“We often have the feeling that UM students think we are stupid”

“We often have the feeling that UM students think we are stupid”

Students debating about Maastricht student life

14-12-2022 · Background

How is Maastricht developing itself into a real student city, in which everyone feels at home? A few dozen students pondered this question, together with city council members and employees from the university last Wednesday. Observant took a look.

“Maastricht is a paradise on earth,” alderman John Aarts announces to the students who have gathered in the city hall upon invitation from the city of Maastricht this Wednesday evening. “But even a paradise requires maintenance. This can only happen when the inhabitants meet and learn to understand each other.”

The latter is the idea behind this annual meeting, which is organised within the framework of Studentenstad (see textbox). Representatives from various student associations and organisations are given the opportunity to shine their light on Maastricht student life. This is done on the basis of six statements, such as ‘It is easy to be socially involved as a student’ and ‘After graduation, you can easily find a job in Maastricht and surrounding areas'.

Wishful thinking

After a brief introduction, the students disappear into six small halls. They are going to discuss one specific statement, together with employees from the city and educational institutes who are involved in the subject. The statement ‘I can easily find and access all the information that I need to live pleasantly in Maastricht’ was attended by employees from MyMaastricht, the platform that offers students information about housing and living in the city.

Their greatest challenge, they say, is reaching students. This appeared to be true: none of the students present recognise the name MyMaastricht. How can that be improved, the employees want to know from the students. “It is wishful thinking that you can reach students during the introduction,” one of them remarks. “During INKOM, everyone is busy partying, during the faculty introduction they concentrate on the study programme.” And no, students often don’t know how to find the information by themselves, they confirm.

That’s unfortunate, say the employees, because they do actually try to keep the students from getting into trouble, such as being fined for parking your bicycle or putting out your rubbish bags incorrectly. Could there not be a role here for the student associations? “These specific issues are not really their responsibility,” a student says. “Although associations could share information, via posters or social media. They can act as a middleman, passing on information between students and the university.” The students mainly see an important role for the university itself. “Mentor groups in first year can be very useful. The mentors themselves don’t need to know everything, but they must be able to refer students with problems to the right place, such as MyMaastricht.”

Excluded

A little further along, with the statement ‘Maastricht offers a lot to do for students’, a remarkable number of students from the MBO (Dutch for intermediate vocational education) institute Vista College have come together; they have been invited to the meeting for the first time this year. Where the UM students feel that there is enough to do, they see that differently. “Our student life is completely different. We don’t even know about the existence of many activities or associations or whether we are allowed to participate.”

According to the Vista students, the main problem is that many people at the university don’t know what MBO involves. “We are regular students too, but we are often not seen that way. Sometimes, we have the feeling that a lot of people think we are not as clever.” That latter is not the case, says a board member of an association that does not allow MBO students to become members. “That is mainly because of practical reasons. Often, those first-year students are still 16, how do you deal with that when you are serving alcohol? But we do want to look into what is possible.”

But there are plenty of MBO students who are 18, a Vista student remarks. “We are very interested in associations, but we feel excluded. It is so difficult for us to make friends in the city. Participating in INKOM and becoming a member of an association would help a great deal.” That first matter is already being discussed, an employee from one of the institutes remarks.

The to-do list of policymakers in attendance has grown quite a bit longer again, it was heard at the end of the evening.

The Studentenstad programma

Studentenstad (Dutch for Student city) is a collaboration programme between the municipality, Maastricht University and Zuyd Hogeschool, which was founded in 2013 (under the name ‘Student en Stad’ at that time). It yielded various projects – including MyMaastricht, international student club Kaleido and ‘broker for social involvement’ Match – with the aim: “To make Maastricht – oldest city in the Netherlands with the youngest university in the Netherlands –a real student city, in which students feel at home.”

Studentenstad published an evaluation this autumn. This should lead to a new, improved programme for the coming four years, which the municipality and institutes are working on at the moment. The students’ input during the meeting last Wednesday will serve as a complement to the recommendations presented in the evaluation.

Photo: Bibi van de Wouw / Gemeente Maastricht

Tags: studentenstad,student city,municipality,mbo,university,inkom,students,instagram

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