Photographer:Fotograaf: Jonathan Vos
Special refugee scholarship
She is a little wary; mentioning her home country in the article makes her very uncomfortable. The same holds for her current city of residence “somewhere in the Euregio”, says Fazilet Caglayan (23), master’s student of Globalisation and Law. She draws a picture of the “human rights violations” she saw when the army in her home country tried to overthrow the government over three years ago, but at the end of the interview she kindly, but urgently requests to leave the details out.
For her fellow-students, Caglayan has always been a regular international student. In fact, up until last week, none of them knew she is a refugee from a non-EU country. It was because she fled her country that she received a special scholarship from the UM. Last Wednesday, Caglayan gave a speech during the certificate ceremony – an event for students with a UM scholarship – in the Theater aan het Vrijthof. To tell her story, but mainly to thank UM.
At the time of the attempted coup, Caglayan had just finished the second year of Law in her home country. “But when it happened, I was all alone in my student town and I didn’t feel safe anymore.” She left and applied for asylum in Belgium. By then it was August 2016, “the academic year was about to start and I was desperately looking for a university. I emailed universities in Italy, France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. I got accepted at a few of them, but only for the year after. I wanted to start immediately because I already lost two years, since I couldn’t finish my study back home.”
She got lucky in Maastricht. The people who decide about exceptional admissions, met the day after she explained her story to the UM’s admission office. In September 2016, she started her first year of the bachelor’s programme of European Law School. Helped by the credits from her previous university, she graduated in two and a half years.
‘The faster the better’ is a saying that holds especially in her case because Caglayan, as a student from outside of the European Union, had to pay the higher tuition fee. For the bachelor that was about 8000 euro per year.
“I loved studying in Maastricht so much. I really wanted to do a master’s at UM as well, but the tuition fee (13.800) was too high. I come from a family of six, so my parents could no longer help me financially.” She started applying for all the scholarships she could find, but she was eligible to none of them. As a refugee who lives in Belgium, but studies in the Netherlands, she can’t get a scholarship or student loan in either country. “There is a big gap for students like me.” Moving to the Netherlands could potentially solve her problem, but “I’m not allowed to because my refugee status is in Belgium.”
“My only option was to start a master’s that I didn’t want to in Belgium at a university that didn’t fit me”, says Caglayan. “That’s what I thought, until I received an email back from the UM’s central contact person for refugees, Luc van den Akker. He said that the UM was aware of the gap for refugees like me and that they created a scholarship to bridge the difference between the higher and the lower tuition fees. It was the second time the UM created a miracle for me.” At this moment, there are three students who got this so-called ‘UM-Holland Euregion Refugee Scholarship’.
Caglayan hopes to finish her thesis in January and because of the grant, she was able to participate in the Vis Moot Court 2019, the biggest pleading competition in the world. “It was a huge dream of mine to compete. The UM’s team did well, we got honorable mentions for both claimant and respondent memorandums.”