In gesprek met eerstejaars debaters

doorBionda Merckens

In gesprek met eerstejaars debaters

In gesprek met eerstejaars debaters is een serie waarin we eerstejaars vragen hoe ze hun eerste bezoek aan een debatvereniging hebben ervaren. Wat waren hun eerste indrukken? Waarom zijn ze gaan debatteren en wat zijn hun ambities?

We’re doing the first episode in English, because the first student we’re interviewing is international: Jannis Hussain

Jannis, tell us a bit about yourself…

To sum it up, I am a half-Indian German who is currently studying in the Netherlands. After finishing highschool in my hometown Munich, I spent a year working for an environmental NGO in Berlin, after which I decided that it was time to experience living in a different country. So now here I am, studying Economics in Utrecht with a minor in Psychology.

Jannis, that’s interesting – it seems you can bring a lot of different perspectives to Dutch culture. What do you think of the Netherlands so far?

I think the word “gezellig” sums it up quite well. It’s definitely a friendly country and I feel that it is way ahead of any other nation that I have been to so far at accepting different nationalities and cultures into its society. At the same time many Dutch people seem to feel extremely comfortable just having coffee in their pretty little brick houses and not worrying too much about what is happening to the rest of the world. But once you have understood the Dutch way of thinking and start getting around by bike, shopping at HEMA or Albert Heijn and using half a ton of hair gel, it’s quite a nice place to be in.

So, you’re currently a member of the Utrecht Debating Society – how is that?

Pretty cool. Debating is great of course, but I had no idea it would come with so many fun socials. For one thing, there is of course the usual after-debate beer at t’Pantje which has become an essential element of my weekly drinking schedule. If one stays long enough, discussions tend to turn quite philosophical which I personally enjoy a lot, especially after a few beers. And then there are game evenings, the Dies and the like where debaters start acting just as silly as other people do and that’s just great.

How and when did you decide to debate? And why?

Actually, it was more of a spontaneous move. I had just arrived in the small town of Utrecht and was trying to meet as many weird and interesting people as possible to make me feel more at home. After all, I had spent a lot of my voluntary year being surrounded by vegan hippies. So I thought I would look into university nerd culture and went to UDS.

So, describe your first visit to UDS – What did you like and what didn’t you like?

Mhh, I don’t think it was all that spectacular. To be honest I had expected (and feared) the whole thing to be much grander. After all, they had been advertising with the slogan “Want to go to Oxford and Cambridge?”. When I saw a few people chilling in a small classroom with coffee and biscuits I was not entirely sure I had found the right place, but everybody was very welcoming. The only other thing I remember was being astonished at how fast everybody was speaking during the debates. I had expected the speeches to be more Obama-style. I remember that, being a wing, I was writing without a pause and was completely unable to make any sense of my notes afterwards.

Ever been to a tournament? Which one?

Actually, just recently I went to the Vienna IV as a judge. It was a great experience, everything was so well organised and people were very committed. And of course seeing some extremely good debaters was quite inspiring. I will probably never forget how a team from Israel had me almost convinced that the Iraq war was actually an awesome idea. Quite a scary thought!

Would you say debating is actually good for you?

Yes, I would say so. I find debating quite an intriguing way to engage in political issues, especially having to defend a position that is absolutely against one’s own beliefs. And, most importantly, I have met some great people at UDS who have really added a lot to my Dutch experience so far.

So, what’s your long-term ambition for UDS? And your role in it?

That’s a good question actually. I am quite happy with the status quo, to be honest, which is having a good time at the debating evenings, enjoying the beer after and taking part in the occasional tournament. I am considering applying for a board position next year, though. Let’s see whether they are willing to put a German in charge.

Jannis, thanks for sharing your experience and have fun at UDS!

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