The Price To Pay To Be Part Of Minerva

December 19, 2010

By Isabelle Furby

In the Netherlands they have several student organizations which in the American system would be the equivalent of a Sorority or Fraternity. Just like in the American system, you must pledge to become a member; this usually lasts a week and consists of a series of extremely uncomfortable and painful activities. In Holland this is called the “Kennismakingstijd” (hazing), and I recently took part to become a member of the supposedly infamous Minerva house. However, I hope to show through this article that this connotation is wrong.

Since arriving at Webster University, I’ve noticed that there is some dislike of these Dutch student groups, and I’ve also seen that people say a lot about these houses without actually understanding or knowing what they are all about. I know that Minerva wants to have a good association with Webster University and therefore I want to explain and share my experiences of being an international student living in the LLC, while also being a member of the Minerva Society.

To say that the Dutch ontgroening (initiation) for Minerva is tough is an understatement.  It began on Saturday the 11th of September at 15:00 and ended on Sunday the 19th of September and by Saturday evening you were wishing you could go home and wondering why you ever signed up for the society. I managed to put up with three days of intense pain. Although I am not allowed to share much of my experience due to the strict confidentiality rules of the society, I can tell you how I was feeling and what it had made me realize. I can also tell you that I don’t think most of my fellow campers and I have cried so many times in a single couple of days, and although physically they don’t lay a hand on you, they find plenty of other ways to make you feel pain and belittled. It only takes a matter of hours for you to put value on so many of the things you take for granted: the time to eat, to choose what you eat and the one thing I currently look forward to the most, sitting on a chair. Never in my life have I had such a strong desire to go to school and just be able to sit in a chair. Being able to escape to the haven of school even just for a few hours was something to look forward to. I got to the point of wishing I had taken more classes so I could have been at Webster more often.

But really the hazing begins two days before the camp, when you receive a paklijst (a list of things you need to pack.)  These are all the things you have to take with you, some of which are completely normal items that of course you will need, but there are about 30 items that make absolutely no sense to you. Little do you know that when you arrive, if you did not bring some of the items because they were impossible to find or you felt they weren’t important, this will result in your being tortured more.

Deciding to join this type of sorority/fraternity is something that should not be taken lightly and should be a decision that you completely stand behind because if you don’t, you most likely won’t be able to survive the week. Knowing what comes after is something that makes it completely worth it.

I’ve noticed since I arrived here at Webster that the students perceptive of Minerva are extremely negative. They feel as though all they do is party and make noise, they are all the same, and that guys are jerks that look for fights. However, this is not at all that they stand for; being a member creates a strong bond between you and your jaargenoten (the other 300 people that joined the same year you did). That’s what they want to promote:  camaraderie. My uncle was a member and he still goes on holiday once a year with the men he lived in a house with at Minerva. They also teach you structure and work ethic and although I do admit that some of their rituals are slightly obnoxious, they want you to learn the history and the way the society works. The parties, I admit, are pretty insane, but they also have an amazing library in their main building where they hold study sessions. All “first years” receive a mentor which is someone who will help make sure your grades stay up and that you understand that school comes before Minerva.  As a member of Minerva they ask for all grades to be submitted so that they are able to make sure that students are keeping up with the grades.

I wrote this last part at the end of my fourth day and so far I can tell you I was exhausted.  I also could not wait for Sunday, which is when my inauguration dinner took place.  This is the main reason you’re doing it all, so that you can become a member and on the last night you have a huge dinner that welcomes you into the sorority. On the last night we got to have a cocktail party with all of our other newly joined members so that we could get to know them and it’s times like that that remind you it’s all worth it and to just keep going. I have never felt such a strong feeling of accomplishment and relief as I did when that week had finally ended.

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