A blond Italian on a broken bike through Maastricht

The UM first years of 2020/2021, part 3: first-year Economics & Business Economics student Giovanni Bava


Giovanni Bava has found his way in Maastricht. Sure, he had to do a couple of resits, but he has passed all his courses so far. He’s looking forward to an eventful summer. Will his new Ford Fiesta survive his big plans? Speaking of plans, he now knows what the rest of his bachelor’s programme will look like: he has decided to specialise in Emerging Markets. But what happened to his hair?

“I shaved my head in January”, says Bava (see photo). “Not long before that, I dyed my hair blond. When my dark hair began to show through again, I shaved it all off.” And not for the first time, he says. “Sometimes I want a change, just to make life a bit more interesting.” That’s all well and good, but his timing was off, he laughs. “It was so cold in January and February. And my wool beanie kept catching on the bristles. Fortunately, my hair grows fast.”


And it wasn’t just his hair that grew over the last year. Bava also grew as a person. “I’ve become much more organised. When I first got here, I felt a bit lost. I had to find my way in the programme and get used to doing household chores at the same time.” For example, it took him “forever” to clean his studio apartment at the beginning of the academic year. He has become much faster at it. “I’ve become much more efficient, also when it comes to studying.” He proudly says that he learnt to persevere this year. “I managed to step up my game whenever I was struggling with my studies.” His perseverance also extends to the little things, like fixing his own bicycle. “I’ve had so many bike problems. Instead of getting rid of it, I grabbed my toolbox and set to repairing it. A cycle mechanic probably would’ve done a better job, but at least it works again.”


In the previous interview, Bava spoke about his concentration problems. He said he’d contacted the UM psychologists for help and would attend their productivity workshop. Now, he says that he ended up not attending it. “It would be a while before the workshop began. I needed immediate help.” He tried various study methods, “Writing everything down, writing summaries, highlighting important information – the usual things.” A friend eventually advised him to divide his study time into intervals. “Because I can’t concentrate for long, he advised me to spend fifteen minutes studying and then take a ten-minute break.” It turned out to be excellent advice. “It’s time-consuming, but I’m very productive during those fifteen minutes.”

His new study method helped him pass his Microeconomics resit. “It’s actually a good thing that I didn’t pass on the first try. I learnt a lot from it.” He also has to do a resit for the fourth-period course Quantitative Methods II, the bane of every Economics student. “During that course period, I focused primarily on Macroeconomics and practising my new study method. I did very well on that exam. I scored seventeen points on the QM2 exam – one point shy of the cut-off passing grade. I like maths, so I’ll just have to practise the statistics part and then I won’t be too worried about the resit.”

Emerging Markets

Next academic year, he’ll take courses in the Emerging Markets track, one of the four specialisations of his study programme. “It was a difficult decision to make. If you choose one, you can’t do the other”, he says with airtight logic. He talked about it with a few older students, thought long and hard about it, and made his decision. “I think it would be interesting to look at sustainability in emerging markets. It’s also a useful specialisation for me if my family decides to expand its wine business to any of these countries.”

Bava is required to go on exchange in the third year of the programme. “I love Asia, but I’ll probably go to South America.” He’ll be able to practise his Spanish there. He’s been taking a language course since before he came to Maastricht. “I also considered studying at a university in Spain. Basic knowledge of Spanish was one of the requirements there.” His brother, who lives in Canada, is also learning Spanish. “He has a few friends from South America, and he likes languages. He started after me, but he’s already much better. I’ll stop when I can communicate in a basic way in Spanish, but he’ll keep going until he knows the language through and through. He’s also fluent in French. He’s a good language learner.”

The two of them were supposed to go on a trip to London this summer, but his brother had to cancel, Bava says disappointedly. “He only has a two-week summer break. With all the COVID restrictions and quarantine rules, it’d be difficult for him to come to Europe.” Bava will still go on the trip, which he won in a contest, but he has yet to decide who to take instead.

Road trip

Bava has big plans for his own summer break, which is longer than two weeks. He wants to go on a road trip with his friends from Italy. They’ll take two cars and drive to Spain. A villa with a swimming pool, a large garden, and a barbecue – no, they haven’t actually rented it yet; it’s just what he’s picturing in his mind. They made a similar trip to Croatia last year. There’s a difference, though. “I didn’t have a driving licence last year. I do now”, he says happily. They’ll take his Ford Fiesta, which he didn’t do much driving in before he came to Maastricht. One thing is for sure: his friend’s parents won’t let them take their Fiesta again. “How shall I put it… We pushed the car to its limits”, he laughs.

In addition to his trips to London and Spain, Bava is looking forward to spending some time with his family again. “I miss them. It’s not like I’m homesick – I’m enjoying my independence and my time in Maastricht – but I haven’t seen them since January. Family is everything in Italy.”

Room for rent

In the second interview, Bava said that he was looking for a new place to rent. He liked his studio apartment fine, but he missed being around people. He hasn’t found a new place yet. “I’ll go house hunting in earnest next semester. I signed a one-year lease, and I can’t end it early unless I find a new tenant for the apartment.” He’s had no luck so far. “A lot of students have gone back home because of the pandemic. There’s a lot of supply and not much demand. Next semester, there will hopefully be a room for rent in the student house where one of my friends lives.”

Decent conversation

Early this year, he had only just broken up with his girlfriend. Did he and his ex get back together? Or has he moved on to someone new? Neither, says Bava. They had no contact for a while after the break-up. “It was hard, but I think it was the best way to go. I sent her a birthday text last month. We chatted for a bit. It was a decent conversation, no anger or resentment. That’s exactly what I wanted.”

And no, he hasn’t met anyone new yet. “It’s hard to meet people during a pandemic. There are no parties, no festivals, and most of our classes were online. I’ll be glad to go back to campus next semester. Not just for meeting people, but also for my grades. I got better results during the first course period, when we had limited in-person classes.”

Who are they, 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, checked in with them in January/February, and are now interviewing them one last time in May/June.

A blond Italian on a broken bike through Maastricht
Giovanni Bava
Giovanni with his parents in Italy during X-mas
Giovanni with a bald head
Author: Yuri Meesen

Photo1: Joey Roberts
Photo2: Archive Giovanni Bava
Photo3: Archive Giovanni Bava

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Tags: first-years,instagram

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