By Adesholla Bishop
AUC’s social scene is largely dominated by activities organised by AUC’s various committees, commissions, and teams (CCTs), ranging from Scribble Sessions with Scriptus (the student-run magazine) to weekly borrels with AUCafé (the student-run café).
But fluctuating regulations throughout the last two years meant that CCTs had to adjust their events to comply with COVID-19 measures; towards the end of last month, however, the Dutch government lifted almost all of them, which allowed CCTs to host in-person events with minimal limitations. How is student life at AUC changing in this refreshing period of normality?
The lifting of COVID-19 restrictions was especially a relief for the CCTs whose events rely on interactions between students, such as AUC’s dancing committee AUCanDance. During the pandemic, they struggled most to maintain student engagement. “We hosted almost 80 percent of our classes online [in the 2020-2021 academic year],” says AUCanDance. “Very few people attended these classes, and it was not exciting for us to organise them anymore.”
The pandemic posed a similar challenge to the morale of both participants and board members of Cuisine, AUC’s food appreciation committee. “Half the point of cooking and eating is to enjoy doing so with others,” Cuisine says. Despite Cuisine’s efforts to develop online activities or supply students with ingredients to cook specific recipes in their own rooms, “getting enough people to sign up was a bit of a struggle.”
“Although it isn’t necessarily hard to adjust to the regulations – they’re often straightforward – it was always very disappointing,” says Sarah Lange, Committee Affairs Officer of AUC’s Student Association (AUCSA). “Most students and organisers are done with following activities online, which reduced the possibilities of alternative activities and the number of events held,” Lange continues.
Compared to the subdued feeling in the dorms and the AB in the last two years, the atmosphere of departure from COVID-19 regulations is now tangible: students cannot pass through the AB without being informed of an upcoming event, and a quiet weekend in the dorms seems to be a thing of the past. The AUCSA events calendar indicates that nearly every day since the Dutch government lifted most restrictions, there has been at least one event hosted by a committee, commission, or team.
CCTs have not hesitated to take advantage of the drastic loosening of restrictions, and student life has rapidly reawakened. OnStage, AUC’s performing arts committee, explains that “the lifting of the COVID-19 measures allows us to finally host larger audiences again, which is key to the vibe of our events.” OnStage also says that organising events has become more straightforward than in the past couple of years: “There is a lot less administration to take care of and it is easier to create the right atmosphere without all the regulations.”
Similarly, AUCanDance has begun hosting dance classes at Science Park’s Universum Sports Centre (USC), which provides a more conducive environment to learning than the dorm courtyards they occasionally used whilst regulations were stricter. “There is no limit on the number of people we can host [at USC], and so we have been able to host some extremely fun classes,” AUCanDance states.
PlayUC, AUC’s games committee, is also glad to return to their common room, though they were able to make do with online resources during the pandemic: “We revived the PlayUC Discord server, which had been unused for a while,” the committee says, adding that this helped cater to first- and second-years who hadn’t experienced PlayUC’s events pre-COVID. Despite this, PlayUC explains that “playing games together around a table is still very different from calling over Discord,” and that they are excited to be able to hold weekly, in-person game nights once again.
The various CCTs are evidently glad to be able to host events with minimal restrictions, but it seems that the current re-emergence of in-person events at AUC will not be a carbon copy of the social scene prior to the pandemic. “We will start to stray from some of the events we held often in the past, like tea times, in favour of more interactive and unique events,” says Zen, AUC’s relaxation and meditation committee.
Like Zen, OnStage used the pandemic to develop a new event: “We set up a new project, a Tiny Desk concert fully curated by AUC students,” OnStage says. “We will record it as well, which we probably wouldn’t have done if we didn’t have the online experience from the pandemic.”
Some CCTs, meanwhile, are simply enjoying the opportunity to host events as they did pre-COVID: “We won’t be changing much in how we host our events, since socialising in person seems to be what people were lacking in quarantine,” says AUC’s Diversity Commission (DivCom).
Cuisine expresses a similar sentiment: “We are not planning on any major changes to how we organise events post-COVID restrictions. In general, we are just excited to be able to do some things that were impossible to do last semester, so stay tuned!”
Whether new or old, AUC students have a wide range of events to look forward to: a feminist film screening organized by DivCom and Cut (AUC’s film appreciation committee), a Murder Mystery Dinner collaboration between PlayUC and Cuisine, and a bonfire hosted by Zen, just to name a few.
“Because of the pandemic, we [AUCSA] had money left over from the last year as well as the last semester,” says Lange. AUCSA has successfully encouraged CCTs to take advantage of this, and Lange adds that “if all goes well, we’ll have an amazing semester ahead of us with many events!”
The Herring also reached out to, but did not hear back from, the following committees and commission for comment: AUCafé, Catch, Couture, Cut, Dormsessions, Junket, Pangea, Raw, Solace, and the Sustainability Commission.