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By sharing the stage during the academic opening with ‘rector for 1 week’ Jana Goyvaerts, Caroline Pauwels wanted to underline the important role students play at the VUB. A perfect example of this was given by students Jimmy Hendry Nzally (International Student Platform) and Daniel Van Den Broecke (Studentenraand) in BOZAR, by giving speeches which revolved around student accomplishments and shared enthusiasm for the emancipatory project that is VUB.
Jimmy spoke first. With a brand new Master’s degree in linguistics and literary studies, and about to embark on a PhD in political sciences, the student from The Gambia explained how he first started at the VUB a year ago and how he quickly integrated into the student community.
“The VUB made me a better person”, he said enthusiastically. Chances are he also meant the VUB instilled a lot of energy in him, given that very soon after arriving he was representing the university at conferences and seminars, here and abroad. Through his contributions to De Moeial, the student magazine became more bilingual. And to put the icing on the cake, Jimmy was one of the founding members of ASCOM, the new VUB African Students Community. His advice to new international students mirrored his own experiences: not just to excel in their studies but to make friends and share the experience of the history and culture of this beautiful place. He closed his speech by quoting Albert Einstein: ”Strive not to be a success but to be of value”, adding “the VUB is the perfect place for this”.
Next up was Daniel Van Den Broecke. He already anticipated the rector’s speech and especially her plea for more rebelliousness in the world. “The student council together with the students looks at the existing structures with a critical eye and tries to rebel in those cases where it doesn’t agree with them”. He summed up what this spirit and thinking had already led to in the past: the group cramming period, the ‘lounge bar 1050’ project, the Basic Fit Lounge, and, of course, the night busses that will run every Thursday from the centre of Brussels to Etterbeek and back again.
The jump from this to putting the university clearer on the map isn’t a big one. But Daniel gave it a nice twist: “We also want Brussels to be proud of the VUB”, he said. He called on the students to be more connected to the university. “You are here for some of the best years of your life. It is up to you to increase your say in the organisation”.