Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes Fotografie
Whether it helped much, only time will tell, but at least an attempt was made during this Inkom to inform foreign students in a separate meeting about Maastricht student life, with the aim of involving them more. In particular in the many associations and organisations that this university has. Maastricht University may claim to be an international university, this is not very noticeable in organised student life, which is still dominated by the Dutch. Many of them feel that this is fine, they are not interested in having to speak English in the student pub, but the UM's - and the Inkom Working Group's - official policy is strongly focussed on integration and hence on promoting membership of student organisations. Groups of a dozen or so new foreign students attended the presentations by four senior students entitled Maastricht’s little secrets of student life last Wednesday morning. This title was a little broad, considering the fact that the focus was on associations, debating societies and study clubs; as if student life does not exist outside the organisations. Nevertheless, the arguments presented by two foreign students were clear: if you really want to integrate in this city and this country, join up somewhere. German Nina Stephan: “After all, you are here because you want to study in a foreign country and want to get to know the people and their culture? Then you have to mix right from the start, otherwise it is too late and you have already made friends among fellow-countrymen.” Learning the language is crucial, she says: “I asked my Dutch friends to speak to me in Dutch after only two weeks, and I would answer them in English. That is the way to learn the language.”
Florence (whose surname was not mentioned), a French-speaking Belgian from Liege, also learned the language as quickly as possible and in doing so received great support from her Dutch fellow-students at Tragos: “They even spoke a little bit of French to put me at ease; not that I always understood them,” she admits. Her level of integration appears to be high, judging by her favourite activity, the beer party.
Then two members from Ouranos, the Faculty of Law study association, represented the more serious part of the student life, consisting of study trips to European institutes and lectures and debates. Foreign students are also welcome there. And of course the same applies to organisations such as AIESEC and ESN, which are completely international.
Did the meeting yield anything? Two students, asked after the meeting, said that the answer was Yes and No: they did understand the usefulness of becoming a member of some organisation, “but I think I can also make friends in the study groups,” says Nina Knops from Germany. And what do those associations do exactly? she continues. Saurus is about rowing, but the other ones? Maien Sachisthal, also from Germany: “We still do not know what all those organisations stand for, what they said was rather general.”