Here they are again, the new students, wondering how this huge step of coming to Maastricht will affect their lives, whether they will find friends here, if they will make it through the first year, if they will miss their homes a lot. As far as the latter is concerned, last week’s Inkom tried to make the freshmen forget all about their parents and old schoolmates by plunging them into an exhausting week of activities. Observant visited some of them, and didn’t mind being merely a bystander. Thirty degrees in the shade; well, it beats rain and gales, that’s for sure.
Tuesday, 18th of August, 11.00 hrs. Registrations at Uns 50
Coincidence exists: the first-year psychology students Jeannette Dietl and Mona Rosenke met each other last Saturday in Maastricht – introduced by a friend of a friend of a friend – and this morning they found they are in the same Inkom group. Without cheating or switching. Both are from Düsseldorf. “We came by car, together.” Jeannette points at her new friend.
The sun is shining bright and Mona rolls up her trouser legs. The two freshmen, already registered, are heading towards the Dimi festival near the Randwyck faculties. Music and drinks are the most important ingredients, like every day of the Inkom. “You can compare the atmosphere with the summer jam reggae festival in Cologne,” Mona thinks.
Observant asks if the Germans would like to continue talking in English or Dutch. “Dutch.” Huh? “My mother is Dutch,” Jeannette explains. Mona, a little shy: “Ich versuche.” She admits she did a course. “I need to speak and understand Dutch for my psychology study.” Maastricht University was recommended by Jeannette 's brother. “He already studies here and is a big fan of the city.” Now it’s up to Jeanette to find out if Maastricht is indeed that great.
Tuesday 18th, 16.35 hrs. Opening at the Markt
A piece of the opening programme, it has to be covered, of course. Wonder what Gordon is going to come up with. Gordon? Who the … etc.? World-famous in the Netherlands, this singer started his career as a salesman at a marketplace in Amsterdam, where he developed his witty but also slightly vulgar sense of humour. He had a hilarious show on Dutch television with a mate of his, lots of jokes about farting and sex, gay sex by preference since he presents himself as an icon of the gay scene. So that’s what he did on Tuesday too: gestures with the microphone near his front zipper, and all kinds of remarks that could only be understood by a Dutch audience. Anyway, he sings too, trying hard to get everybody’s hands in the air, which after twenty minutes is beginning to succeed. And yes, he sings his song from the European song contest, where he and his two mates failed to reach the finals. But today the crowd at the Markt sings happily along.
Wednesday 19th, 11.15 hrs. Bacon and eggs at Amorsplein
First: it’s not bacon and eggs in the Platielstraat, as the Inkom website announces. It must be bacon and eggs at the Amorsplein, a little square at the end of the Platielstraat. In the Platielstraat we don’t smell eggs, only stale beer from the bars that have opened their doors this morning.
“Oh, we have to go. The shop owner doesn’t like us sitting here.” Dutch student Loes Bekkers, wearing a T-shirt with her name on it in capitals and the logo of Tiburon, the student swimming club, leaves the nice shady spot in front of the windows of the women’s store Bandolera. Her group members follow. Some of them still have their mouths full.
For hundreds of students, 11:15 feels like the middle of the night, but not Dutch students Robyn Holland and Annette Verhaeg. “Too early for a good breakfast? Not at all,” says Robyn, first-year student at European Law School. No complaints about their group so far – the Inkom has just started... Unlike to the two girls, three unknown Germans left the group on the first day. Gone. “Discovering the city with other German friends,” they assume.
Wednesday 19th, 15.45 hrs. Sports Day
It’s a fact, Sint Pieter is one of Maastricht's most expensive and quiet neighbourhoods, with only a few student houses. Can you imagine the astonished expression on the faces of many locals as the Inkom sports day is arranged on the athletics track in this district? Bicycles everywhere. Even in some locals’ front gardens.
On the annual sports day, all student sports organisations have the opportunity to present themselves, hoping to get lots of new members. One potential is Dutch student Sabine Daemen. The first-year student of molecular life sciences is interested in Let’s Dance, the student dancing club, as she is familiar with street dance. On a few square metres, some enthusiastic dancers are dancing salsa and meringue. A teacher yells: “One, two….” On the other side of the track, the Maraboes play a rugby match – a group of real fanatics. Why, many would ask. It’s hot. The reporter already has a flushed face while standing still. No wonder the ice cream stall, near the stand of rowing association Saurus, is doing good business. Time to get active on this sports day? NOT, as Borat would say. Sitting under a tree, watching half undressed sportsmen, is the best option.
Wednesday 19th, 20.00 hrs. Comedy Night, Theater aan ‘t Vrijthof.
“The United States is by far the most hated country in the world and therefore we want to apologize to the world. To Austria for jokes about basements, to Madagascar for making part two, and to Iran for invading you in 2010.”
The self-mockery of Boom Chicago was rewarded with deafening applause by the nine hundred first-year students (one of three shifts) that gathered in the Theater aan het Vrijthof, last Wednesday. Boom Chicago consists of a bunch of Americans that passed through Amsterdam on a European tour in 1993 and decided to stay and set up a comedy club. A large part of the show consists of improvisation, on the basis of suggestions from the audience. Someone in the audience shouts ‘spatula’ and promptly a song is born. “Oh spatula, I need you in the morning, I bought you at Albert Heijn.”
And as said, there’s a lot of self-mockery. But in fact, Holland was no less the object of derision than the U.S. “To kill the queen you need a better weapon than a Suzuki Swift.”
Thursday 20th, 11.45 hrs. Mid-INKOM Boost at Stadspark
Normally, the Mid-INKOM Boost is used by students to put some desperately needed vitamins into their bodies. This year, however, they were offered something a little less healthy. INKOM 2009, in co-operation with Onafhankelijk Maastricht (the coordinating organisation for 23 disputes) an Ad Fundum (‘bottoms up’), organised a record attempt. “They’ll have to drink more than 1227 beers in 3.5 hours to break the world record. But since this never has been done in the Netherlands, they will always set a Dutch record,” explains notary Thomas de Klein. Safety measures have been taken. “Freshmen only get to drink one beer. After that, they get a mark on their hands. Senior students are allowed to drink more; they are supposed to be responsible.”
But the freshmen don’t seem too eager to join the growing queue. “It’s too early for beer,” says Ewout Pronk, who’s making graffiti art instead. He laughs. “Besides, I had more than enough of it last night.” The record attempt got stuck at 348 beers.
Thursday, 14.30 hrs. MosaeMaster, Minderbroedersberg.
It’s over 30 degrees. Most people are longing for a nice swim or a terrace in the shade this afternoon. But there are still some master's students (80 to 90) who think about their future careers and join the MosaeMaster at the Minderbroedersberg. A Business Flirting Workshop is part of the programme, but also meetings with large companies like APG and DSM.
In his word of welcome, Jo Ritzen, president of the Executive Board of the university, emphasizes that Maastricht graduates “are good at working in teams and are able to work across cultural and language boundaries”. He even thinks they may ask for extra salary when they start working. “You can say: I’m from Maastricht, I need 10 per cent extra because I’m better.”
A spokesman from BanenrijkLimburg.nl (‘jobs abundant in Limburg’) shows the audience that there are many companies – small and large - in the region “with great career possibilities. So don’t consider Maastricht as the end of your studies but as the start of your career.” And for master's students who can’t wait to apply for a job, InterUM.eu – an organisation specialising in student jobs - can be a help.
Friday 21st, 15.10 hrs. Cantus at the Geusselt
Beer is flying through the air, feet are stamping on the ground and voices are stretched to a maximum. Spirits are high in the tent on the Geusselt (a sports park in Maastricht) where Cantus is held. The idea is fairly simple. Students sing Dutch sing-along songs and classic pop songs while drinking loads of beer. A group of INKOM papas and mamas take the lead on stage, accompanied by drums and keyboard.
Freshmen Sarah Fluchs and Linq Nirkler watch the crowd from outside the tent. “For safety reasons,” Linq says. “We saw people coming out all soaked in beer and we are wearing nice clothes.” She is not exaggerating; the floor is covered in alcoholic drinks. Nevertheless, the two first-year students are enjoying themselves. “It doesn’t really matter that we can’t understand the Dutch lyrics,” Sarah says. “We know the German lines of most songs, so we can sing along anyway.”
Centrale Post, every day of the Inkom.
It’s the beating heart of the Inkom, open 24 hours a day, housed in a corner of the Bonnefantenstraat 2: the Centrale Post. Twenty-six students, many of them former members of the Inkom Working Group, may call themselves the CP crew. They help freshmen who are lost, give students who organise the Cultour on Wednesday morning a wake-up call (“Hello friend of the Cultour, its half past nine, wake up”), keep an eye on the euros that come in and are also the logistic centre of the Inkom. On Thursday morning, the phone keeps ringing: “I’m standing on the Vrijthof, should I bring ‘car two’ back to the Bonnefantenstraat?”
They have everything under control, two students in pink and blue laugh. “The weather is really a piece of good luck, we hope it’ll stay dry until tomorrow,” they say. And was there any bad luck the past few days? With a big smile: “No, everything has been going perfect until now. As with every Inkom.”
Wammes Bos, Wendy Degens, Cleo Freriks, Riki Janssen, Maurice Timmermans