Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes Fotografie
She speaks English with American accent. “I was in the United States for a year when I was 16. I had a sports scholarship”, explains Magdalena Schmidt, a first-year student of European Studies from Berlin who celebrated her 20th birthday last Tuesday. “I joined a synchronised ice-skating team: Sixteen people on the ice making all kinds of figures at the same time. It was a big opportunity for me and it was great.” Back in Germany she made a difficult decision: she quit ice skating. “It wasn’t easy. I started skating when I was three years old. I actually wanted to stay in the US, but that was problematic because of my visa. Then I decided – realising that I couldn’t make a living out of skating – to concentrate on my studies.”
And so you chose to study in the most famous skating country in the world?
Smiling: “I know about the speed skater who took the wrong line during the Olympic Games. He was really mad at his coach. I can understand that. It wasn’t just the Dutch championships, it was the Olympics.”
Why did you come to Maastricht?
“I didn’t want to stay in Berlin. It’s a great city, but then I wouldn’t have had any new experiences. Just to mention a simple one: go to a bank in a foreign country and try to open a bank account. It’s not that easy!
“I applied for a couple German universities and some Dutch ones. Amsterdam is the city for lots of Germans. I looked at the rankings, spoke to my parents, and chose Maastricht in the end.”
Do you feel at home here?
“Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Berlin has spoiled me. Maastricht is a beautiful city, but a small one. Going out is tough. In Berlin, if you want to go to an underground party you can find one. If you want to hear hiphop, you can find hiphop. But okay, now I’m looking forward to the Concordantia gala. I’m pretty involved in the faculty association. For the first time, we have a list for the Faculty Council elections in May. I’m one of the candidates. DOPE and NovUM also have candidates.”
So students have something to choose.
“A lot of students aren’t aware there are people representing them. My first aim is to persuade them to vote. We’d like to build up an academic society for European Studies. We have a nice common room, but we’d like to have some newspapers there: Dutch, German ones. That you can sit and read. And we’d like to turn the old common room into a study room. The library is so crowded.”
Something typically Maastricht?
“The people all dress up really nicely. It’s a fancy town. The French fries are typically Dutch. I lived in Kanne for a while. We had a friture next door. It was really funny: people dressed up nicely still going to the friture.”
“I love going to Blokker because of the cool stuff. Like the zadelhoesjes with flowers.”
Do you feel integrated?
“My best friend is Dutch, I’m taking a Dutch course and next year I’ll definitely be part of Carnival. But European Studies is not known for having a huge number of Dutch students; 80% of them are German. People of the same nationality tend to click with one another. It’s especially tough for the Dutch. They’re in the minority in their own country.”