Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts
I get to the library around 8:15 and there’s already a huge queue waiting at the centre of the glass windows. As its namesake would suggest, the Running of the Germans is a Maastricht phenomenon in which German students line up before the opening of the library to vie for the best study spot. If you’re an exchange student, like me, or just not an early riser, you’ll never have seen it before. Like the Aurora Borealis or huge surges in gym membership, you’ll only see the Running of the Germans at particular times of the year.
That time of semester is upon us, when people frantically rush through the lectures they didn’t go to and swap study notes with people for readings they didn’t do. Exam week. My only questions are: Why so early? Why so much competition?
Helen Backhaus and Karla Korten are both third-year International Business students. They’ve been doing the Run since they were first years, and yes, they’re familiar with the term the Running of the Germans. “I think it’s on YouTube”, Korten laughs. They’re both here to study all day, and it’s the only place they can. Backhaus finds it easier to study when she knows other people are around: “I need other people to watch me.”
Why so early? Location, location, location.
Indeed, after letting the initial crowd rush through, I try to find a spot. All the best seats are taken. As the time approaches 9 am, study space is dwindling fast. There are few seats left along the benches of the first and second floors, and you can forget trying to find a place near the windows. With library real estate in prime demand during exam week, the best places run out quickly. Korten tells me that she’s headed for the best spot: the first-floor corner. She likes it because it’s more private and there are study boxes. Backhaus likes to study there as well because most of her friends, third years, study on the second floor, and it’s easier to concentrate when she’s not near them.
Although the point is to study, that’s largely the opposite of what I see as the day goes on. I can see it in the number of desks with books and bags but no people. The number of computer screens switched to Facebook. The number of people that head down to the cafeteria for a coffee break, or idle in the stairwell chatting to friends. It seems that the only place less conducive to study is our bedrooms.
Book a study room online
The Student Services Centre and the University Library have started a pilot in which students can book a study room online. “The managers of the different faculties have let us know which classrooms are not in use during the exam period”, explains the library’s Yvette Froeling. “If students don’t need the library facilities, they can book a room for their study group up to two weeks in advance via MyUM.”
For those students who do want to work in the library, Froeling has another tip. “You’re better off avoiding the early morning; come late in the afternoon or in the evening after eight pm instead. It’s a lot quieter then.”