Surviving the unlikely dangers of student life

Ten ways to avoid your untimely death

You probably think you’ve got everything you need to start your new student life on the right foot. But do you have a list of ways to protect yourself from your early and tragic demise?
By Megan Embry / Photo’s René Lapoutre


#1 | Windows

Dutch windows (and terraces) are lovely and offer unobstructed views into people’s private lives. Most of them are also the perfect size for a whole damn person to fall out of. And that happens more often than you might think – especially to university students. So the next time you are tempted to perch in a windowsill with a guitar, barf out of a third-story window at a party, or lean casually against a window that you’re pretty sure is latched shut: reconsider.

#2 | Hazing

Internationals: if you’re new to town, it’s only a matter of time before you find out you haven’t been invited to an exclusive Vindicat initiation party. You can count yourself lucky to be left out of the hazing that has historically happened behind the closed doors of many student associations. But if you do end up at one of these we-promise-we-have-rehabilitated-our-fratty-image-please-give-us-back-our-funding parties, under no circumstances should you allow anyone to step on your head or douse you in oil and set you on fire. That’s real dangerous, and real stupid.

#3 | Biking

You’ve probably already realised this, but if you take narrow cobblestone streets and four-way intersections, add a bunch of Dutch locals who like to cycle drunk while texting with both hands while also carrying a week’s worth of groceries and at least three children, and then sprinkle in some 2,500 hapless international students who are riding a bike for the first time in their precious lives, you’ve just mixed yourself a goddamn certain-death cocktail. Use your hand signals, people, and DO NOT STEP INTO THE BIKE LANES without looking both ways first!

#4 | Carbon monoxide

Older student houses don’t tend to be the most well-kept establishments. If you live in a building with gas appliances, check that they have proper venting and buy yourself a carbon monoxide detector. Not many years ago a young female student almost died from carbon monoxide poisoning after the invisible, odourless killer filled her apartment thanks to a small gas leak. She had the presence of mind to crawl onto her balcony before she passed out, where neighbours saw her and called emergency services.

Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are: headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, confusion, and unconsciousness.

#5 | Canals

Dutch canals are charming. But every year or so some student decides to stumble out of a bar and pee into a canal and then ends up in the canal himself. This is especially dangerous in the winter, when going from a warm bar to a cold street might make you more likely to experience a physical phenomenon called micturition syncope: fainting shortly after or during urination. This phenomenon, combined with alcohol, causes your blood pressure to drop. You get dizzy or pass out – and then you fall into the canal with your fly unzipped. That only sounds funny until it actually happens to someone you care about. Piss indoors.


#6 | Scurvy

Every year when large groups of young people are left to fend for themselves for the first time, this 17th century sailor’s disease rears its ugly, 100 percent preventable head. Bitterballen and beer do not meet all your nutrition requirements, you silly babies. If you plan to survive on a steady diet of video games, chips, and sausages, your teeth are going to fall out and you are going to go blind. If you’re reading this right now, for the love: go outside and eat an orange.

#7 | Stairs

In the Netherlands, stairs are impossibly steep and impossibly narrow. Every year roughly 250 people in the Netherlands die from falling down Dutch stairs. Don’t be too proud to crawl, especially if you’ve been drinking.’

#8 | Black mold

Speaking of old, shitty rooms, you may not know to keep an eye out for black mold. It won’t kill you, but prolonged exposure can sure make you feel like you’re dying. Black mold can have pretty severe negative effects on your health, and it thrives anywhere that is damp and unventilated.

You’ve probably noticed by now that the Netherlands is really freaking damp. The whole country is basically a puddle 85 percent of the year.

Prevention is protection: keep doors and windows open when you do anything that increases humidity levels in your living space (showering, cooking, your favorite P90x workout video, whatever). Vacuum regularly; consider a dehumidifier. Use bed slats instead of putting your mattress directly on the floor, where it won’t get any airflow. And dump out all those cups sitting all around your room half-full of old beer, energy drinks, and piss (we see you, undergraduate men).

If you do spot black mold, notify your landlord. If your landlord is a big jerk and won’t help, make sure you have a facemask and gloves before you try to get rid of any spores yourself.

#9 | Binge drinking

You’ve probably noticed that many of the things on this list really only pose a danger to you when you’re high or inebriated. Groningen is a great place to have fun and let loose, but practice moderation – if only to spare your mother from having to write a ridiculous obituary that she hopes no one ever reads because you took things too far and then died like an idiot.

#10 | Fire

In recent months Groningen has seen a fast food joint, a whole bus, and an erotic massage parlour go up in flames. Fires in student rooms are also fairly common. Avoid your own fiery death by cleaning your dryer lint traps, blowing out your candles, and taking care when you’re cooking or smoking.

Have a great year, everyone. We hope you survive.


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