Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts
350 newbies and 60 ambassadors
Did you go to an international school? Do your parents have different nationalities? Are you left- handed? Last Tuesday, around 350 first-year students were sent wandering around Brasserie Tapijn armed with a sheet of nine questions. Their task: to find, among the 60 buddies – also known as ambassadors – and their fellow students people who could answer yes to their questions.
“Do you speak three languages or more?” someone asks Stefanie Stakenburg, a master’s student in International Business (IB). I sure do, she replies in English. Her father is Dutch, her mother Romanian, and she speaks both languages. She holds up a piece of paper with her name on it for the benefit of those newbies she will take under her wing. “I have six in total, from Germany, Belgium, Italy, China and Poland, but not all of them are here.”
Stakenburg herself went on exchange to South Korea during her bachelor’s in IB. “So I know how hard it can be when you find yourself in a foreign country with a different culture. I would have liked to have had a buddy in Korea. It’s nice to meet a friendly face when everything’s new. Now I’m able to be that for the first-years in Maastricht. Besides, I enjoy getting to know new students and their cultures.” She will follow a short course in cultural awareness, explains Yvette Sliepen, coordinator of ISAP (the organisation that runs the buddy programme), as well as training from student psychologists who teach the ambassadors how to help newbies with mental health issues. The idea is for the buddies to have contact with their group at least once a week and to attend the events organised by ISAP. On the agenda for next week: the international food fest, where everyone brings a dish from their own country.
One of Stakenburg’s charges is Max Grönegräs, a first-year student of Arts and Culture from Germany. “I don’t know anybody in Maastricht, that’s why I chose to sign up for the buddy programme. It was offered by email and it was very easy to register.” Didn’t he take part in the Inkom? “No. I saw it as a week of partying. Now I know more about it, I regret that I missed it. It would have been an easy way to meet people.” Another newbie is Mathilde Servais, from the French-speaking part of Belgium. “I’m going to study International Business. My brother and parents told me to join the ambassadors programme. We have these kinds of programmes in Belgium too. It’s cool. I want to get know people from outside my studies. It’s good to have a buddy who knows everything about the city and the university.”
“Are you from Limburg?” asks a French newbie after the brief welcome speech by UM president Martin Paul (“The best speeches are short speeches”). By now, almost all the questions on her sheet have a name next to them. Still to be found: someone who can agree with the statement “I am a teenager”.