A Journey in Pop Culture References
MAASTRICHT. It’s raining in Maastricht. Clouds cover every last bit of benevolent sky that attempted to smile down upon us today, thus painting the town a sepia-like tone that can only be compared to the softened hue of a late 2012 Taylor Swift music video. Basically, it’s the perfect time to stare out of one’s window and reflect upon recent events, just as great philosophers have surely done. As a native Swiss who spent the last eleven years in Jordan, I present to you a report on my first two weeks in Maastricht, just as the title so unabashedly suggests. Additionally, a speckle of Dos and Don’ts will be included for the purpose of comic relief disguised as friendly advice.
We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (in the near future)
I expected August fifth to reduce me to an emotional mess. Hence, I prepared a playlist filled with every guilty pleasure song I found in my iTunes library, and braced myself for tears as I watched world-wonder-laden Jordan disappear beneath me. But I was fine. Perhaps gymnastically climbing over my neighbour’s seat to get into the aisle helped distract me, but mostly the thought of Maastricht, and the associations sensationalist websites had imbibed in my mind, it kept my spirits up (not so much when the weight of my entire Shakespeare collection – literally - pulled me back down).
Ah yes, the flight was the easy part of my journey; Schiphol airport was only the tip of the iceberg, the prologue of the novel, the Siq to Petra (the Wonder of the World alluded to previously. Google it). Thankfully, stereotypes often prove true, and some lovely strangers assisted me in my need; in my fatal state of an oversized backpack and two suitcases. Luckily, I ended up making it to my destination in all four pieces.
DO: ask for help if you’re travelling alone – in case no one automatically offers.
DON’T: trust the clerk at the ticket booth; he’ll sell you a ticket for the train departing two minutes post-purchase - and will then watch you run. (Also, you don’t need your entire Shakespeare collection. Be kind to your back).
Begin Again (but only if you’ve got an umbrella. Ella)
Flash forward to breathing in earth-scented summer air that almost makes you nauseous because you’ve only gulped in big city smog for an eternity. Maastricht with its town-like feel grabs you by the wrist from the moment you step into its cobble-stoned streets, and greets you with a smile, sunshine, and tourists. Many, many tourists. I had to constantly remind myself that I wasn’t one as well.
That being said, I can assure you that I failed miserably at that task (the not being touristy); the first thing I bought was a city map, I stood in the middle of the Vrijthof snapping dozens of pictures, I sat below a tree in the park to read a book which I’d purchased from Boekhandel Dominicanen, and then proceeded to email my former English instructor pictures of said bookshop. I did it all.
I arrived in Maastricht quite early in order to get all the bureaucratic aspects of moving out of the way. Once I had done that, however, there wasn’t much left for me to do. One slow evening, though, I thought it a good idea to take a totally unpretentious, lonely walk through town. I watched the sun set above the Maas and as I stared off into the far distance awestruck, it started to rain. I didn’t have an umbrella, and ended up seeking refuge in the Onze Lieve Vrouwebasiliek. I was reading prayers hung on the walls by flickering candle light, hearing the wind howl, and the rain drizzle just outside. And then, kids, I almost got locked in a church for the night.
DO: plan enough time to open a bank account, register with the municipality via UM (BRP sessions), and take music-video style walks along the Maas. Also, read. Reading is good.
DON’T: trust rooms with flickering candle light.
Shake It Off (but only if you want to)
Shaking into this academic year is precisely what my fellow Maastricht newbies and I aimed to do. We did not realise, however, that this would greatly involve airborne beer (I had to do my laundry twice this week). My INKOM mamas were absolutely lovely, I fell into sync with a group of strapping young people, and even tried out this partying phenomenon myself (I did miss some parties in favour of watching musicals with my newly-won friends, but hey).
Besides partying, I’ve also feuded with a bickering Shakespeare, been told that “the limit is not (my) brain, it’s (my) creativity” during a session on memory, and thoroughly saw Maastricht from a new perspective (by that I’m alluding to the boat trip we took on Friday). Over all, I’d deem INKOM a success.
DO: have fun.
DON’T: stop listening to your guilty pleasure music. I’ll get back to my Social Distortion now, though.
Amira Eid, first-year student at the European Law School