Since the end of the 1990s the Pakkerij has been a feature of student life in Twente. This former warehouse on Oude Markt in Enschede is home to four big student associations and symbolizes the long-standing competition between the campus and the city of Enschede to attract students.
Until 1974, students were required to live on campus, far away from the temptations of the bright city lights. Even when the campus living requirement was relaxed, there was still no immediate exodus into the city. A genuine campus culture had been created during the early years, including a lot of facilities and study clubs, sports clubs and socializing clubs run by and for students. Eventually, however, the city did begin to draw students away, and when student clubs began to settle in Enschede it sparked a fierce battle between the campus and the city to win the favour of the students.
The small ‘rebel club’ DSC Cheiron was the first to officially move to the city. According to co-founder Giuseppe van der Helm, ‘In those days Cheiron wanted to rebel against the campus philosophy. The learned professors chatting on the lawns of Drienerlo had no interest in more immediate concerns.’ What Cheiron wanted was self-determination. And that’s why, 20 years after Technische Hogeschool Twente (‘Twente Technical College’) was founded, the community of around 25 members broke with campus tradition and moved into a former factory on Roomweg. Four years later, now with 120 members, the association had to upsize and relocated to premises on Walstraat. For years the Drienerlo student body was the exception that proved the rule; the other students remained on campus.
Then, at the end of the 1980s, two independent student clubs were created: ASV Taste and DJC Rossinant, and after something of a tug of war with the campus administrators they moved into the city too. At about the same time, beer buyer Wouter de Geus at the Vesting Bar realized that beer-drinking students were a great market to base a business model on, so he opened a student bar on Oude Markt and called it De Geus. Slowly but surely, Enschede morphed into a student town.
It soon became clear that this influx of students was not without its downsides: students – especially student clubs – also caused a certain amount of nuisance. With this in mind, in the 1990s the Enschede Studentenstad (‘Enschede Student City’) working group at the Municipality of Enschede started looking for one big building that could house all the different clubs. Eventually they chose the old warehouse on Oude Markt that had been used by textile producer Van Heek.
Two years later, in the summer of 1996, the students put in long hours to get the building ready: they had the green light to move in. The associations spent the entire holiday period transforming the bare spaces into fully-fledged club rooms. Four student social clubs chose the Pakkerij as their home base, which created one big festival atmosphere. The front door was shared by ‘traditional’ Audentis, ‘universal’ Taste, the small Christian club Alpha and AEGEE, a European-wide association set up to promote student engagement.
The Pakkerij’s new calling set the seal on Enschede’s new status as a true student town. At that time the associations had a collective membership of almost 1,000, representing about 15% of the student body. It looks as if the city has won the battle for the students – at least for now...