Who is born for a dime will never be worth a quarter? I’ll prove you wrong         

Who is born for a dime will never be worth a quarter? I’ll prove you wrong         

First-generation students/academics

17-11-2021 · Interview
  • Kim Thieme (1989)
  • First-year student of Health Sciences 
  • Born and raised in Maastricht, Pottenberg 
  • Went to UM in 2018

Being the first in her family to go to university? “My mother said, ‘You don’t have to do it for me’”, says Kim Thieme. “She was afraid that I would drop out and end up in debt. I have a cousin who also went to university, but I was never really in touch with her.”

Thieme grew up in Pottenberg, a neighbourhood in Maastricht. Her father worked as an electrician and her mother as a cleaner. Thieme was a curious child who was always asking ‘why’, much to her mother’s dismay at times. “I also read a lot. I used my pocket money to buy horror books in the Goosebumps series by R. L. Stine.”

But when she was twelve, tragedy struck. Her uncle, who was like a father to her, went missing and was found murdered by his best friend. Thieme was devastated, she explains. "I adored my uncle. He was a rascal who got up to all sorts of things, but he was also a good guy. He had decided to turn his life around and become a lorry driver. He was already working on getting his HGV licence, but he never did."

On top of that, Thieme hit puberty. She fell in with the wrong crowd and ran wild. Unsurprisingly, she often skipped school and fell behind. And because it became too much for her parents, she also had to give up her place in the house to her uncle’s daughter. Thieme moved in with her grandparents. "But they were mourning the loss of their son and had no emotional space for me."

She felt angry with everything and everyone, didn’t understand the world around her. She didn’t quite know how to deal with people and found it difficult to make sense of their behaviour. “I had so many questions. I was looking for answers, for knowledge.”

Thieme enrolled in vocational training, but then she was faced with an unintended pregnancy. She decided to keep the baby. "After two months, I started having nightmares and I knew that something was wrong. The doctors didn’t believe me; they couldn’t find anything on the ultrasound. They thought I was suffering from pregnancy psychosis and put me on antipsychotics. Shortly afterwards, after I kicked up a storm, they finally took me seriously and figured out I had pre-eclampsia. The baby was born after six months via emergency C-section." 

The years went by. She took care of her child, lived on benefits and at age 29, she decided to enrol in a university of applied sciences to study nursing. After successfully completing the first year of the programme, she transferred to UM to study Health Sciences. "It’s something that I had wanted since I was a child. Whenever my parents and I drove past the Faculty of Medicine, I would fantasise about being a student there."

And she has other memories that encouraged her to go to university. First of all, there’s her grandmother’s motto, a Dutch proverb: “Who is born for a dime will never be worth a quarter.” Thieme would prove her wrong. She also often thinks of her uncle, who wanted to turn his life around and was working on getting his HGV licence. Finally, there’s something her father said when she was young: “I’d be proud of you if you ended up earning more than I do.”

But halfway through her first year history repeated itself and she found herself facing another unintended pregnancy. The thought of having an abortion crossed her mind, but no, that wasn’t what she wanted. In the months that followed, it turned out that this pregnancy was not without complications either. "I had a narrowed uterine artery, which could cause an umbilical cord accident. The baby needed to be delivered at seven months."

She is currently completing the last few courses of her first year. Life as a single mother with two children isn’t easy, but she has a lot of life experience and knows how to set priorities. "I can’t afford to take longer to finish my degree. I have to finish it within two years, as I will no longer receive student finance after that."

And her parents? What do they think of her now? "They’re very proud of me."


Thieme helps students who are unable to study due to poverty or other obstacles. For more information, see https://matchmaastricht.nl/nl/projects/slim/

Photo Joey Roberts

Categories: news_top, People
Tags: first generation

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