Yang Qixin, Wei Duan and Dan Mao – three of the scholarship recipients – were all born and raised in Sichuan. Although they were fortunate enough not to lose any direct family, they witnessed the effects of the earthquake on their hometowns and grieved the many deaths. They were selected for the scholarships in May, based on criteria that included (apart from being connected to the affected region) talent, good grades and knowledge of English. They set foot on Dutch ground a few weeks ago.
Maastricht is quiet but beautiful, was their first observation. “When I first arrived I thought it seemed like only students and a few old people were living here”, Duan laughs. She is studying for the master’s degree in Public Policy and Human Development. She knew little about the Netherlands before receiving her scholarship. “I asked my friends and they told me it’s a very open country.” As a law student, Mao thought immediately of the International Court of Justice in The Hague. “The Netherlands is the mother country for international law.” Qixin, who is following the Master in Management of Learning, chose Maastricht because he had heard good things about the university. “It was actually the only university I applied for.”
Having had their first lessons, the three have concluded that Dutch education is totally different from that in China. “In China you have many more lectures”, Qixin explains. “And more books!” Duan adds. “The subject matter here is not too difficult but I have some problems with communication. I can’t understand what everybody is saying in the tutorials.” She also has trouble expressing herself in class. “You must have an opinion. It worries me a bit, but I’ll get used to it. This is only my second week.” Qixin has had the same experience. “In tutorials you have to discuss actively, you have to give presentations. I think it’s very useful, but also a challenge. Still, I think I’ll overcome it.”