Photographer:Fotograaf: Sen Cicalò Ikeda
Home Sweet Home
Shanice Benson (18, German-Irish), first-year student Maastricht Science Programme (FSE) pays 351 Euros per month for an 8 m2 room at the Guesthouse
As the interview starts, Shanice Benson gently lights a Japanese lavender incense stick. The environment acquires a different nuance, a comfortable dimension and in her tiny room, she starts telling her story. There are no pictures on the walls. “I would have liked to put some, but it would take too much time to remove them when I will leave”, she says laughing. On the wall in front of her desk however, some post-its catch the attention. One of them, written in perfect Japanese characters states “Gambatte Kudasai!”, which can be translated into “Do your best!”.
Benson loves languages so much that when asked what her goal is in five years, she replies “being able to speak at least ten languages!”. The boldness of this statement is acknowledged by anyone who speaks no more than two or three languages. However, Benson is different: she already speaks seven languages: German, English, Yoruba, Igbo, Irish, Japanese and Dutch. “I think my love for languages comes from my dad”, she says. Benson’s parents in fact, are Nigerians from two different ethical groups (Yoruba and Igbo) and her father particularly, has travelled a lot. He offered his experience to Benson who, in turn, accepted his gift and cultivated it by herself. In high school, following her love for the Land of the Rising Sun, she decided to learn Japanese.
Predictably, Benson loves Maastricht. “It is so multicultural. I have friends from all over the world” she says. Back in Ireland, where she used to live, she felt that the insular environment limited her scope. Maastricht instead broadens her ambitions and makes her feel included “you cannot feel out of place here because you will find your culture”.
Which three words would best describe Benson? She thinks for a couple of seconds and then says: “Comfort, relax and simplicity”. And her room also appears to agree: her candid and fluffy bed, the puffer jackets hanged by the door and the empty white walls offer a gentle minimal vision of the whole. It is indeed a small room but provides for everything one needs. Within her room, she feels her candles represent her the most. “Because they keep me relaxed especially when I’m having a bad day, and they remind me of peace and tranquillity”.
Sen Cicalò Ikeda