The 2-minute introduction: like or dislike

Auditioning for a room – it’s a knock-out

Marc de HaanBoyfriends, sports, blunders are all topics open to discussion.

By Harmke Berghuis

It must be one of the most significant yet one of the most pathetic rituals of student life: auditioning for a room. Here is a tale of choosers and losers hoping for a piece of Rapenburg.

“Welcome to Rapbelles palace”. Despite the high ceiling, the common room in the girls’ house at  Rapenburg 51 is stuffy, there is condensation of the  windows and my glasses mist up as I enter. I’m greeted by the clamour of dozens of voices. Sweets and lemonade are ready on the table and some 50 girls are crowded into a space of approximately 40 square metres: some are lounging on the settees set in a semi-circle, some perched on the arms, some, opposite, crouched on the ground on pink, blue and green throws, and some behind them, on a row of stiff-backed wooden chairs. The latecomers cannot find a place to sit but are content to lean against the table.

Actually, more girls have arrived than were expected. “We had invited 19”, exclaims one of the residents, “but a total of 34 have turned up. How come?” “We also hung up notices in the University Library and in the Kamerlingh-Onnes building, and at the fraternities and an awful lot of people must have decided to drop by at the last minute.” And so a large number of girls are going to away disappointed tonight, after all, only one room measuring a mere 11 square metres is available; however, it looks out onto Rapenburg.

To apply, you have to be a first-year, and a member of fraternity. Two girls stand up; they are first-years on their current programmes, but had started other courses last year. According to the SLS, that counts as being a second-year, explain the residents. The fraternity requirements were established by the seventeen residents, all of whom are members of  Quintus, Augustinus or Minerva. “Does Njord count as a fraternity?” One applicant inquires. “Yep”, a resident nods encouragingly in her direction: she can stay. And so on to round one.

“Hi, I’m Susan, I’m nineteen and I’m reading Criminology.” “Are you a member of any of the fraternities?” “Yes - Augustinus.”

“I’m Sara, I’m from Maastricht and I smoke.” The room falls quiet. Maybe it’s bad to smoke, or is it companionable? And why do they want to know whether you’re  a vegetarian?

“I’m from Sittard and I’m terribly embarrassed about my accent.”

“I don’t smoke and I’m not a vegetarian either.” The first elimination round immediately follows the introduction round. “Normally, we don’t do it like this”, the residence explain apologetically. “We’re sorry to have to do this, but so many have turned up this time.” The introduction round alone lasts half an hour and the girls have only had time to say a few words each. And consequently, the residents withdraw; in the common room, the other girls chatter among themselves. This is Renate van Driel’s (17) fifth audition. “I’m trying to audition and network  as much as possible” she explains. She’s from Zwolle, and the journey here takes two hours from door to door. And she wants to be on some committees, too. “Which means I would fit in well with an active house, but beggars can’t be choosers. Besides, you can’t always respond to a picture or a notice.” She has no illusions about her chances. “I don’t think I stand much of a chance – there are so many girls. Two minutes are too short to decide whether you like someone.” The residents admit that the first round is conducted more or less on first impressions. Actually, smoking or being a vegetarian doesn’t really matter, no one has even made a note of it. “But you can get an idea of the people who would fit in well here”, says Marjolein van Egmond, who organised the session tonight.

After the meeting, she returns to the room with a list of names. Everyone looks at her expectantly. Ten girls can stay. One of the girls who has to leave says “good luck” to another who is staying. 24 girls, their hopes dashed, leave the house. 

The second round lasts longer: boyfriends, sports, blunders are all topics open to discussion. “I work at Albert Heijn and once when I was stocking the shelves, I wanted to slam a door shut. I wasn’t watching what I was doing and just then, a boy walked past and I slapped his bum.” Another girl dropped the cake all over the floor at a posh dinner where she was waitressing.

In the meantime, one of the girls keeps sneaking glances at her watch. It’s half past nine by now and some of them have long journeys ahead of them, or are staying at a friend’s place. “My mother’s waiting in a café”, explains a girl with brown curls, guiltily. But she still has to wait, because she has made it through to the finals, and there are only of four girls left. The residents sit in small groups of three or four and the applicants move up a place each time. The auditions finish at ten o’clock, but the residents haven’t decided yet: they need more time.

The next day, Rosalie, a Psychology student (17) from Utrecht, hears that she was the most fun.

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