By Anne Oor
— Amsterdam University College (AUC) and its excellent and diverse students are known within its community for the ‘vegan culture’ that is present. This culture entails a trend of students converting to vegetarian and vegan lifestyles after coming to AUC.
Based on a recent survey conducted through The Excellent and Diverse Facebook group with a response of 200 people, 42,5% of the AUC students say living in the AUC community has definitely influenced thinking and behavior relating to their food choices, and 31% says it has influenced them a little. Additionally, the vast majority confirms that their diet has mostly become more focused on sustainability and eating fewer animal foods. The currently present ‘vegan culture’ at AUC seems to be a result of a reinforcing system in which vegans and vegetarians continuously come to AUC, after which their peers conform to this lifestyle. Out of convenience, for the environment or because of animal cruelty, the reasons for this change differ. Of the aforementioned 200 respondents that have changed their dietary preferences since coming to AUC, the vast majority switched to eating fewer animal foods. Some switched from full-time meat eating to full-time vegan, whereas others simply eat less meat. The trend, however, is clear.
Emma van Schaik, a second-year Science major who is a 10 year-long vegetarian, says she found AUC to be a very accepting environment in which she felt comfortable sharing that she is a vegetarian because of the flexibility of the students. “If there is one thing that’s easy at AUC, it is being a vegetarian,” she says. “People at AUC are generally very conscious of the environment,” she says, adding that she found that many people already were vegetarian when she first came to AUC. However, Van Schaik noticed many converted to vegetarianism and veganism after coming to AUC as well.
Irene Willems, a second-year Science major, is one of them. She came to AUC and had never thought about quitting eating meat before until she moved into a four-person apartment with a vegetarian and a vegan roommate. “My roommate Frankie is vegan and she really showed me how you can reduce dairy and meat products in your diet and still eat nice food,” she explains. “I also did not know about the impact that eating meat had on the planet, so in that sense, AUC has really opened my eyes.” Willems says she thinks the gradual change of finding out about new things is very important in converting to this lifestyle. “For instance, I never ate hummus before AUC, but I can’t imagine my life without hummus right now,” she says.
When asked about whether there exists a culture of judgment concerning dietary preferences, she responds, “I think people don’t mind if others eat meat, but they will be very surprised if you tell them that you haven’t thought about changing your eating habits ever since coming to AUC, because everyone just does.” Talking about judgment, she says: “I think it is a good thing that people are judging a little bit just so they keep you thinking about those kinds of things.”
Luca van der Hoeven, a second-year Social Science major, does not feel judged for her eating habits as a meat-eater. “My friends don’t judge me, and if other people judge me, I really don’t care,” she explains. Van der Hoeven says she thinks the vegan culture at AUC is a good thing but is glad meat is still offered in the canteen at the academic building. “It is not forced on me, I can still decide for myself,” she says.
Editor’s note: This news story is part of a collaboration between The Herring and AUC’s journalism course. The story was entirely reported, written, edited, and fact checked by members of the journalism course. Some material may have been altered by The Herring’s editors to fit its style guidelines.