Photographer:Fotograaf: Photo: Edis Pajazetović
Iris Fraikin is a third-year student of Arts and Social Sciences. She tested various study spaces for Observant: at home, in the train, parents' home, in a pub, in the open air, and the university library.
An infinite supply of coffee, a clean toilet, a fast Internet connection and piles of study books. In short, a student’s heaven. And where would that be? My very own – well, shared with my boyfriend – small apartment just a stone’s throw from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
Still, I am not exactly flying through the pages. There is a pile of washing in the corner that needs folding and just beyond that, the piano, violin, guitar and all the other fun things I have at home are beckoning me. My discipline is being seriously tested. The extreme being the deadly combination of Spinoza’s philosophies and four men boisterously commenting on a football match on telly. No, for complicated philosophical discourse, absolute peace is required. For this, east, west, home is not always best.
Concentration: 0 tot 10
“Learn while travelling. On retreat, alternated with dazzling life all around you; learn from changing circumstances. Or even better: dazzling life all around me while I am on retreat with relaxing music coming through my headphones; a perfect combination.” According to a former fellow-student.
So, the train it was.
At the station I was already having my first doubts. Almost everyone within a twenty-metre radius was bellowing loudly into a mobile phone. The only way I can drown this out with my own music, is to cause damage to my own hearing. It does not get any better once I am in the train. The seats may be comfortable, but a decent table is lacking. Writing is almost impossible because of the constant rocking movement. The smell of my neighbour’s chips covered in mayonnaise, raw onions and peanut sauce does not help either.
After half an hour I give up, this does not work for me. In Roermond I take a return train to a quieter place.
Internet: 0 to 7 (depends on the train you are in)
“Weather permitting I like to take a blanket and some books to the city park. I can study there for hours in the sun,” says a medical student. That a lot of people agree with her is obvious when you walk through the Maastricht Park on a sunny day. I myself do not belong to the fan club. Youths on mopeds shouting to see who is loudest and pumping horrible music into the blue sky. Footballs and Frisbees whizzing past your ears and dogs running over your books with their muddy paws.
I have an alternative, and although I am not looking forward to having hordes of students spoil the peace and serenity of my private oasis, I have decided to share my secret. Why? Because by now it is far too cold to study outside and when temperatures rise again, you will most likely have forgotten this.
On the Hoge Fronten, a protected nature reserve close to the centre, you will find no distractions. Occasionally, a granny and her dog pass by or a romantic couple strolling arm in arm along the many footpaths. Another major asset: the benches and walls make great places to sit for those who dislike sitting on grass.
Let me sketch a familiar scene: the fridge is empty, your room is a mess and a housemate is giving a party that is creating so much noise that you can’t hear your own thoughts. Yet you do have an exam tomorrow. I say: catch a train, bus or bicycle and go to your parents’ house. Food and drinks are available in abundance and the table is nice and empty. At the same time, mum and dad can see what a terribly diligent student you are.
My study materials go into a bag and I surprise my parents with a visit. “Would you like another cup of tea Iris?” Such bliss. Unfortunately my parents’ much younger offspring come running in and start jumping around me in high spirits. “Come with us to the trampoline, play a game with us, what kind of weird papers are these?” And there we go, all my neatly ordered stacks fly through the air.
Studying at your parents’ home is a fine option, as long as you don’t have four-, six- or nine-year-old brothers and sisters.
I usually only find myself in the university library if I need to photocopy something or borrow a book. But there are lots of students there. Around exam time, it is advisable to go early if you want to get a good spot. But what is so great here? I just cannot discover it.
“You make a lot of social contacts. The fact that fellow-students approach you with questions makes studying much more dynamic,” says a master’s student of Strategy and Innovation. The fact that I interrupt him while he is reading does not bother him at all. “There is also something fundamentally psychological behind it. When you see people around you studying, it encourages you to stick your head in a book too. There is real work ethic here.” In the quiet rooms, students are indeed bent over their papers in deep concentration. Elsewhere, it is a little noisier, with talk of globalisation and booze-ups.
Not for me. I will work on social contacts when I am not studying and the library remains a place where you can get your hands on literature.
A whole hour with Heidegger and not even two pages done.
Although spending time in the new coffee corner at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences is pleasant and the coffee and the vegan soup of the day are delicious, the surroundings are disastrous for my concentration. Many students agree with me. “It is very comfortable here, but much too noisy and busy to be able to study properly.”
A student of European Studies does not feel the same way: “During the last week of exams, I was looking for a place to study and I ended up here. It is true that the afternoons can be very busy here but in the mornings and evenings it is wonderful. Anyway, with three brothers and sisters at home you get used to noise, so it does not bother me so much”. I know about the brothers and sisters, but for me they are a reason for finding quieter places. The student I am speaking with admits that she also studies in other places. “Of course I also spend time in my room or in the university library, but it is important for me to change my surroundings now and again. Dynamism is the key to pleasant studying.”