Do I live in the Netherlands? Descriptively speaking, I do. My address is in Maastricht; I have a BSN number and bread here is far too soft for my German taste. But leaving the geography and administration aside, do I? Sitting in Banditos, looking around, no single word in Dutch to be heard or seen. It is this famous international student bubble. My Dutch is to be pitied. As so many before me, I started eagerly to soak in as much Nederlands as I could because living in a country without knowing its language seemed like a sacrilege to me. Then exams hit. New courses in exotic languages such as Arabic distracted me; the extremely high level of English among the Dutch discouraged me. I love to explore Maastricht, I want to be able to say that I really lived here. I try to pay attention to Dutch politics, to try local food but I still do not feel comfortable to say that I live in the Netherlands with all its cultural implications. I live in Europe, in some international bubble that happens to be located somehow in Maastricht but the Dutch people I know also deliberately identify in cosmopolitan terms and assimilate to the international student culture they are part of too. It is weird to see how disconnected this community of students is of this country of 17 million people. Is it because we are so many? The issue of incentives again. Is it because Dutch as a language is not interesting enough since it is a) so close to German and English and b) it is a comparatively ‘small’ language? Maybe it is because the university doesn’t give us the feeling of being foreign students in the Netherlands, we feel too comfortable in our bubble. The internationalist vibe is far more important for UM than the fact they happen to be in a Dutch city. To be fair, one might rightfully argue that is not their responsibility. Maybe this aspect becomes so disregarded because Limburg is not Holland, always a little bit different? Nonetheless, nothing is really missing. Isolation in a like-minded community is so common and so hard to break through. Being an international isolationist in the Netherlands (let’s be honest, that’s what it is) is also an experience showing me a new aspect of how we identify and search for communities wherever we live.
Asena Baykal, student European Studies