“My old name no longer suited me”

“My old name no longer suited me”

A room of one’s own

13-02-2023 · Interview

Dylan Seijmonsbergen (23, Dutch), a second-year bachelor’s student of European Studies, pays 420 euros per month for a 27 m2 room in an apartment complex in Scharn, a neighbourhood in Maastricht.

Dylan Seijmonsbergen doesn’t spend much time in his room. He has an active social life that takes place mostly in the city centre, a fifteen-minute bike ride away. “That’s why I tried to find a room in the city centre last year. But I soon realised it’s not easy to find a room like this – large, not too expensive, clean, with a nice landlord.”

And besides, not too many students live here. “Me and my three flatmates are the only students in this building. All other residents are ‘actual’ Maastrichtenaren. It’s a perfect blend. Too often there is a division between students and other city residents, usually caused by misunderstandings. But here, the two groups mingle well. I often have nice chats with our neighbours, they’re very interested.” Only their annual house party leads to the occasional noise complaint. “Surprisingly, it’s usually younger neighbours who complain. The older ones often say, ‘It’s nice to have some liveliness around here’.”

The long route

Three framed diplomas are displayed on the wall: a vmbo secondary-school diploma, an mbo vocational training certificate, and an hbo first-year certificate. “They didn’t see what I was capable of in primary school, so I had to take the long route to university. It’s a shame, because it was more expensive and people in higher education tend to look down on people who first went to mbo. But it also made me stronger. At 18, I was addicted to video games and lived in social isolation. My personal coach at mbo pulled me out of it. If I’d gone straight to university, where there are no personal coaches, I would’ve had a much harder time.”

Seijmonsbergen also learnt a lot from moving in with his father in Amersfoort. “My parents are divorced. I lived with my mother in a small village in North Holland until I was 18. But I wanted more independence, which my father could provide. He wasn’t home much because of work, so I had to take care of a lot of things myself. It required discipline. Those were tough years, but they taught me how to stand on my own two feet. The long commute – five hours per day to the mbo in Leeuwarden and back – was more than worth it.” Above the sofa hangs a large portrait of him and his father. “He’s my best friend.”

Pragmatic

He came out of social isolation some time ago, as evidenced by the many photos of activities with friends displayed on the wall. “I’m always on the move these days. I haven’t had a day without plans since summer break. I feel like a completely different person.” He feels so different, in fact, that he decided to change his name a year ago. “Kevin, my first name, no longer suited me. I was having drinks with a friend who said, ‘Why don’t you just change your name?’ Ever since then, I’ve been using my middle name, Dylan.”

The international friends he has made in Maastricht fit in well with his new life. “I’ve noticed that my fellow students from Southern Europe are very open and place great value on culture and emotion. Dutch people are more moderate and pragmatic, too preoccupied with working hard. We tend to look down on Southern Europeans, but there’s actually a lot we can learn from them.”

City trips

In that respect, he’s glad that he exchanged “drab and dull” Leeuwarden for Maastricht in 2021. “People know how to live the good life here.” He also likes the location. “People in the rest of the Netherlands often think that Limburg is very remote, but they neglect to look beyond the borders. I go to Liège and Aachen at least once per month. They’re great cities.”

His bookshelf holds a stack of travel guides, and souvenirs can be found throughout his room – a Notre-Dame painting, and little statues of the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and the Colosseum. “I go on several city trips per year, usually alone or with friends. I’ve already been to Paris six or seven times. I know the city like the back of my hand.” Another one of his favourite destinations is Edinburgh, because of its “small-town vibe”. “Maastricht has the same vibe. That’s why I love living here.”

In addition to the travel guides, the bookshelf holds a collection of books about the Dutch royal family. There’s also a photo of King Willem-Alexander on the wall. “My friends like to joke about it”, he laughs. “I’m probably one of the few students who is a fan of the royal family. No, I wouldn’t make the Netherlands a kingdom if we had to redesign the country. But I find the history of the royal family just fascinating.”

Photo: Ellen Oosterhof

Categories: news_top, People
Tags: aroomofone'sown,mbo,city trips,royal family,students

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