Members' Weekend June 25th, 2017

With the academic year coming to an end, I could boil down what I’ve learned in my first year as an Econometrics & Operations Research student into two simple statements: there exists an element in the set of seasons such that on some days of the year, the probability of a rainy day in the Netherlands (surprisingly) approaches 0. (Corollary: we define this element in the season set as summer. Yes, the Netherlands has a summer.) And (ii) as the days of the year approach summer, time spent in the library approaches 0 hours and the need to celebrate after a long year increases exponentially. So it all boils down to this weekend in summer, June 16, 17, and 18. The moments we’ve shared with our fellow Vectumeers – often starting with an afternoon activity and ending on Wednesday mornings Tuesday evenings stumbling onto Tongersestraat – these moments served as a sneak peek to what we could expect from this year’s Members’ Weekend. 

 

Older students got me excited. But also curious. Members’ Weekend is the Vectum’s final social activity of the year, where students from all years of the programme would, as the name suggests, spend the weekend together. First of all, there was asymmetric information w.r.t. where we would be going, only a few selected among the 37 participants knew our mysterious weekend location. As we gathered to leave Maastricht together, Jeroen cleared the air. “We’re going to Gulpen!” As a first-time participant at Members’ Weekend, there was still so much I did not know. What will we do when we get there? How fun will it be? Who will make it back alive?

 

Some of us naively accepted that we would be spending our weekend a bit closer to the Maas than hoped for. Yet little did I know that while the most of us were kicking off our weekend in Gulpen’s water park, Lea, Anne, and Marc were busy in Ammeldingen bei Neuerburg, a small German village close to Luxembourg, preparing to welcome over 30 incoming econometrics students. This is where we would actually spend our weekend. After a few fun hours of waterslides and whirlpools, we split our group into different cars, with each driver determined to find the shortest path from Gulpen to Ammeldingen. 

 

Luckily, the German weather was sunny enough upon arrival for us to have BBQ for dinner as planned. The board introduced a mystery, whodunit game in which Stan used his knowledge from Game Theory courses to claim victory. We then continued with a pub quiz. As budding econometricians, some questions implored us to flex our quantitative skills, such as “how many different nationalities are present at this weekend?” or “how far away are we from Maastricht?” Admittedly, the quiz was more comedic and tongue-in-cheek than it was mathematical, which came as a relief after some challenging exams. We then rounded off our first evening with some karaoke to tune our voices in preparation for Saturday evening’s Cantus. 

Our lucky streak with good weather continued on Saturday, which was crucial for us to make the most of our daytime activity. After breakfast, we made our way to the Naturpark Teufelsschlucht, which means “the devil’s canyon” in German. This mountainous and rocky plateau offered an invigorating change from the flat Dutch plains. The park itself comprised several hectares of land where a now dormant volcano once erupted millions of years ago, thus leaving its surroundings teeming with some outstanding geological fine-tuning. For instance, some rocks would tower even over the trees. Deeper into the canyon, we could feel the temperature dropping, which can be refreshing when you’re outdoors during a summer day. Our guide also organised a treasure hunt for us that included bows and arrows, climbing, and hiking. We were equipped with some gadgets that could come in handy in the forest, such as a GPS, and a few clues and directions. Along the way, our two new friends Alex and Josh kept us company until we cracked all the codes and claimed our treasure. Alas, I won’t reveal what the treasure was – not to spoil the surprise for future participants.

 

Hunting for treasure got us thirsty, just in time for Saturday evening’s awaited Cantus. The Cantus is a venerated Dutch tradition that has become a well-defined element of our Vectum Members’ Weekends. To make things a bit clearer for my fellow newcomers to the Netherlands, you can imagine a Cantus to look like an Oktoberfest celebration with mandatory singing. This longstanding tradition evokes an aura of camaraderie with a strict set of rules, but at Vectum we keep it rather relaxed. Nonetheless, our “Praesus”, Vice President Jeroen and Treasurer Lea, ensured that any unruly behavior would be punished. As an international group, we sang songs in Dutch, German, English and even Spanish, witnessing some remarkable performances throughout the evening. As the night went on, we went from sitting elbow to elbow to swaying arm in arm, rounding off a fun weekend with some good spirits. But the end of the academic year was not our only reason to celebrate. Two of our participants, Anne and the proposed Vice President Marijke, had their birthdays on this weekend. Although they received cake and gifts from friends, they were not immune to the Praesus’ verdicts. Bribery with cake was strictly forbidden.

After a few hours of sleep, it was time to clean up and head back to Maastricht. After my first Members’ Weekend, I can only agree with my fellow participants that our Board and Activities committee deserve a big thank you (THANK YOU) for topping off our year of memorable get-togethers with such an entertaining getaway. As a first year Bachelor’s student (and therefore first-time participant in the Members’ Weekend), this trip was great to bond with my fellow students from all years of the programme, away from the lecture halls and bookshelves. Although our upcoming courses after summer won’t be easy, there’s at least the next Members’ Weekend to look forward to once they’re all over. I encourage my fellow students, new and old, to tag along to this event next year!