“I love this country; the people are so friendly and open. Total strangers sometimes greet me. Once, when I wasn’t sure of the right direction and looked at a map of Maastricht, a man stopped straight away and came over to help me. And I love the bikes – you can reach almost every corner of the city by bike.” Hannah Wegner (20), a first-year Health Sciences student, can well imagine staying in the Netherlands after she graduates. She speaks Dutch fluently and is fully integrated into Maastricht’s student life. “I’m the chair of the volleyball club Fyrfad and a member of Saurus.”
You’re a first-year student? And already the club chair?
“This is my second year in Maastricht. Last year I studied International Business and Languages at Hogeschool Zuyd. My older sister was on the board of Fyrfad and she told me in September 2008 that they needed new members. At first I didn’t want to do the same thing as my sister because I wanted to have my own friends. But a few weeks later I was playing in a Fyrfad team. Last April I became the chair. We have 130 members, 30 of them German and the rest Dutch. Our official language is Dutch. I think we only have three German members who don’t speak it.”
Is there anything that gives you away as a German student, besides your accent?
“I can’t ride my bike with anyone on the back seat. And as for myself, I can’t sit side-saddle style – like a horsewoman in the olden days – on that back seat. I don’t like saté, and when about it comes to football I support Germany.” She is quiet for a second. “But that’s changing, I believe. When the Dutch and Germans aren’t playing each other, I’m for both.”
Is there any famous Dutch person you know?
“Marco Borsato, Jan Smit. We sing their songs at the songfest. I love cantus songs, I know most of them by heart. When I was younger I was a big fan of Linda de Mol, who was on German television. I wanted to be a TV presenter as well – she was kind of an example for me.”
Now you have other dreams?
“If someone called me and offered me a nice show, I’d drop my studies and go for it.”
Who is the Dutch Angela Merkel?
Without hesitation: “Balkenende. The one with the glasses and the short haircut.”
Have you met a Dutch student lately?
“A couple of minutes ago. I’m the only German in my PBL group. All the others are Dutch.”