Photographer:Fotograaf: archive Bogdan Mazuruk
Master's special 2010: International master students and their scholarships
They come from Singapore, Ukraine, Romania, Singapore, Russia and many other countries. Around 120 international students at Maastricht University are studying with a scholarship. Last week they received their official certificates from rector Gerard Mols during a festive afternoon. Directly after the ceremony they went on to party at UM’s fourth Mix and Mingle event. Observant talked to five of these top students.
“Don’t give up, try again”
Clarence Ceniza (24 since yesterday), born and raised in the Philippines, lived in Singapore for the last 7 years. He is a master’s student in Media Culture with a UM High Potential Scholarship
“Last year I tried to get a scholarship for the first time. Without success. Instead of being discouraged I saw it as a challenge. I improved my chances by taking a job at a marketing company in Singapore. I learned a lot of practical skills, and grew older. I’m more grown up now. My second motivation letter was so much better than the first one.
“My work experience also helps me in class because I have real-life experience. PBL gives you an excellent opportunity to share your knowledge with your classmates.
“I chose Maastricht because I wanted to explore Europe. I’ve studied in various parts of Asia and in the United States. The Netherlands and United Kingdom offer courses in English as well. Ultimately it was the Media Culture programme that made up my mind. And the scholarship reinforced my choice.
“I’m very confident I’ll be able to find a job when I graduate. Even in the Netherlands – with UM at the top in several rankings – I think there will be possibilities. But I haven’t planned that much. I like to just see where life takes me. It’s important not to be afraid about uncertainties. If I get the opportunity I’d like to work for a couple of years in Europe. But ultimately I’d like to have a job in the Philippines, to give back to my country what I’ve learned here.” One last tip for students who don’t get a scholarship on the first attempt: “Don’t give up, try again!”
“You’ve got to grab the opportunities”
Gabriela Nicolae (21), born and raised in Romania. She is a master’s student of International Business (Strategy and Innovation track) with a UM Company Scholarship from SABIC
“It was the ‘entire me’ that brought me this scholarship”, laughs Gabriela Nicolae. She studied business administration in Bucharest, where two of her papers were awarded with first prize. She went to Budapest as an Erasmus student, was involved in several summer schools and courses, and received high school prizes for economics and mathematics. “My biggest passion is painting. I’ve got some prizes for my paintings too, but I don’t think this helped to get the scholarship.”
Stockholm, Vienna, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Maastricht. She was accepted in all these cities but it was the international ranking of Maastricht University, the good comments from friends who had already studied at UM, and Problem-Based Learning with its “dynamic approach” that made her choice easy. “PBL teaches you how to apply knowledge, to bring a problem through to its solution. The interaction with other students teaches you how to listen, how to explain. You really get a range of skills.”
After graduation she doesn’t intend to go back to Romania. “I first want to develop my profession; I’d like to stay in Western Europe. Working at a multinational or an international organisation like NATO would be great. You’ve got to grab the opportunities.”
“I want to bring the best practices to Russia”
Polina Putrik (26), from Moscow, Russia; master’s student of Public Health with a UM High Potential Scholarship
“It was my first try”, says Polina Putrik when asked if it was difficult to get a grant. “It took me quite some time to arrange all the papers. I was already studying in Europe – I did a master’s in regional health policy in Spain, Hungary and Italy on an Erasmus Mundus Scholarship – so I knew I had to get my Russian degree certificates translated and certified. The procedure was clear though. It takes at least two or three months. The best time to try to do it is when you’re just starting to think about going abroad.”
She’s definitely a top talent. Laughing a bit shyly: “In high school all my grades were excellent. That’s why the Russian government gave me the golden medal. I graduated with honours from my bachelor’s in management in Moscow, and with a grade of 9.2 – I was one of the best in my year – for the master’s.” Besides the good grades, she was able to explain in her letter of motivation how she would benefit from the Master in Public Health. “I want to do research in health policy. My previous education was more in management, and I’m lacking the economics background, especially on the analytical side.”
Why Maastricht? “I chose the country first of all: the Netherlands. I wanted to learn from the Dutch experiences in reforming health care. I had two options: Rotterdam and Maastricht. In both cities I was accepted but in Maastricht I also got a scholarship.
“After I graduate I want to work in an international institution like the World Health Organization. I like to do comparative health policy studies. I want to learn from the reforms in other countries, see what’s going on there, and bring the best practices to Russia to improve our system.”
“You need excellent grades and significant extracurricular activities”
Konrad Plechowski (27), from Torun, Poland; master’s student of International Management (Information Management track) with a Huygens Scholarship
“The Huygens Scholarship Programme is one of the most prestigious Dutch scholarships for an international student. They want excellent grades and significant extracurricular activities”, explains Konrad Plechowski. He has both; almost the highest grade (with the dean’s honours) for his master’s in economics in Poland, and a strong list of extracurricular activities. “I was very involved in Aiesec for six years. I was member of the global board and later the global vice president for Information Management. In Rotterdam, yes, where the headquarters of Aiesec are. It was a full-time job for two years. Last year I lived in Cambodia. I worked for a local NGO, as a volunteer. I was responsible for fundraising and communication management.”
After these years of practical experience, he decided to go back to university. “I wanted to get more theoretical knowledge about information management.” The choice for Maastricht wasn’t a difficult one: “I liked the programme and I was very attracted by PBL: theory that’s well-grounded in reality. I love travelling, but in Asia I felt that I’m strongly rooted in European culture. I wanted to get back to the Netherlands. I like the atmosphere in this country; the people are polite and straightforward. The Dutch are down to earth and very enthusiastic.”
What about his plans for the future? “This master’s programme gives me knowledge and skills, I’m really learning something. I’m very sure it will be a valuable asset when I go searching for a job.”
“My heart is with the patients”
Bogdan Mazuruk (27), from Ukraine; master’s student in Medicine with a UM High Potential Scholarship
It’s not easy to get in touch with Bogdan Mazuruk because he is very busy with his surgery internship in Eindhoven. After a couple of attempts, we finally manage to speak on a Saturday afternoon. Riding on his bike and speaking in fluent Dutch: “I did a research master’s in oncology in Amsterdam at the Vrije Universiteit. During that programme I discovered that my heart is with the patients, with the people. In my motivation letter for the scholarship I was very honest about this dream I’ve had since I was very young: being a doctor.” Mazuruk can imagine that “his very big wish to become a doctor” was crucial for the scholarship committee. He knows that the regular medicine programme is normally only open for Dutch citizens. “I was very lucky to get in.”
“I want to be posted to the Third World. I’ve been to Mozambique twice, and once to Haiti after the earthquake. Maybe I’ll go and work in Ukraine, but the Netherlands will stay my home base, wherever I go. I feel at home here, it’s very special to me. I have a lot of Dutch friends; they’re a kind of second family. When I’m back in Ukraine, I feel more or less like a tourist.”
Scholarships in the Netherlands
There are dozens of scholarship programmes, says the head of the Maastricht Scholarship Office, Lisette Hegge. Most of them are meant for ‘high potential’ students. “You have to be a top talent; only the best have a chance. We often see that those students can chose from several grants. The scholarship programmes are all searching in the same small part of the market. The new trend is that the amount of money a students get is less important; what counts is the prestige of the grant. The benefits of some scholarships, like a Fulbright scholarship, are life long. ”
Start in good time when you’re looking for a scholarship, Hegge emphasises. The deadlines for most prestigious programmes – like the Huygens Scholarship Programme – are often 1 February or, as in the case of the UM scholarships, mid-March. “Sometimes it takes more than three weeks to collect all the paperwork you need; you have to fill in the application form, write a motivation letter and curriculum vitae, and ask for letters of recommendation.”
One other tip: apply for more than one scholarship; that will increase your chances.
Useful websites: www.grantfinder.nl www.nuffic.nl www.studyin.nl You can find direct links on the UM website: www.maastrichtuniversity.nl