter on the welcome-back day. After two days of hybrid teaching methods, the third day was devoted to meeting each other face to face.
A lively boat trip through Amsterdam with over 50 students on board ended at the Pacific restaurant, where everyone got to know each other better and start off the academic year on a high note over food and drinks.
Want to know more? Contact CDO team project leader Raisa Sambo firstname.lastname@example.org