Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes
Professor Harald Schmidt shares a meal with the students of Glacisweg 19
Six people are trying in vain to squeeze into a cramped kitchen. “Let’s go sit in my room”, Mathijs Weijnen calls as he stirs a pan of risotto with peas and chorizo. His room on the first floor, with its four couches and a conspicuous nude on the wall, serves as the living room. Before the residents of Glacisweg 19 plop down on the sofas, they take turns filling their plates. “Help yourself”, they tell Schmidt. “Spoons and forks are in the drawer.”
On arriving Schmidt, from Germany, had presented the residents with a wooden box from Die Printenbäckerei. It ends up on the table and receives little attention. Standing at the stove, medical interns Weijnen and Rick van Lanen go on chatting about their day at the hospital. Maybe they’re not familiar with printen, Observant decides, and draws their attention to the typical Aachen delicacy, which has a spicy, gingerbread-like taste. “Oh, it’s sweet? I thought it was alcohol”, Weijnen replies. They would have made an ideal dessert, served with coffee perhaps – but the box remains untouched all evening.
Schmidt lives with his wife in Aachen. His children have already left home; his son is studying medicine in Kassel, Germany, and his daughter is doing a primary teaching degree in Hamburg. He drives to Maastricht every day. “The first three years I worked at UM, I cycled to Kerkrade and then took the train to Randwyck. Often I’d be on the road for over an hour and a half.”
In terms of distance, the students at the Glacisweg have nothing to complain about. Two are studying in the city, two in Randwyck and the fifth, Lotte Offermans – who was supposed to be sick at home with her parents but showed up mid-evening after all – studies at Zuyd University of Applied Sciences in Sittard.
“It was empty when we first arrived here. We slept on mattresses on the floor”, Rick van Lanen recalls. “We rent this floor and the top one. It’s in my name, for the sake of convenience; I found it through a real estate agent. We have one bank account for the house that we use to pay for everything: gas, electricity, rent and groceries. We eat together whenever we can.”
“Is student life expensive?” Schmidt asks. “It’s not too bad”, replies Steffi Lomba Vrouenraets (from Spain, with a Dutch mother). “My sister and brother live in Groningen, it’s more expensive there.” “We pay a total of €1525 in rent, excluding bills”, Van Lanen says. “Sint Pieter is a fairly upscale neighbourhood, more expensive than most, I’d say.” Still, it’s “chill”, according to Weijnen. There’s a bakery, a pharmacy, Coffee Lovers and the supermarket next door. “André Rieu does his shopping there”, laughs Kai Hendriks.
“Does anyone know the Thermomix?” Schmidt is a big fan, but only for Lomba Vrouenraets does the name ring a bell. “You see it a lot in Spain!” The Thermomix is a kitchen appliance that can do everything, Schmidt explains enthusiastically. The Dutch students prick up their ears. “Sounds like a robot”, Weijnen laughs. “It’s amazing”, Schmidt continues. “It cuts, weighs, cooks, steams, blends, kneads. And it has recipes too. You just throw all the ingredients in, go away and do something else for an hour, and ‘ding ding ding’: ready.” Laughter. “Wow, we need one of those. Is it expensive?” Weijnen asks hopefully, only to be disappointed. “You can pick up a good one for a thousand euros.”
The students want to know what Professor Schmidt does at UM. “I work at the Department of Pharmacology and Personalised Medicine. As a child I used to faint at the sight of blood, so I didn’t want to study medicine. I went for pharmacy instead. Later I decided to go to medical school after all.” Schmidt predicts that, a decade from now, medicine will look very different. “Much more focused on prevention and diagnostics. GPs will play a big role.” At this he gestures towards Weijnen, who aims to specialise in general practice. “Years ago if you wanted to know your personal genome sequence, you had to pay thousands of euros. Five years from now all that information will only set you back a hundred euros.” He is a strong supporter of personalised medicine: diagnosis and treatment tailored to the individual.
Van Lanen, who studies with Weijnen, is keen to become a neurosurgeon. Amused, he tells the gathering about an operation he was allowed to attend that week. “A piece of the patient’s cortex, the outer layer of the brain, was being removed.” “Wow, was the patient conscious?” Schmidt asks. “This one wasn’t, but some are. Sometimes the surgeons prefer to keep people awake so they can test their speech and other things.”
Medical terms fly back and forth across the table. Offermans, who aspires to a career in selection and recruitment, is used to it. “Mathijs loves talking about his field, preferably with as many Latin words as possible. It’s incomprehensible. Then Rick joins in, but luckily he knows how to dumb it down.”
“So where do you go out?” Schmidt asks the group. “Rick and I used to be with Circumflex”, Weijnen says. “Hey, I’m still a member”, Van Lanen calls. “I went every day during INKOM, but the last few weeks I’ve been too busy with work. Lots of people in Maastricht are members of a student association. If we go out, it’s usually to Fessa, the Feesfebrik.” “That’s open the longest”, Offermans explains. “Till six a.m. You always run into people there.” International students tend to go to the Alla, Hendriks says. Germans seek each other out, as do the Dutch and students of other nationalities. There’s not much mixing going on, they conclude. Weijnen: “Unlike with PhD students and lecturers – for them that happens much faster and better somehow.”
Kai Hendriks * 19 * first-year student, Maastricht Science Programme
Mathijs Weijnen * 24 * sixth-year medical student
Rick van Lanen * 24 * sixth-year medical student
Steffi Lomba Vrouenraets * 20 * second-year student, Maastricht Science Programme
Lotte Offermans * 20 * third-year student, People and Business Management, Zuyd University of Applied Sciences
Harald Schmidt * 57 * professor in Pharmacology and Personalised Medicine * married, one son and one daughter * lives in Aachen
Scores (maximum of five stars), given by Professor Schmidt
Food: 5 stars (“Absolutely, almost as good as with the Thermomix”)
Hospitality: 5 stars
Cleanliness: 5 stars (Lotte Offermans: “I even dusted yesterday”)