Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes
Student desk clerk at the Guesthouse
Mark van Slobbe/ 21 /second-year student of Dutch Law / works on average 10 hours per week/ earns 10,85 gross per hour
It’s a Tuesday afternoon. Two students are standing at the front desk of the Guesthouse on the Annadal Campus. “I’ve lost my room key”, one of them says. Oof. That isn’t just inconvenient, but also rather costly – all cylinders will have to be replaced, those of the lock on the door to her corridor as well as those of the locks on the various student rooms. Mark van Slobbe, second-year student of Dutch Law and, as of quite recently, student desk clerk at the Guesthouse, calculates the costs for her, aided by front office employee Ivo Brouwers. 160 euros. “Oh, that’s a lot more than I thought it would be”, says the student a little sadly. She doesn’t have the cash on hand. No worries, comes the answer from behind the desk. It’ll be fine. Does she still have access to her room? Yes, that won’t be a problem; her roommate, who’s standing next to her, has a key.
Van Slobbe began working as a desk clerk three weeks ago. He sometimes works mornings, sometimes afternoons. “I’ve been in Maastricht for four years now, sat on the board of my fraternity Silenus for a year, did acquisition work, organised events – all unpaid work. It was time for me to get a regular job, something more serious than working at a café or a restaurant. I can help students here, it’s very customer oriented.”
It’s quiet this afternoon, agrees his colleague from her own place behind the desk, three metres away from his. She’s the receptionist and security guard of the whole building, which houses not only (mainly international) students, but also a few general practices, two clinics, a physiotherapist and other health care providers.
“I didn’t get a goody bag”, says a student who recently arrived in Maastricht. Van Slobbe asks him for his room number and hands him a canvas tote bag with some foods and beverages. “When a student checks in, they receive their room key, information on Maastricht and a goody bag”, he explains a little later, when the next student appears at the desk. “Where’s the ISN [International Student Network] office?” Let me just ask my colleague, says Van Slobbe. Then: “Go up the stairs, down the stairs and then you’ll find yourself in the Atlas Building. That’s where it is.”
The phone rings. “UM Guesthouse, can I help you?” A student has signed a rental agreement for 19 euros per day, but now he has to pay 19.50 as of February. “One moment, please.” Van Slobbe discusses the matter with his colleague Brouwers, who immediately looks into it. Half a minute later: “It should be 19 euros; you can let him know I’ll change it.” Van Slobbe does. After that, he checks the email and Facebook inboxes and answers questions sent in by people looking for rooms, but also by rental agents who want to have something changed on the Maastricht Housing website (an official rental website for student rooms and studio apartments). Diagonally behind him is a large cabinet containing all sorts of packages. That’s another part of his job: accepting packages (“students order so much stuff”) delivered by various postal services and putting notes on the intended receivers’ mailboxes.
A taxi stops in front of the building, closely followed by a work van; at the same time, two movers enter the building. And then there’s the steady stream of people on their way to one of the health care providers, all of whom are greeted warmly. Every now and then, someone attempts to leave their urine sample at the Guesthouse desk. They’re pointed to the correct location in a friendly yet firm way.
Has the reporter been offered a drink, ask first Brouwers and, later, the team leader of the Guesthouse and Maastricht Housing, Roel van der Nat. Yes, already upon arrival. The conversation turns to the picture that’s yet to be taken. “You’ll have to be wearing your work clothes”, agree Brouwers and Van der Nat. Where are those anyway? Van Slobbe: “In my laundry basket, I haven’t had time to wash them yet. I wore the sweater to the Open Day last Saturday.” Brouwers, chuckling: “Laundry takes forty minutes!” Before Van Slobbe can reply, a couple from Maastricht approaches the desk. “As ut VOM-buske kumpt, komme die dan binne?” Yes, the bus driver will come inside. Van Slobbe may be from near Nijmegen, but he has Limburgish down pat.