“Now that I have more freedom, I’m enjoying it again”

“Now that I have more freedom, I’m enjoying it again”

A room of one’s own

05-06-2023 · Interview

Jasmina Kajtazović (21, Slovenian-Bosnian), a second-year bachelor’s student of Psychology, pays 340 euros per month for a 12 m2 room in Heer, a neighbourhood in Maastricht.

“Shoes off, please”, says Jasmina Kajtazović when you enter her room. It’s an Eastern European custom, she explains with a laugh. “When I first came here, I was surprised that Dutch people don’t remove their shoes before entering a home. It helps keep your house clean and it just feels nice. It’s customary in Slovenia and Bosnia.”

Kajtazović is familiar with both countries. Her parents are from Bosnia, but she was born and raised in Slovenia. Her father moved there for work when he was seventeen; her mother followed him there after the Bosnian War in the 1990s. “When people ask me where I’m from, I find it hard to explain. My passport says I’m from Slovenia, but I don’t feel completely Slovenian. I prefer to call myself Bosnian, but I haven’t spent much time there and I don’t speak the language as well – I speak a mixture of Bosnian and Slovenian with my parents. It’s a shame that Dutch people tend to lump together the Balkan countries when they’re so different.”

Scotland

She moved to Maastricht two years ago. Ever since she was a teenager, she knew she wanted to study abroad. “I figured it would be a valuable experience. I deliberately chose an internationally oriented secondary school that offered a lot of classes in English.” She’d initially set her sights on Scotland, but due to Brexit, she ended up in Maastricht instead. “The university has a renowned psychology programme. And someone I knew from secondary school was already a student here, so she was able to give me a lot of practical advice for the move.”

She secured accommodation early, in June, after taking a virtual room tour. “I was very happy about it, all the more so when I found out that a lot of students didn’t have as much luck finding a place. One of my friends from secondary school went to study in Groningen. She told me she was staying on a farm way outside the city with twenty other people.”

Leaks

Kajtazović didn’t have a long wish list; she mostly just needed the room to be close to her faculty in Randwyck, “so I’d be able to walk to class”, she laughs. “I’ve never liked cycling, especially since an unfortunate school trip where I was the slowest of the group and also crashed a few times.”

Several large water stains on the ceiling serve as a reminder of the rocky start she got off to in her new home. “The roof was being replaced at a time when it rained a lot, leading to leaks and mould.” The problem has since been resolved, and she likes living here. She gets along well with her two housemates (“There’s a third one, but he’s a great mystery – none of us have seen him in two years, but sometimes his light is on”). “They’re from Bulgaria. There’s a surprising number of similarities between our cultures, from music to traditional foods and drinks.”

On display

The room’s walls are decorated with her own drawings and paintings, most of which feature faces. “I didn’t like sports much as a child, but I enjoyed being creative. I started by drawing celebrities’ faces – it’s easy to tell whether you got it right.” Her parents, impressed by her talent, showed off her drawings to friends and family. They asked her to draw their portraits as birthday presents. “It made me lose my motivation. I was often told that my drawings weren’t accurate enough and that I had to start over. Now that I have the freedom to draw what I want, I’m enjoying it again.”

Her work was recently on display for the first time ever. Five of her drawings were displayed in the Sustainability Hub at a fundraising event for victims of the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. “I was very nervous about it. When I agreed to it, they weren’t finished yet, so I had to work hard to get them done in time. It was a great experience for me, confirming that I can do this on my own. The reactions were very positive, too.”

Photo: Ellen Oosterhof

Categories: news_top, People
Tags: aroomofone'sown,bosnia,slovenia,balkan,brexit,cycling,art,drawing,students,instagram

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