Sofie's strong opinion

Starting today, we are introducing a new column, in which 'prominent' Tilburg residents who have (had) a significant role in Tilburg's student life will speak out critically and openly about Tilburg and all its facets.

For this first edition, we spoke with Sofie Verhoeve. Sofie (23), born and raised in Rotterdam, did a pre-master Organizational Psychology after her bachelor Personnel Science and will start her master after her year on the board, where she currently holds the position of Ab Actis (secretary) at T.S.R. Vidar. She is also an active member of ladies' club Papillon.

Sofie started her first academic year as an active member of study association Input. She had participated in the TOP-week, but the club life was not (yet) in her plans. Student city Tilburg offered her almost all facets you need for an active and eventful student life, plus the fact that Tilburg is fairly small-scaled and therefore manageable. "To me, Tilburg feels like a big village where you can get from one side of town to the other in fifteen minutes by bike." The travel time to her parents was also easy to do. Her priority was to pass her first year of study.

After her propaedeutic year, she decided to join the student rowing association in Tilburg. Where she used to go out one night a week with friends from her study and then watched Netflix four nights a week, she decided to give her student life a different turn. "The nice thing about club life in Tilburg is that you soon get to know other men's and women's fraternities. Then, when you're at a party, you suddenly see lots of people you've bubbled up with before and have a point of contact to chat to again."

In addition, Tilburg has a lot of room for student events, organised by students. Think of Pallieter Mixed Hockey Tournament, Liberation Festival, Tilburg University Cantus (TUC), or the event that Sofie organised herself last year with Papillon and Olof's Black and White fraternity: the Oktoberfest, a new initiative from a fraternity under an 'existing name' which attracted about a thousand students.

While Sofie is so enthusiastic about Tilburg as a student city, she also casts a critical eye on the city when it comes to aspects that could be given more attention. One of them is the fact that hardly any students stay in the city after their studies. "I think that too little is known about (large) companies that are located in Tilburg and that are relevant to students from the city, in general. In my circle of friends, it is customary to go to Utrecht and Amsterdam after your studies, and then to make a career there. In Tilburg, that would certainly be possible, but I think that the awareness among students is still lacking. This also has to do with the fact that there is good economic education here and that most companies in the sector are located in the Randstad. But, Tilburg definitely has the potential to grow into a city that is attractive for young professionals to live and work!"

Sofie also touches a sensitive nerve when it comes to student housing. "You notice by everything that the university is doing a lot to grow. That is of course positive for Tilburg as a student city. However, this brings with it a great challenge in the field of student housing. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find student rooms and studios. Also for internationals it is very difficult to find a room, since they often only stay half a year during the exchange. This scarcity drives up the prices - as far as legally possible. In the end, the Dutch student also suffers from this. This fact makes it less attractive to come and study in Tilburg, so I hope that the municipality, in cooperation with the university, will address this as soon as possible."

Finally, based on her own experience, Sofie mentions that it can be quite difficult to find a suitable location when you want to organise an event from an association and/or committee. "There are a number of great locations in the city that are ideal for organising fun, large events for students. Unfortunately, the willingness to cooperate is not mutual at every location." Sofie would like to see this change in the future.

Despite the above points, Sofie is proud of student city Tilburg. "There is something for everyone here. There are four very nice big student associations you can join, and if that's not for you, there are lots of study and sports associations you can join. In short: Tilburg offers you as a student enough opportunities to develop yourself!"

Apart from the club life, Tilburg also has more and more fun and attractive places to chill out. Sofie mentions the Piushaven and the Spoorpark, among others, which are very popular with students. "When I came here to study a few years ago, there was hardly anything to do in the Piushaven. Now it is teeming with cosy bars and restaurants. And where there are restaurants, there are students, of course. The Spoorpark is also becoming an increasingly 'accidental meeting place', because it is so big and I meet many acquaintances there. A very nice development!"

In Sofie's view, the city is complete, but there is still a small detail missing. Where the other bigger cities have big clubs to explore the nightlife properly, Tilburg -except for Club Smederij, club Fix and PKHS- doesn't have real big clubs. "I can imagine that if you like to go out in big clubs, you might not be at the right place in Tilburg," Sofie says.

Is the image you used to have of Tilburg still correct now that you live and study there?

Sofie laughs. "They always say that Tilburg is a bit of a scum-tastic place. That's still true, here and there. But because of the large number of students that live here, that image is pretty much gone, plus the fact that all kinds of nice changes are being made in the city to make it more attractive to live here. Think of the developments in the Spoorzone, the new high-rise buildings, and as I mentioned before: the Spoorpark and the refurbishment of the Piushaven."

Suppose you would be mayor of Tilburg for one day. What would you change?

To this question, Sofie answers that she would still like to focus on creating more awareness among near graduates to continue working here, by highlighting the better-known companies in Tilburg even more and better. "For example, I would start organising career events at Tilburg University or Fontys where only local companies are allowed to come, or companies whose headquarters are located in Tilburg. Think of Interpolis, for example." Here, according to Sofie, there is still a lot of profit to be made.

All in all, Sofie sees the developments that Tilburg has undergone in recent years as very positive. "If these developments continue like this, at some point I wouldn't see why students would necessarily go to Randstad after their studies, because you can absolutely have a good time here!"