The International Exchange Bond
Ever thought what it would be like to reunite with former classmates 25 years later, in the city and school where you spent just four months together, and it feels like yesterday? This is precisely what the first and second cohorts of the International Master of Science Exchange Committee have been experiencing with reunions of an especially diverse flavour.
STORY BY KEVIN TITMAN
PHOTOS MICHAEL OLSSON
Andy Crawford, a member of the second International Master of Science Exchange Committee (IMScEC, now called Master Exchange Programme) class, which commemorated its 25th anniversary in Rotterdam last October, begins by saying that: ‘We were a very cosmopolitan bunch and our lives and professions have taken us on suitably different paths since. Our time on IMScEC was such a fantastic experience both in terms of the things we learned and the friends that we made. Meeting up again in Rotterdam took us all back in time to the place where so many friendships began, which made our reunion extra special.’
Jennifer Clay, a member of the first cohort due to stage its own reunion in Rotterdam in May, shares a similar sense of nostalgia ahead of the event she is involved in organising: ‘The biggest plus will be to rekindle old friendships and see what has become of everyone, plus revisit old haunts in the city, see the campus again and basically enjoy each other’s company.’
Where it all began
The decision to start IMScEC was taken in 1987, with the first cohort blending Dutch and international students arriving in the autumn of the following year. ‘The idea at the beginning was to designate the Dutch students to the international students in the form of a buddy scheme to help with integration. Given how they have stayed connected ever since, it’s safe to say it worked!’ explains Linda de Vries, exchange coordinator at the time of the creation of IMScEC and now head of RSM’s International Office.
The second cohort has been meeting on a rotating country-to-country basis for a number of years, while for the first cohort the May reunion will be only the second one of its kind since a summer 1990 reunion in France. As an illustration of how far they have come, events in the early days were organised without the help of mobile telephones, Facebook or LinkedIn.
A rich programme
Attended by 35 out of the 45 original cohort members, the October 2015 event comprised a cycling tour around Rotterdam, a return to the RSM campus and a visit to the various places that marked the social side of the IMScEC students’ university days. According to Maureen Van Wijk this set-up provided the ideal blend of activity, quality social time, the chance to patronise the occasional watering hole or two and, perhaps of most symbolical importance, the opportunity to revisit the RSM campus for the first time in ages: ‘Of course we had a lot of fun in town back in the day and at the recent event but we’ll never forget where it all started – at the RSM campus. It wouldn’t have been appropriate to miss out on seeing the place where it all began, recall some old stories and maybe take a minute to remember Henk van Ruller, the faculty member whose vision drove the programme forward.’
To ensure extra access on campus for those attending the May reunion, the organising team have the added advantage of counting a current RSM faculty member among their cohort – Lucas Meijs, professor of strategic philanthropy, who shares his expectations of the event: ‘I am looking forward to walking around the new campus while reminiscing about our IMScEC pub crawl!’
A bond unbroken
The alumni of both cohorts now work in such diverse areas as banking, acting, art and brewing, and in such far-flung destinations as Hong Kong, Thailand, the US, Singapore, Sweden and Canada. While some meet up between reunions, for others the events offer a serious blast from the past. That said, the ties remain strong, as Wim Jansen from the first cohort underlines: ‘While we all came from similar backgrounds we have gone on to do very different things in very distant parts of the world, so in many cases it’ll be a first reunion in ages. However, I am convinced that the May event, like last October’s event, will just go to show how the links we forged together 25 years ago remain strong to this day.’
This article was first published in RSM Outlook summer 2016. You can download RSM Outlook here.