“I can imagine staying here after graduation. I’ve fallen in love with the Netherlands a little bit. The people are more open, they enjoy life more. Even in winter they sit on the terraces. I think Germans take life more seriously.” Sarah Wilke, a third-year Health Sciences student who was born and raised in the north of Germany, laughs a bit shyly. She is 22 and speaks fluent Dutch with a Limburg accent. “That’s because of my boyfriend Rik. He’s from Heerlen and studies medicine at UM. Yesterday I said Adieë wa when I left the office, and my colleagues were laughing really hard. That’s goodbye in the Kerkrade dialect.”
You have a student job?
“I’m working as a student assistant at the bureau onderwijs [Education Office] of the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life sciences. I guide German students – for them everything is new and exciting. I organise coffee hours, just to give them an opportunity to ask questions. I’m a kind of intermediary between them and the staff.” She also organises – together with others – the open day for Health Sciences and Biomedical Sciences; this month she will travel to the north of Germany for a promo tour at various high schools; this Friday she is organising a day for German deans with two other students.
You’re quite busy?
She smiles: “I work eight to fifteen hours a week as a student assistant.”
Do you feel integrated?
Again a big smile: “Yes, I think so. I’ve now been almost three years in Maastricht, I’m surrounded – since my German friends are abroad for half a year – by Dutch students, Dutch colleagues, my Dutch friends Myrthe and Suzanne and of course my boyfriend Rik. Sometimes I have problems now finding the right word in German. And I’m going to celebrate Carnival in Maastricht.”
Do you already have a ‘pekske’?
“No, but I still have a week to choose a proper outfit.”
Do your parents think you’ve changed?
“That’s a good question. I’ll ask them. I don’t know. I was always an independent girl. Now I’m even more independent. Because of my job I get Dutch studiefinanciering. My parents don’t have to pay for me anymore; I’m self-supporting.”
What kind of questions do German first-years ask you most?
“What do the Dutch think about the Germans?”
What’s your answer?
“The students of Health Sciences get a lot of respect because they learn Dutch in five weeks. And if you take the first step to make contact with the Dutch students, everything will go right. I’ve never seen any problem.”
But why should the Germans take the first step? Why not the Dutch?
“We come to the Netherlands. That’s why. But of course, the Dutch must be willing to let us into their lives.”
Do you read a Dutch newspaper?
“Observant. Yes, that’s the only one. I read a lot of books. Kwam een vrouw bij de dokter by Kluun and Het meisje met de negen pruiken. In Dutch. I read Kluun’s sequel in German.”
Who’s the dean of the FHML?
She laughs; of course she knows this one. “Martin Paul – he’s German.”