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“Be stricter about speaking English in class”

International Classroom at the UM

“To me, the university seems pretty international,” says Ivan Dragonov, a first-year student of Econometrics and Operations Management from Bulgaria. “Although that may have to do with my programme: we’re a small group, so it’s easy to get to know everybody.”

He chose Maastricht University after visiting a friend in Brussels. “I mentioned that I’d like to study abroad and he advised me to go to Maastricht. We came here for the day and I liked the university, the city and the study programme. When I did some research, I found out that the School of Business and Economics has a Triple Crown accreditation. I also visited Groningen and Tilburg, just to be on the safe side, but my mother said: ‘go to the south, the weather in the north is so cold, you’ll get depressed’.”

Since his arrival, Dragonov has made it a point to make international friends. “I want to broaden my horizons, hear other points of view; it makes no sense to stick to Bulgarians then.” So far, his experiences are positive. “People are helpful, they want to talk to you and don’t mind that you’re a foreigner.” Unfortunately not everybody shares his attitude. “Some students are not really open to people with another nationality. They stay with their own group, talk in their own language. I really hate it when a Bulgarian comes up to me and starts a long conversation in Bulgarian while other people who are with me don’t understand a word.”

He reckons it would help if tutors were stricter about the use of English in the tutorial groups. “Now, when for instance a Dutch student has a question about a task we’re working on, he’ll put the question in Dutch and gets a reply also in Dutch. Of course, this is a one-to-one conversation, but the answer could be useful for other people as well.”   

He’d like to meet people from different study programmes. “Maybe the study organisation can organise a get-together within the faculty, so we can meet people outside our small group at Econometrics.”

As for getting to know the Dutch culture or learning the language, he says he would “really like to, but I don’t have the time right now. I have to focus on my studies to keep up. Hopefully in my second year I will get a chance to learn Dutch or German or French.”


Cleo Freriks



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