Why did they come to Maastricht, how did they like the Inkom and was it easy to find a room? Observant wandered around the Inkom and asked the first-years all about it.
A tattoo as a memory of Costa Rica
As she stands in front of the wall, ready to be photographed, Italian Lisa Scanu (18) tells about the tattoo under her left collarbone. The word zussen – Dutch for sisters – reminds her of her time in Costa Rica. It sounds crazy: a Dutch word for an Italian girl as a memory of her stay in a country where Spanish is the predominant language.
As a high school kid she stayed with a host family in Costa Rica for a year. As she felt her ‘host sister’ was a real one, she decided to honour this relationship with a tattoo. “I thought of the Italian version of zussen, but I was in doubt, thought my friends and family in Italy would perhaps find it a bit crazy.” She doesn’t have a real sister, only a younger brother.
Scanu tells about her mother’s Dutch roots: she was born and raised in the Netherlands. Twenty years ago her mother moved to the north of Italy. “Ik praat beetje Nederlands”, Scanu laughs. And what did her mother think of her tattoo? “She told me I was crazy, ha ha, but feels it’s my choice and my body. I’m the one who has to walk around with it.”
Scanu has often visited her mother’s birthplace Breda. But she had only been to Maastricht once before, “as a tourist”.
It was her mother who addressed several study programmes in the Netherlands. “’You can learn about my culture,’ she said.” Scanu chose European Studies.
Listening to the concert of the Tuna, a group of students dressed up in traditional costumes singing Spanish songs, it becomes clear that her Inkom group split up on day one. “Today [Wednesday afternoon] our mentor has to work, so we just visit some activities on our own,” as she points to a fellow group member next to her.
Isn’t there a way to come together? “We do have a WhatsApp group but the messages are written in Dutch. I hope it will be better organized next year.”
Left in the park
Sure, journalism still has her interest, but German Marijke Eissing (19) chose European Studies instead. The reason? Her gap year in which she worked as a volunteer with homeless people in Dublin. When she came across the European Commission’s European Voluntary Service project, she decided to leave her family for twelve months to dedicate her life to young homeless people who most of the time simply can’t afford a house because of the high rents in Ireland, and “not because they are addicted to drugs or alcohol”.
This experience stirred her social engagement even more. “There are so many gaps, struggles and differences in healthcare systems and social welfare in Europe.” So she went for European Studies – “and in the future I could maybe write about it” – in Maastricht. “I love being abroad.” In Germany we also have European Studies programmes, about cultural heritage and languages. In Maastricht they have a more political, historical, economic and social approach. That’s what I like. Besides, the programme has a good reputation. It was ranked first place in its category in the Dutch University Guide.”
About the Inkom, it’s her second day. Does she like it so far? “Not really,” she says. Our Tragos mentors brought us to the park and left. Yesterday already, after we met. There would be a dinner with the mentors, according to the booklet, but they said 'Go to the Burger King'. We didn’t even have a clue where the Burger King was located. We have a WhatsApp group, so we’ll see what that brings today.” Eissing admits she isn’t a party animal and thought the Inkom was also a week of information sessions and sports activities, but when it comes to the first: it’s better to subscribe for the faculty introduction next week, she concludes. “I have so many questions, about contact hours for example, but I don’t know where to go.”
No party animal, so almost certainly no MECC parties or cantus? “Cantus?” A traditional coming together of students during which songs will be sang and lots of beer will be drunk (and thrown with), the journalist of Observant explains. She laughs: “Not for me, glad you told me.”
Two or three kisses on the cheek?
Doga Kordel (19) from Istanbul is going to study International Business. He chose Maastricht because he wanted to study in Europe and he didn’t want to make it too expensive. But the most important reason is that he wants to learn a new language, after learning French and English in high school. He also got accepted in Tilburg, but he didn’t really like the city: “The centre was a bit disappointing, it’s so small.”
So far he hasn’t really been hung-over yet. “Turkish people can withstand alcohol very well. I had twelve shots on Tuesday at the MECC party, but I felt okay yesterday morning. Only this morning was a little rough. I think I had about thirty beers yesterday.”
Dutch culture is going to be the biggest challenge. “Little things like greeting people are different here. In Turkey we kiss two times on the cheek when we greet each other, both with men and women. It’s three kisses here; only for women.”
“My parents are still worried about me coming here. They call me every day, even though they’re very mad at me right now. I lost my credit card the beginning of the week.”
“There's a student triathlon association? I'll put that in my phone”
The Belgian Tom Vermeulen (18) lives just two minutes from Hasselt University – “But it is situated in Diepenbeek, where I live. They stole the name, a sensitive matter in the village”- but he decided to come to Maastricht for his study of medicine. “It is tough to get a place for medicine in Belgium, so I decided to follow the selection procedure in Maastricht as well. I didn't know what to expect, but each time I got into the next round. Even before the exams started in Belgium, I knew I had been accepted in Maastricht. After that I spoke with someone who already studied here, but also with doctors who work in Belgium. It appeared that Maastricht had a good reputation. The deciding factor for me was when a doctor told me that he would choose Maastricht if he had to make the choice now. I still did the entry exams in Belgium but I had already made my choice.”
Even now, during the Inkom, he comes by car every day, which he bought especially for that purpose. “It is only half an hour's drive. Of course it is a pity that I have to leave a party on time to go home, but I am working on the basis that in the coming year I will make enough friends who may let me stay the night.”
For the moment he is looking forward to the Sports Event, tomorrow at the De Griend. “I do triathlon. Is there a student triathlon association? I'll just put that in my phone.”
Chinese first, now Econometrics
Stefan Straleger (21), from Heerlen, knows the city like the back of his hand. He spent the last two years studying Chinese at Zuyd Hogeschool in Maastricht. “I really liked it, I was even offered a job at the Dutch embassy in Beijing. But I turned it down. I want to continue studying and chose Econometrics.”
He already knows that when he finishes studying he will move to China. Preferably to work in the banking sector there. Chances of this happening are great because he speaks the language. Besides there is plenty of work, he says.
He thinks living in China will be great. “The people are so open.” Excuse me? That is not what the Chinese are known for. “Not abroad,” says Straleger, “but they are in China. People are different with each other there.”
“The atmosphere here felt close, but not too close”
They have known each other since primary school, did not attend the same secondary school, but will both start at the University College Maastricht. Coincidence? Yes, it is, say Sophie Groenewegen and Bente Gortworst from Zoetermeer. In their final year they both decided separately from each other that a study at a University College might be the right thing for them. Having toured the country, it seemed that they were of the same mind. “Maastricht stood out, the atmosphere here felt close, but not too close. The students don't live apart from the city and the rest of the university,” says Gortworst. Groenewegen laughs approvingly: “Now we have to discover if that really is the case.”
The fact that they are in the same mentor group is not a coincidence. Groenewegen, grinning: “I transferred over to Bente’s group.” She was not the only one. By now the group has doubled in size and consists of twenty first-year students. “It is really fun here, which has mainly to do with the mentors, they are from Koko and they are doing their best to make sure everyone has a good time. We have even been to their house for brunch.” The two have already made lots of friends (“or let’s just say acquaintances”). It started on Sunday 19 August during the picnic organised by UCM and continues during the Inkom.
Like her friend, Gortworst (“there are only about sixty people in the Netherlands with my last name, which originally comes from Urk”) has a room close to the city centre. “Some time ago I was walking through the city and saw a notice in a shop window: ‘rooms to rent’. Now I have a lovely room with a kitchenette in a student house.”
What or who will she miss most? “My cat Noortje. My parents are minding her now.”