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“We go through two hundred litres every Wednesday. Write that down”

“We go through two hundred litres every Wednesday. Write that down”

Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes

Prof. Sandra Beurskens shares a meal with independent fraternity Que Pasa

“Haven’t you lit that crackling log fire yet? Guys, come on.” Halfway through the evening, with the steaks already sizzling in the pan, Marc van Gastel – known as ‘Otto’ – makes his entrance. Dressed in gym clothes, he looks a little peaky. He’s too ill to eat: “My hands are still shaking a bit.” The International Business student is recovering from his farewell party on Friday with his friends from Que Pasa. He will be heading to Prague soon, on exchange. And he won’t be coming back, so his room above the student pub on the Boschstraat is in the process of being emptied out. “It was a great party. I went to bed at seven thirty the next morning.” As it turns out, he backed up this performance on Saturday and Sunday too; little wonder he is not in good shape. Tonight’s guest, Professor Sandra Beurskens, listens with amusement.

‘Tinus’, or Stijn van Pinxteren, turns on his laptop and streams a log fire from YouTube to the television. It’s hardly necessary: the large kitchen has atmosphere enough thanks to the multitude of posters, decorations (Beurskens: “Are those tampons stuck above the window over there?”) and other precious junk that probably long predates the students’ time with Que Pasa. Fat candles are flickering on the homemade bar; the kitchen wall is dotted with vintage tiles. The couches are covered in weathered-looking fabric and leather, and Beurskens sinks down into one as she takes a seat. She isn’t fazed. She is impressed by the “honest, sweet, open” boys who surprise her on entering with the skull of a bull. “It’s not real though, right?” she asks. “Based on the price, I wouldn’t think so”, says ‘Sjaars’ – Robbert van de Ven – who joined the fraternity just a few months ago.  The bull is their mascot. The place is brimming with skulls and horns on display; even Brutus is present, a huge, hairy bull head. “We’re proud, manly, independent and decisive”, Christian Bonants explains with a laugh. The chef of the evening, he will be dishing up a Caprese salad, steak with potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, and Greek yoghurt for dessert.

Beurskens, who presents her hosts with a ‘student-proof’ plant, is full of questions: why they decided to study in Maastricht, who they run the bar on the ground floor with, their choice of study programme, what the fraternity initiation was like.
She is no stranger to student life, “but in my day Maastricht had few student houses, that side of things was still getting off the ground. For the first year I rented a room in Veldwezelt, then moved to Maastricht.” Raised in Central Limburg, she studied physiotherapy followed by health sciences. “At 22 I wasn’t ready to start working full time. And I wanted to go into more depth.”
Last weekend she moved her daughter to Leiden. “She has a room in a house belonging to Quintus and Augustinus, with around twenty other students. First she was subletting but now she can stay – on the condition that she becomes a member next year.” It wasn’t easy to get a room in Leiden, Beurskens explains. “She had a few viewings before her study programme started. Three hours on the train, only to line up next to fifteen others and get judged. Horrible.”

Looking at the murky water in the fish tank, Beurskens wonders aloud how the pets are getting on. “We have to clean it out”, the students reply. “It’s because of Otto’s party and all the smoking in here.” In large letters on the side of the tank is the word ‘Calf’. The fish only lasted a month. “Calf met his match in the filter”, Van Gastel explains. “He was a beautiful fish, very special, half gold and half black. But he turned out to be too small for the filter we installed in the tank. We found him half in and half out, crushed to death.”
Que Pasa has run the student pub De Boschpoort since 2010, together with the fraternities Prometheus and Cerberus. On Wednesday evening it is overflowing with the members of student associations. Diablo is one of them. Bonants: “Weren’t they the ones who bragged in this series that they buy a fifty litre barrel on a Wednesday night? We go through two hundred litres every Wednesday. Write that down, haha.”
“We don’t drink every day, ma’am, we have discipline”, Van Pinxteren chimes in. “We’re not binge drinkers”, Bonants adds. Gijs Claus snickers: “Too expensive.”
It’s a logical transition: from beer to love life. Van Pinxteren is the only one of the students to have a steady girlfriend. “It’s not easy to have a serious relationship during your studies”, they say. Laughing: “You have a few drinks, you let your hair down a bit ...” In short: before you know it you find yourself in a dark corner with someone else.

The conversation turns to hazing. “How does that work?” Beurskens asks. “We call it the A-tijd.” For Van de Ven it wasn’t all that long ago. “It wasn’t fun, but looking back I’m quite proud.” “We don’t do anything extreme”, Van Pinxteren explains. “And we definitely don’t go around standing on people’s heads.” “My initiation was intense”, says Van Gastel, who joined a full five years ago. “Very little sleep, a week-long A-tijd. Students won’t put up with that any more, they just quit. The mentality has changed.” From a hazing period of twelve weeks to three weeks? The students keep their mouths shut. “We’re not saying. It’s part of the mystery.” Then Van de Ven relents. “Okay, you don’t get destroyed, but you do get put down.” Van Pinxteren: “No, it’s called constructive criticism.”

According to a message received later from Professor Beurskens, the bull skull is being given a nice spot in her daughter’s student house in Leiden.

Sandra Beurskens * 50 * professor of Goal-oriented Measurement in Patient Care at Maastricht University, professor of Healthcare at Zuyd University of Applied Sciences * married, two daughters (18, 20) * lives in Eijsden

Christian Bonants * 20 * first-year International Business at UM * Que Pasa member

Gijs Claus * 22 * second-year International Business at Zuyd * Que Pasa secretary

Robbert van de Ven * 18 * first-year Fiscal Economics at UM * Que Pasa member

Stijn van Pinxteren * 22 * second-year International Business at UM * Que Pasa member

Score (maximum of five stars), given by Professor Beurskens

Food: 4 stars “The broccoli was just a little overcooked. And the Caprese salad could have done with some basil.” Robbert van de Ven: “We ran out!”

Cleanliness: 4.5 stars

Hospitality: 5 stars

 

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