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Traditional student associations less popular

The more traditional student associations in Maastricht are less popular among first-year students this year. Tragos inaugurated 89 new members (2010: 105) and Circumflex 113 (2010: 130). Tragos chair David Hageman is not sure what’s behind the drop in popularity. “We had more subscriptions, but a lot of people didn’t show up to the introduction, even those who had paid already.” Circumflex chair Tibor Nussy was surprised as well. “We’ll look into it, although given the overall downward trend in Maastricht, we’re fairly satisfied.”

Koko has not inaugurated its new members yet, but had 194 subscriptions (2010: 191). Rowing association Saurus is the only real climber, with 118 new members compared to 98 last year. Saurus is also the most popular association among international students, 25 of whom joined this year, making the association 20 per cent international. “Germans in particular are attracted to rowing”, says chair Casper Oude Essink. “We like to have them, so during the Inkom we focus on explaining that Dutch associations aren’t like German student associations and that joining them is a good way to learn Dutch and integrate.” All student associations stress that international students are more than welcome to join, as long as they learn Dutch. “Well, it’s not mandatory”, says Koko chair Teun Menting. “But it does come in handy, as all the instructions and activities are in Dutch.”

Although the associations organise parties aimed at international students and sometimes work together with the Erasmus Student Network, none has an official international policy. Tragos chair Hageman refers to research by Transfer magazine (July 2011) saying that most international students simply aren’t interested in Dutch student life. “Associations in other cities have invested money to attract international students, but none of it has worked.”

Martin Paul, president of the university’s Executive Board, feels that student associations could open up more. “Sticking rigidly to the Dutch language is, to say the least, not overly inviting for international students. Accessibility would be greater if a language were to be chosen that everyone understands. On the other hand: if you live in a foreign country for a longer period, it makes sense to learn some of the local language. A more open language policy in the student associations should thus go hand in hand with at least learning ‘survival Dutch’.”

 

Cleo Freriks

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