The first class of 2000

The Snapchat generation

Left to right: Sanne Martena (January 8, 2000, from Veendam) studies sociology
Thomas Velvis (January 15, 2000, from Deventer) is combining philosophy and Dutch
Kirsten Veldman (February 29, 2000, from Hardenberg) medical student

The first class of RUG students born in the 21st century are here. Approximately one hundred teenagers born in 2000 skipped a year and are now studying at university. What characterises this Snapchat generation?
Text and photos by Menno van der Meer / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

The digital world

Facebook was founded in 2004, YouTube in 2005, and WhatsApp in 2009. Anyone born in this century is intimately familiar with the digital age. Do people still exist when they’re offline?

‘If I haven’t checked my phone during a 45-minute lecture, it feels like I’ve been offline for a really long time’, Thomas says, laughing. ‘It’s so tempting. Whenever I have to really concentrate I drain the battery on purpose. That way I definitely can’t look.’

Kirsten knows the feeling. ‘It’s so easy to get distracted’, she says. ‘I can’t even tell you many times a day I check my phone. The only time I don’t do it is in class.’ Sanne admits that she does: ‘Whenever I get bored I find myself quickly checking my phone. I’m fairly dependent on it. I lost my phone during the KEI week, and it was just the worst.’

Thomas estimates he uses his phone approximately four or five hours a day. Mainly for WhatsApp, but also for Snapchat. ‘I can use Snapchat to send a bad selfie to my friends. I can’t use Facebook for that, because then my grandparents can see it too.’

Kirsten’s Facebook profile is set to private. ‘Only my friends can see my posts. And I don’t post that much online, because you never know what might happen.’ Sanne agrees. ‘They tend to check your profile when you apply for a job, so I’m taking that into account.’

So was this generation’s only entertainment provided by iPads and PlayStations? ‘Of course we played outside in the school yard’, says Sanne. ‘Such as gunpowder!’ Thomas and Sanne laugh. They played the game, which is something like hide-and-seek involving a ball, a lot when they were little. Kirsten says: ‘I think the generation after us will be the one that doesn’t play outside anymore.’


Kirsten skipped first grade, while Thomas combined grades two and three in one year, and Sanne combined grades four and five. What are their university ambitions?

Thomas started studying both philosophy and Dutch this year. ‘With philosophy, I want to get really in-depth. I want to be able to question everything, construct proper arguments, and develop a critical outlook’, Thomas explains. ‘I also study Dutch, because I don’t want my studies to be too one-sided.’

Combining two programmes is not always easy. ‘I don’t have enough time to read and prepare everything. There is just too much material. I want to do everything, because I like it, but I have to make choices. I can’t learn everything perfectly.’

Kirsten became a medical student because she is fascinated by the human body. She has the same problem. ‘I’m such a perfectionist’, she admits. ‘So that really stresses me out. I just have a hard time fully understanding hundreds of pages in English. In high school I could do everything, but not here.’

Sanne had the hardest time deciding what to study. ‘I pretty much know all the RUG programmes by heart by now’, she says, laughing. ‘I ended up doing sociology because I like it, and because it’s a fairly broad programme.’

The seventeen-year-olds didn’t really take the guarantee of finding a job into account when choosing. ‘I’m not really worried about that yet’, says Sanne, speaking for the trio. ‘If I finish my sociology bachelor in three years I’m still only twenty. I’ll have plenty of time to do something else.’

Student life

Of course, students do more than just study. They join student associations, or athletic clubs. And they go out. But how does that work when you’re only seventeen?

Kirsten and Thomas are both members of the Reformed Student Association (GSV). Every Thursday, they can be found at the club for a party. But since they’re minors, they’re not allowed to drink any alcohol. ‘Our pictures are even above the bar!’ says Thomas. ‘That way everyone knows they can’t serve us anything.’

Kirsten and Thomas don’t go out to the city centre. Kirsten’s not really the nightlife type and according to Thomas, they probably wouldn’t be allowed in anywhere. Sanne does like going out, and she has her tricks for getting into places. ‘Honestly, it’s not that difficult. I went out last night!’

The three are uninterested in joining associations like Vindicat or Albertus. ‘That is not my thing at all’, says Sanne. Kirsten largely agrees. ‘I was always against hazing, but now that I’ve experienced it at the GSV I think there are good sides to it as well.’ Thomas adds: ‘But our hazing was pretty tame. The things you hear about Vindicat are something else. What kind of world is that?’

Their busy student life means the first-years don’t have as much time to exercise as they used to. ‘I used to play a lot of hockey and soccer’, says Thomas. ‘Now I only play soccer every once in a while.’ Kirsten used to play a lot of volleyball, but now mainly runs. ‘Early in the morning, because it helps me study better.’ Sanne still plays volleyball in Veendam.


Studying, renting a room in the city, student life – it’s not cheap. The implementation of the loans system certainly doesn’t help. How do the seventeen-year-olds make ends meet?

Kirsten figured she would live in Groningen during the week and keep her weekend job as a cashier at a supermarket in Hardenberg. But it didn’t work out that way. ‘I got completely turned around with everything, because it was so much and I was still getting used to living in Groningen. In the end my parents said it might be better to quit my job. So I did, and that really helped.’

She does feel that she should be making her own money, though. ‘Right now I’m just borrowing money. It’s a shame that I’m forced to, but there’s no other way. Once I get used to everything here I might look for a job.’

Sanne shares the sentiment. ‘My brother studies under the old system, and I don’t. That’s a pretty big bummer.’ She currently works in a supermarket in Veendam. ‘Once I move to Groningen and find a job there, I’ll quit the supermarket. My income will be a mix of work, borrowing, and support from my parents. A little bit of everything.’

Thomas doesn’t feel the same pressure to get a job. ‘I don’t have to get a steady job right now, and that’s fine with me. What I borrow now I can pay back later. And while right now I would struggle to make enough money to make ends meet, it’ll be easier to pay back the money later when I have a better-paid job. And my parents help me pay the rent, which is really chill.’


In his book “Generaties van geluksvogels en pechvogels” (2017), sociologist Henk Becker defines the different generations in the Netherlands. According to the retired professor, generations are formed by the formative period. This is the time between age seven and fourteen, when people gain experiences and process things that influence them.

In the Netherlands, we have the Silent Generation (born between 1930 and 11945); the Early Baby boomers or Protest Generation (1945-1955); the Late Baby boomers (1955-1970); the Pragmatic Generation, also known as the Lost Generation, Generation X, or the Couch Potato Generation (1970-1985), and the Limitless Generation, or Generation Y (1985-1995). The term Millennials (for people born between 1980 and 2000) is also well known.

The youngest generation is Generation Z (born after 1995). The members of this generation grew up in a time period were ICT is fully integrated in everyday life. For them, there was no time without the internet or smartphones. They’re used to an endless stream of information, have a short attention span, are good at multitasking, and love ultrafast social media.



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