Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes Fotografie
Is there a difference between Dutch and German girls?
Peter Ulrich, a 22-year-old student of European Studies – born in Tübingen – and president of the student association Concordantia, has to laugh. “I have to be careful; my girlfriend will read this article too. She’s German. The ones I know are quite similar. I don’t like to make distinctions on the basis of nationality. What really matters is who you are, not where you come from.”
Funniest experience in Maastricht?
He’s thinking hard. “Oh, yes”, he laughs, “the Dieter Koblenz show on the first day of the Inkom in 2008. He’s a singer from Limburg who tries to behave like a German Schlager singer. He’s making fun of Germans. I was embarrassed standing there on the Markt, seeing the Lederhosen and the Dirndls. I thought, if that’s the image the Dutch have of us Germans … ”
Is knowledge of Dutch necessary for integration in Maastricht?
“I don’t know. What kind of integration are we talking about?” asks Ulrich. “Everybody around me speaks English. I even speak English with my best Dutch friend Lars. I live in an English bubble. I speak een beetje Dutch, but not enough to do this interview.”
Are you integrated?
“In het verenigingsleven? No. In Dutch culture? No. I did two Dutch courses at the Talencentrum. My friend told me about Sinterklaas, and the difference between Maastricht and the west of Holland. I know who William the Silent is; actually I know all the Williams because I wrote a paper about that part of Dutch history. But if you really want to dive into Dutch culture, you have to speak the language.” Just at this moment, Ulrich’s friend Lars Lagas walks in to the Concordantia office and says: “Peter is willing to speak Dutch, he wants to adapt to our culture. I think he’s integrated.” Ulrich: “If you’re talking about being integrated within UM, yes I am. I’m the president of Concordantia, I attended the discussions about the university’s strategy, I joined the integration meetings organised by Rector Mols.”
Is there something that you don’t like in Maastricht?
“The faculty rush us so much. From September until now, we haven’t had a break. We’re stumbling from one course to another. And it’s a pity that we mostly only scratch the surface of things in our programme. It’s because ES is very broad; we get to know a lot, but we almost never go into depth.” And there is that other thing: “I was hoping there would be more nationalities when I came here. I hoped to learn Dutch fluently in half a year. At the beginning of my stay I was disappointed about the number of Germans and the waiting list at the Talencentrum. I don’t want to stay for a master’s degree, partly because UM doesn’t have a really international student population. And I don’t think Maastricht has the master’s programme that I want.”