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“Having my own studio apartment is OK, but I prefer being around other people”

“Having my own studio apartment is OK, but I prefer being around other people”

Photographer:Fotograaf:

Joey Roberts

The UM first years of 2020/2021, part 2: first-year Economics and Business Economics student Giovanni Bava

Giovanni Bava can tell that he has grown a lot in the six months that he has been here. His English has improved a lot and he is more disciplined than he thought he was. But not everything is going smoothly: he is having difficulty concentrating. He has already contacted the student psychologists at Maastricht University about it.

Mid-January 2021. Bava has just returned to Maastricht after visiting his family in Italy for Christmas. He is self-quarantining in his studio apartment, in accordance with the Dutch COVID-19 restrictions. “It was good to be home for a while, but it was a strange Christmas”, he says. “Our whole family usually gets together at our family vineyard. This time, we met up in shifts. I spent Christmas Eve alone with my parents. My brother was in Canada and it was difficult for him to travel.”

James Bond
His brother was there to study economics, but came back to Italy because of the pandemic. After seven months in Italy, he returned to Canada towards the end of last year. “He built a life there, his friends are there. He’s happiest there.” But they will see each other again soon, says Bava with a big smile. In October, he won a contest by an Instagram account dedicated to watches: a trip to London for two. “The account is in a partnership with the producers of the James Bond films. This summer, we will get to drive an Aston Martin on a racetrack. They’re covering our travel and hotel expenses.” It didn’t take Bava long to decide who to take with him. “My brother and I don’t get many opportunities to see each other. We’ve been meaning to go on a trip together for a while. We actually wanted to go to Japan, but COVID is making it very difficult. We have a good relationship. We used to fight a lot when I was four or five years old, but that was a long time ago. He gives the best presents. He bought me a special watch for my birthday. I once mentioned that I liked it. I love that he remembers things like that.”

Beef tongue and doughnuts
He misses cooking with his father when he’s here in Maastricht. Fortunately, they got to spend time in the kitchen together in December. They made beef tongue. “My father tells me the stories behind the recipes, like who taught them to him. And I told him about the Microeconomics exam I failed. My parents were very understanding. They know that I’m taking it seriously and trying my best. They’re very empathetic people. They taught my brother and me, ‘Always try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.’ If someone says something mean to you, or declines your invitation, try to understand why instead of getting mad.”

He doesn’t just miss his parents and his brother, but also his Ford Fiesta. He did a lot of driving in Italy, he says. “I got my driving licence three days before I moved to Maastricht. Now I could finally practise.” He and his cousin did doughnuts in the snow in an empty car park. “A ten-out-of-ten experience!”

Microeconomics
As for his studies, they are going well, says Bava. He passed the bane of many students – mathematics and statistics course Quantitative Methods ­– with a 7.5 out of 10. He also passed two other exams. Microeconomics is the only exam he has to resit. “Few students pass it on their first try”, he says in his defence. “I thought the exam would be different. They’d made a few changes because of COVID and I ran out of time during the exam.” He’s not worried about the resit. “I now know what to expect and I did a lot of practice exercises. I’m quite confident I will pass it this time.”

He is worried about something else, though. He has noticed that he can’t concentrate as well as his fellow students. “When we have to do five mathematical exercises, my mind wanders off and keeps taking breaks in between, whereas other students just continue on to the other exercises.” Bava, “not the type to give up easily”, contacted the UM psychologists for help. “There’s no point in being sad about it. I see it as something I need to work on. This kind of stuff happens in ‘real life’ as well.” The psychologists advised him to attend the UM productivity workshop. He hasn’t done so yet; “I will in the future, I think”.

Study buddies
He’s still happy with his decision to study Economics and Business Economics at Maastricht University. “In secondary school, you also have to learn a lot of things you’re not interested in, like chemistry. Everything I need to learn now is something I actually want to know.” The Problem-Based Learning approach is also working for him. “It forces you to study every day. If you don’t prepare for class, you have no idea what the tutorial discussion is about, so you definitely won’t be able to contribute to it.” It’s the kind of incentive he missed in secondary school, he says. “I often left things to the last minute.” To his own surprise, he now studies daily with two friends, who are also from Italy. Sometimes they meet up at his place and sometimes they meet up at their place. “They’re in the same study programme as me and they’re very smart, so they’re good study buddies. And they also like to cook, just like me. We often try new recipes.”

Bava lives alone in a studio apartment, but he wouldn’t mind exchanging it for a room in a big student house. “It’s nice to have your own bathroom and kitchen, but I prefer being around other people.” He isn’t lonely, though; he has made plenty of friends. “I’m still in touch with people from my first tutorial group and with some people from the city walk during the introduction week.”

Broken up
Finally, how’s his love life? The last time we spoke, he and his girlfriend had all but broken up, but they still had to talk about it. Did they manage to work things out? “We broke up. We both felt like it wasn’t working, her in Italy, me in Maastricht. And then there’s the pandemic, which makes it more difficult to visit each other. Neither of us was up for it. It’s been four months now. It was the right decision.” He hasn’t met anyone new yet. “I’m taking it easy for a while. If it happens it happens, but I'm not actively looking for anything right now.”

The first years of 2020

Who are the new first-year students at Maastricht University? What are their dreams, their plans and their expectations? And how are they doing this year? Observant is following six new students this academic year. We spoke to them for the first time in autumn, are checking in with them now and will interview them one last time in May/June.

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