What do you do when the biggest student bar in the Netherlands runs out of beer? Panic. That’s what we faced last year when the Café In de Smitse team put on an outdoor festival for around 1,500 people. Luckily, we were able to make a few calls and keep everyone happy.
Challenges like that come thick and fast here at Café In de Smitse but, as chairman of the bar’s student board, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It has taught me a lot about managing teams and all the other difficulties that come with that. I’ve always been a team player, but the experience has given me new insight – and put a lot of the theory I’ve learnt into practice.
I first volunteered as a bartender – the café is non-profit, so it’s volunteer-run and everything we make goes back into the business. Normally you’re so focused on your own studies and your own faculty, but volunteering here meant I met a whole range of students. I really like the fact that this is a place where all the study associations and all students come together and hang out as friends.
As well as the day-to-day stuff, we run other events, such as the outdoor festival that caused all the panic! We put it on in combination with the Law and Business Administration study association: we ran from four until eleven at night, and featured seven or eight different acts ranging from live saxophone music to rappers. When everyone was up jumping and singing you could feel the floor shaking – it was a great atmosphere. We also try to organise a pub quiz every month. We have a competition board and we see teams returning to try to take the top spot.
As we’re right in the middle of campus, the bar is a focal point for students, and we get loads of people in here at all times, but especially after big events like exams. The atmosphere can be incredible, and it’s the perfect place to take the pressure off and relax.
Sometimes the best times are after the bar closes, when the team has a couple of drinks and ends up talking until six in the morning. Every year, all the former board members go away for the weekend with the new board members so we can teach them about the bar’s history and get to know each other. It’s so important to remember where we came from and how much we’ve grown. The university demands a lot, but it also offers a lot. De Smitse is a real community; it’s like a family.
And if you miss the campus and want to revisit after lockdown, you’re always welcome at de Smitse. So get planning your visit, and let us know when to expect you at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll make sure we don’t run out of beer.