Lost in Excess 2012

Lost in Excess 2012

Every year students of Leiden University organise the “Veerstichting”, a student conference aimed at bringing both students and non-students together, aiming at “linking individuals, organisations and society”. Students from the Netherlands, Belgium and several other countries are mixed in with ‘non-students’, who represent almost all sectors of working society, including business, politics, science, art, media and more. The conference is set up with inspiring speakers, interactive workshops and other events that all revolve around one theme. This year that theme was ‘Lost in Excess’:

“More than 8 billion webpages, 10 different types of peanut butter, 80 whatsapp messages, 431 different degrees, 4 holidays a year, 300 tv channels and 20 different pairs of shoes. We are living in times of excess. Should we treasure this climate of excess, or is it simply true that less is more. How do we navigate in times of excess? Is it time to take a step backwards and reflect on our current situation?”

The keynote speakers this year included Ulrich Witt, Director of the Evolutionary Economics Group at the prestigious Max Planck university; Agnes Nairn, who among other things advises the British Government on issues relating to marketing and children and has extremely interesting work for UNICEF in that field; Shahidul Alam, a photographer, writer and activist from Bangladesh who’s work has been exhibited at the Tate Modern and MoMA, among others; and many more. Rather than mulling over their words in your head, you can discuss them with fellow attendees during ‘speed-dating’ events and the workshops. As such, there is a constant flow of conversation between the 500+ attendees.

All 250 students are accepted based on merit, through an essay, whereas the 250 non-students receive an invitation. Given this set-up, everyone can engage with one another about the theme. Moreover, all attendees have made a real effort to be there, so they are usually captivated by the theme and have a lot to add. Thus, the conference was once again a success with open and honest debates and interesting activities.

Past themes at the ‘Veerstichting’ have been ‘Eye-Opener’ and ‘Everything is Economics’.  The themes are always broad, ensuring they are significant in a wide range of research and working fields. Therefore, whoever attends is always spending two days learning new things as well as sharing his, or her, own knowledge with others.

By attending the ‘Veerstichting’, one thing becomes clear almost instantly “Whether you have been in charge of three multinationals, or made twenty films; you will always be learning. You will always be a student.” This holds true for all attendees.  These words, uttered by Eddy Terstall, are true for us all.

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