Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts
(Wo) man at work: student assistant Maastricht University
Joedith López Cuello/ 28/ master’s student of Work and Organisational Psychology/ works 10 to 16 hours per week as a student assistant on a Student Employability Initiative and Internationalisation project/ earning 13 euros per hour
“We’re the sharks, where are our fish?” jokes Joedith López Cuello. The Chilean student is sitting at a table in the Student Services Centre with Dewi Gosenson, a secondary school student from Limburg. It’s Wednesday morning, 4 July, and 29 degrees out: for many students, the summer holidays have already begun. And it shows. The two ‘sharks’ will have to pull out all the stops to catch every student or employee that enters the building today. López Cuello and Gosenson are collecting data for the Connect International project. Is the university actually international and, if so, how can you tell? Is it primarily because of the degree programmes, the research, the international career opportunities, the exchange programmes, the multilingual environment, or the diversity of students and lecturers?
Ideally, they want to interview thirty people per day the upcoming week.
There’s a reason why López Cuello is being assisted by a secondary school student: Dewi Gosenson, following bilingual education at a secondary school in Landgraaf, is doing her short “international internship” here. Working together is going well, they say. “Dewi represents the local culture and I represent the foreign one,” López Cuello laughs.
A potential participant appears. López Cuello and Gosenson approach her and politely ask her to participate. “It’ll only take five minutes.” The student is from Luxembourg. She studies at University College Maastricht (UCM) which, she says, has many European students, but “few non-European students because of the high tuition fees.” In her opinion, much more effort should be made to make UM “truly global”, for example through scholarships.
With the next participant, López Cuello discusses the disappearance of many programmes using Dutch as the language of tuition, such as cultuurwetenschappen. Only the English-taught programme is still on offer. “Lecturers who always taught in those programmes think of it as losing a small piece of their identity. That’s something to consider as well,” says the participant. Before participants leave, López Cuello and Gosenson point them towards a basket of mandarins and Peijnenburg bars: “Please, feel free to take some. It’s like gingerbread.”
Another University College student appears, a young man this time. Sitting next to him is a young woman enrolled in the School of Business and Economics. The male student praises UCM’s international programme, its social events and the way it cooperates with other faculties, such as the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. “No, we haven’t worked together with the economists yet.” The female student laughs: “I don’t think that’ll happen anytime soon, either.” She’s a member of student association Koko and is glad to have met more people there, although she admits the percentage of Dutch people in student associations is very high.
It’s not easy for international students to get side jobs in the Netherlands. Their inability to speak the language is often the greatest obstacle. López Cuello studied psychology in Chili and worked there as a human resources analyst. She was an ideal candidate for this student assistant job on a project with English as its main language.
After the interviews (she later lets me know she has collected 160 interviews in total), she’ll publish a detailed report containing the main findings. To be continued, in other words.
Finally: what does López Cuello think of the international character of this university? “It’s one of UM’s strong points. There’s no lack of initiatives – language courses, parties, lectures and events, the buddy programme, international students club Kaleido… But I think there’s potential for so much more. We hope to find out.”