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Van Bergen Prize winner Archery Attack has growth potential

Dutch and international students brandishing bows and arrows fire at each other on the fields of the University Sports Centre on 11 May. This is the aim – not the shooting each other, but the act of getting together.

Leiden Archaeology Study Association Terra (L.A.S. Terra) won the Van Bergen Prize in 2018 with Archery Attack. The prize is awarded to the best plan to bring together Dutch and international students. How successful has Archery Attack been? And what happened to previous winners?

Team game

Archery Attack is a team game. A group of archaeology students played it last year, and that is when L.A.S. Terra decided to enter it for the Van Bergen Prize. Having won the prize, L.A.S. Terra held a tournament at the University Sports Centre (USC) on 11 May that was open to all students at the University, international ones in particular.

Archery Attack

Terra committee

Timothy Stikkelorum, who was on the team that won the Van Bergen Prize in 2018, readily admits that he has now graduated and has even found a job. But despite this Timothy, who is also a ‘real’ archer, is still involved in the realisation of the idea. We bump into him at the entrance to the USC playing fields. He’s not playing the game himself, but is keeping track of time on his smartphone and blowing his whistle every now and then to indicate that time is up. He also darts back and forth to make sure that all is running smoothly. He’s not the only volunteer, however. L.A.S. Terra formed a committee especially for the Van Bergen Prize, and this has since been made a permanent committee. Its members now sit on the sidelines counting the hits during the rounds of the game.

Room for growth

Timothy explains how 53 students have entered the tournament, a somewhat disappointing number. ‘There’s room for growth,’ he says.

These kinds of event are like children: they need time to mature. Most of the teams are mixed Dutch and international, so that’s one target that has been hit. There are a few teams from the Faculty of Archaeology and there is a home team, a team from the Faculty of Law and even a team from Delft. Which nationalities are there, besides the Dutch natives? A lot, it would seem: the players come from countries including Finland, Australia, England, Mexico and America.

Archery Attack
Three players practising, on the left Beatriz Gomez de Silva.

Dividing line

Beatriz Gomez de Silva comes from Mexico. She is doing the English-taught bachelor’s programme in Archaeology, as are a lot of Dutch students, maybe even 80%, she says. She felt there was a real dividing line between the Dutch and the international students. They didn’t mix at all. ‘The Dutch students didn’t want to speak English outside of lectures. Two sentences at the most.’ But she persevered. She volunteered for the board of Terra, but there too they often spoke Dutch and she felt ignored. Her tenacity won out in the end, however, and that is how she became involved in Archery Attack. She now feels completely accepted.

Only Dutch person

He’s as tall as a tree, Dutch archaeology student Mike Kneppers. He took part in Archery Attack last year and had a whale of a time because it’s an outdoor sport that is intense but not exceedingly competitive. No scenes such as after Ajax’s defeat Spurs at the beginning of May. Mike is the only Dutch person in the team today. The others come from all over the world, from Australia to Finland. What he likes about the game is that it’s easy to play, once you’ve learnt the basics. For Mike, hanging out with international students is nothing exceptional.

Kit purchased

Of the 5,000 euros from the Van Bergen Prize, 3,200 has been spent, mainly on kit: bows, arrows, face masks and targets. Has the committee considered transferring ownership of the sport to the USC? ‘We have discussed it,’ says Timothy, ‘but we won’t do it yet. The tournament needs to grow first. That’s what the committee wants to put its energy into. And it’s not a completely safe sport. You can’t just start playing without training. I give the training now and I don’t want to hand it over to any Tom, Dick or Harry. Even if we were to talk to the USC, I would still want to carry on giving the training for a certain period of time.

Rules of the game

The rules of Archery Attack aren’t that difficult, and they can be adapted to the circumstances: the teams can be all female, all male or mixed, for instance. One rule that doesn’t change is that the winner is the team that hits most opponents and most of the opponent’s targets. The field has a central zone in which players are not allowed to shoot. The arrows are placed here at the start of the game, and once the whistle has been blown, the players run from the sideline and grab as many arrows as possible. Rather than a sharp tip, the arrows have a polystyrene ball. The targets can differ. On 11 May, these are square boards with five holes in them. In these holes are ‘inserts’, which look a bit like giant earplugs and can be knocked out by the opponent, which also scores them a point. A round can take six or ten minutes. There are no hard and fast rules like in football; Archery Attack is more flexible.

What about other Van Bergen Prize winners?

What happened to other initiatives that won the Van Bergen Prize? Do they still exist? Have they been watered down? Or are they a roaring success? The person to ask is Qing-yi Fan, who works as an international student adviser at Student and Educational Affairs and coordinates the Van Bergen Prize. 

United Leiden
The United Leiden logo

In 2013, the first year of the Van Bergen Prize, there were two winners: Leiden United international student association and Njord Royal Student Rowing Club (K.S.R.V. Njord) [in Dutch]. Leiden United is a flourishing association whose main focus is on bringing together Dutch and international students. The association has a buddy system: Dutch students buddy up with international ones.

As for K.S.R.V. Njord, ‘much has changed since 2013,’ says its secretary Diederik van Gent. ‘The club has gone through a huge growth spurt, and, given that we only have room for three-quarters of our applicants, we now hold a lottery each year. Our experience was that internationals tended not to stay in Leiden for very long. By the time they had learnt how to row, they had disappeared again. Bearing this in mind and the limited capacity of Njord, we have stopped offering separate international memberships. We know that experienced rowers from abroad will find their way to Njord, as will internationals who are staying here for longer than a year. The latter go into the draw along with the others and are made full members, which also provides the best integration within the club and Leiden. We still need an English version of our website, but we’re working on that.’

Sustainable Business Battle
In its first year (2017), the Sustainable Business Battle also won the Leiden University Green Trophy.

Academic skills

Another successful winner is Buddy Talk (2014). This brings together Dutch students who are learning a language with students whose native language this is, so they can practise speaking one another’s language. As Buddy Talk trains academic skills, it has also been taken up by Student and Educational Affairs; about 300 students now take part per year.

Not everything is a success. The International Ball, the winner in 2016, was a one-off. ‘Some students find it difficult to ask for help,’ says Fan, ‘and organising an event is very stressful. That made it impossible to keep the event alive.’ 

The Sustainable Business Battle (2017), a competition to find the most sustainable solution to a case that runs over three weeks in May, is a very different story. This initiative has grown to include Leiden University of Applied Sciences, the University of Amsterdam and Delft University of Technology. Two international students are on the board at present. ‘We believe in the added, creative value of mixed Dutch/international teams,’ says chair Adelá Svobodová. ‘Groups that are formed on the basis of diverse criteria lead to an amazing learning experience, both interculturally and educationally.’ Mission accomplished.

Archery Attack also has this potential.

Got an idea for how to bring together Dutch and international students? Submit it to the Van Bergen Fund and you could win up to 5,000 euros to put it into practice. The closing date is 1 October.

Text: Corine Hendriks
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