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“London is the greatest city in the world”

“London is the greatest city in the world” “London is the greatest city in the world”

Elaine Hoekstra (25), a Canadian first-year Arts and Culture student who has seen 19 per cent of the world

Ever since she went to Japan when she was 16, Elaine Hoekstra has had a taste for travelling. “That trip really put me out of my comfort zone. Japan is very far from Canada, in terms of both distance and culture.” She went on exchange with her father’s Lions Club (a worldwide service club organisation that raises money for charity) and lived with a Japanese family for four weeks. “We communicated in broken English and with hands and feet. They taught me some Japanese; I can count to ten, say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘what a delicious meal’.” She saw trained ninjas, went to Disneyland Tokyo and visited Kyoto. “A beautiful city, just mind-blowing. There’s this mixture of nature and fantastically designed temples.”

After graduating from high school, Hoekstra went to university in Canada, but decided after a year that it was not the right choice. “I needed some time to mature.” After an impulsive trip to New Zeeland (“We did the Kiwi-experience tour; hopping from village to village”), a friend had a proposition for her. “He said he wanted to live in Paris or London for a year and asked if I’d like to come along. I said: ‘Sure, but my French is terrible’.”

So, London it was. “It’s the greatest city in the whole wide world. Big and crazy. On the one hand it’s very English, but on the other hand there all these influences from immigrants. What’s awesome is that it’s so old. Edmonton, the city in Canada where I’m from, celebrated its hundredth anniversary in 2004. An 80-year-old building is considered historic there. In London they’d probably knock it down and build something better.”

It’s this antiquity that Hoekstra also loves in Maastricht. “And I like that almost everything is in walking distance.” She chose the Netherlands to explore her roots (“My dad was born in the Netherlands and moved to Canada when he was 6”) and because the Arts and Culture programme appealed to her. Of course, there’s also time to explore the rest of Europe. “I came here in April and used the six months until university began to travel to Malta, Serbia, Bosnia and Macedonia. This summer, I’m looking forward to camping in the Alps. It feels so good to live in the middle of everywhere.”



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