MAASTRICHT. What's it like to be a student? More than forty pupils - averaging 17 years of age - from around the whole world attended the High School Summer College in Maastricht in the middle of August. Living in the Guesthouse for a whole week, taking lectures in the mornings and after that tutorials or a visit to the lab. The evening programme consisted of a film, a tour of the caves or having a meal together.
The Second World War was the theme of the week, says Ellen Krijnen, one of the organisers and senior advisor of marketing and recruitment for the Netherlands. Working from various scientific fields - with the emphasis on psychology and genetics - subjects such as refugees, racism, populism and poverty were discussed.
A week's attendance cost €250. Three pupils received a grant from the UM's Refugee Project. Five participants were fortunate to receive a grant from the Diversity & Inclusivity fund. They were so-called first-generation students, youths who are the first of their family to embark on a university study.
Laura Hoogers (16) and Amber Duijndam (15), who attend grammar school - they are taking the plus programme for talented pupils - the Dendron College in Horst, North of Limburg, belong to the first generation. They are sitting at a table in Ad Fundum and are enthusiastic. They particularly like meeting people from other cultures. “That is how you make friends all over the world,” says Hoogers. Instruction is in English and takes a “little getting used to”. “I can be a little shy, but it is also fun that everything is in English.” She doesn't know yet what she wants to study in two years' time. “I am here because I want to grab every opportunity to find out what suits me. It could be something to do with health, or something to do with languages, or something creative.”
Her friend Amber Duijndam thought the afternoon in the lab in Randwijck hit the mark. “We examined our own DNA to determine our roots. Really interesting.” Problem-Based Learning was new to her. “I am usually quiet, but now I do speak a little at times.”
She is the oldest of the group of pupils, says Inasse Maddahi (20). She lives in Germany, but is from Italy. “I ‘lost’ two years because my parents moved to Germany and I had to learn the language.” Besides Italian, she also speaks English and German, as well as Arabic and Spanish. She is part of a talent group at the RWTH, or Aachen University. “I want to improve my English and I am interested in psychology. My tutor told me about this week. Moreover, the UM is better than many other universities. I really like PBL, everyone has a say.” Actually, everything is “great”, she concludes. “The study programme, living in the Guesthouse, the contact with youths from different cultures. Everyone is so open-minded.”
Next year the university wants to continue the programme, which started with 8 pupils in 2018. “Maybe we will make it two weeks, participants felt that it was a very full programme and would like more time for social activities,” says Krijnen. She wants to ensure that first-generation students and refugees continue to receive grants. “It is an unforgettable experience for them.”