How not to learn Dutch

Regrettably tested by yours truly, here’s a 7-plus-one-step tried-and-true method to ensure your knowledge of Nederlandse taal never gets off the ground.

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Private life in the public eye

You probably already know that Urban Dictionary has three entries for our little (adoptive) city. The first one just describes Maastricht as “the best Dutch city in the world”, but it’s the other two that spark drunken discussion. There’s the “Maastricht effect”, whereby the lack of attractive boys makes female residents fuss and bother with less-than-ideal partners. The “Maastricht syndrome” is apparently even worse: the absence of partners and excessive school workload combine to cause a “lasting, location-dependent sexual low”. Ouch.

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Berlin and Dublin: Erdinger and Guinness – part 2

Some guys of Nexus, my fraternity, had gotten free tickets to Dublin and had decided to organise a
fraternity trip to the capital of Ireland. I still had enough savings left after Berlin, so after having spent
barely three days in Berlin I took off to Dublin to join my fraternity there. Since they had arrived
there a couple of hours before me I was forced to find my way to the hostel, Paddy’s Palace, myself
to drop my luggage and try to locate the guys. The extremely energetic girl at the counter of the
Paddy’s Palace informed me that they had spoken about going to the Jameson’s distillery, which
was later confirmed when I texted some of the Nexus guys. The hostel was on the North-Eastern
side of the city centre, about five minutes walking from the river. I decided to walk to the Jameson’s
distillery so I could get a nice first impression of the city. The contrast between the beautiful houses
alongside the river and the tiny red brick workman’s houses in Church Street is fascinating; there are
so many examples of a great historic wealth and examples of Eastern-European-like poverty next to
each other, and I could see why this city, always covered under thick grey clouds, has produced so
many famous writers. I took a left in Church Street and entered the Jameson’s distillery where I was
informed that the tour my friends participated in was just finishing the whiskey tasting. I already had
a ‘quick twenty’ – that was how they called it when everybody put €20,- in the pot for a quick couple
of drinks – and some whiskies to catch up with them.

After high-fiving the bunch of them they finished their Ginger Ale and Jameson’s (a good
combination with some ice and lime) and we went to the Hard Rock Café in the Temple Bar area for
a quick twenty and to T.G.I. Friday’s after we got hungry. That was a bad call, but what else would
you suspect going to an American chain restaurant? The food was so lousy that one of the guys had
to force himself to eat his chicken wings, which came with an awful sour and spicy dip sauce, and
he kept on producing sounds of suffering throughout the process. To cheer him up we decided that
today would be his birthday and when he had left to the lavatories I went to ask the personnel if
they could surprise him with something nice later. The Jameson Burger which all of us had ordered
only increased our regret of going to that restaurant even more and we were ready to pack up when
the T.G.I. employees, awkwardly dressed up in red and white striped shirt and a random supposedly
funny head coverage, showed up at the table with the special dessert, sparklers stuck in ice cream,
for the birthday boy. Try to imagine the surprise on his face when he exclaimed “guys, haha, it’s
somebody’s birthday … no fucking way … you didn’t?!?!”

On our way to the famous Temple Bar some Irish beauties were spotted and we started a
conversation with a group of six hot chicks who, as so many of the Irish girls, were not wearing any
pants. Before going out Irish girls generously apply fake tan and make-up and put on the sluttiest
possible costume, usually consisting of extremely high heels and a dress that barely reaches the
bottom of their nice Irish butts and no panties or whatsoever underneath – and it is awesome! While
some of us (including me) kept on whispering “ze dragen geen broekje!” the others were playing the
girls more sophisticated, which appeared to be fruitful as the girls asked us to come to a club called
The Lost Society with us. We walked with them in the direction of The Lost Society but then turned
round, which immensely frustrated the most corpulent member of our crew, to go back to the
Temple Bar to get a little drunk before going to the club. Temple Bar is the most typical Irish pub with
very friendly personnel who tap perfect pints of Guinness, as well as Heinekens for the stout-fearing
rest of the group. Surrounded by the Irish culture even the grumpiest among us – our group leader
was still mad at us for leaving the Irish chicks – got jolly and so we chanted “In Dublin fair city, where

the girls are so pretty, I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone…” and “I’ve been a wild rover for
many’s a years, I’ve spent all my money on whiskies and beers!” and all the other drinking song we
had learned in our freshman years. Suddenly a confused guy was standing next to me, not a member
of our fraternity, and he was looking around frowning. It took him a couple of seconds to recognize
me after I slapped him on his shoulders and cheerfully addressed him, “Dude! What the hell are you
doing here in Dublin, man?!” It turned out that he and a crew of fellow Public Policy students had
also collectively decided to use their free tickets to Dublin. I informed them that we were planning
on going to The Lost Society, the Nexus-guys were already putting on their coats, so we could meet
there. We met them again while boarding two days later.

The long queue in front of The Lost Society would take us at least twenty minutes. I tried to convince
the other that twenty minutes wouldn’t be so bad, but they decided they rather went to another
place called The Palace we had heard about. The Palace bouncers were though on the two guys in
our company who were below 21 and instead we went to The Duke on the other side of the river
but that place turned out to be closed on Wednesdays. By now, we had been walking for over an
hour and we were frustrated but we decided to try one more place we heard about, Dandelion,
but not before giving Molly Malone, standing with her cart full of cockles and mussels flaunting her
merchandise between Trinity College and Saint Stephen Green, a real good hug. Dandelion was
terrific: the upper floor located a quiet bar but the basement hosted a drunken and sweaty crowd of
jolly Irish lads and Irish girls wearing nothing but little glitter and tigerprint dresses, slowly swaying
from left to right because of their way too high heels and the considerable amounts of alcohol they
must’ve consumed already. The music ranged from cheap R&B with dance beats underneath to
cheap dance music with PitBull screaming over it, mixed with the most popular house-tunes. Our
quick twenties would not help us here so most of us just potted a considerable amount to get a
couple of rounds of wodka&Red Bull and Bacardi&Cola’s before hitting the dance floor. Conditions
like these – the energizing mixers, the cheap music and all the slutty sexy girls around me – stimulate
my inner teen and I couldn’t help but smiling all the time. We fist-pumped, we approached some of
the swaying girls without any success (I was unable to speak with my jaw dropped to the floor) and
we drank till they dropped and then a little more and before we knew it the music stopped because
the son-of-a-bitch deejay apparently called it a night. We took a cab back to the hostel but when we
arrived there three of our crew were missing. One of them arrived half an hour later and explained to
us that they had gone by foot. At some moment, he explained to us, the other two had been playing
around with a garbage container and while he had tried to tell them to stop because it would cause
trouble they had not listened to him so he had continued alone. A few minutes later one of them
called us… from the police station. The police hadn’t appreciated the drunken tourists messing up
their town and had turned them in, so they asked us if we could come to pick them up and pay bail.
Pranking is more or less a tradition in our fraternity, but this time they had fooled all of us.

I woke up first the next morning. The rest was in a coma so I showered, brushed my teeth, dressed
and went down to the lobby just in time for a free all-inclusive but awful hostel breakfast. The instant
coffee was apparently so bad that the energetic girl at the counter offered me some of her own
supply of instant coffee. In the meanwhile one of my friends had joined me in the lobby to check out
the WiFi and the free coffee so we both had a coffee from the girl, which was truly the most horrible
coffee I have ever tasted but the sweet smiles she gave us made up for that. When more of the
group joined us in the lobby we went to a breakfast bar in the neighbourhood where we had coffee
and toast while we waited for the lazier ones of the group to wake up and join us. Around noon we

went out in the drizzling Dublin rain and we headed to Trinity College, our first stop of a long sight-
seeing tour which included some historic churches, a Guinness lunch for me and a coffee lunch for
the others, and the old Kilmainham Gaol prison where the British had imprisoned and executed many
leaders of the Irish rebellion. When you go to Dublin, visit this prison and do the tour, it is definitely
worth your while! By the time we exited the prison it was already half past four so we hurried to the
Guinness brewery, the highlight of our day programme. The old Guinness brewery and storehouse is
also a must-see, not because of the entertaining museum which will learn you all about the brewing
process and the heritage of Guinness which we rushed through, but because of its rooftop bar with
360⁰ panoramic view where you can enjoy a delicious Guinness while overviewing nightly Dublin. The
ones who had previously proclaimed that they didn’t like Guinness had to agree with me now that
this was a magnificent experience. When the bar closed at six we took a cab to the hostel to change
into our fraternity attire – after all, Thursday night is our weekly fraternity night. The Chinese all-in
buffet the taxi driver had recommended wasn’t all that great but it was still better than the T.G.I.F.’s
and we had good laughs about two of our fellow fraternity members feeding each other fruit and
about a black overweight family of seven who were enjoying their special weekly dinner there (they
had tried very hard to dress up nicely) and were exploring the boundaries of ‘all-inclusive’. We were
still hungover and tired from the night before and this time it was nobody’s birthday, but we still had
to do the traditional Thursday night drink.

We walked to a deserted hotel bar in the Temple Bar area which another fraternity member had
recommended to us. It was perfect for the traditional Thursday night fraternity drink. The personnel
didn’t mind us singing there so we sang our song and mexed (a dice game which involves a lot of
drinking) for an hour or so till all of us felt like either going to the hostel or going out. In situations
like these peer-pressure is a blessing. We split up and took two cabs to The Palace. When I arrived
the first half of the group had already made it into the VIP-room but the second half wasn’t allowed
in so we went to inspect the dance floor instead, it was brilliant: a couple of friendly Irish lads and
hordes of no-pants-wearing Irish girls. I made a huge side-pot with my friend and asked him to get
wasted with me and be my wingman, which he instantly confirmed. “Kijk gast, zij draagt ook al geen
broekje!” (“Look dude, she isn’t wearing any pants either!”) we kept on saying to each other after
having spotted an even sluttier and sexier example of fine Irish breed. Another fraternity member
came to request me to try to hook up with a certain beautiful girl he had laid his eyes upon but he
couldn’t begin talking with her because he had a girlfriend. She was swaying from right to left in the
middle of the dance floor looking gorgeous. Even though I got turned down by the girl I was overly
excited and energetic and soon after we had spent all of our money on beers in plastic bottles and
rum-cola’s, I and my friend were bouncing on the stage overviewing the dance floor again. A girl
who was wearing a self-made Pussy Riot cap suddenly turned to me, as I was dancing like a maniac
to Benny Benassi’s Satisfaction, and asked me “are you crazy?” I opened up my eyes wide and
responded “yes, are you?” She confirmed that, which for some strange reason really turned me on,
and we danced like complete idiots for another hour or so before we kissed and she told me she
really had to go. It was time for me to find the rest of my fraternity anyway. After having searched
the whole club two times I found them back and we agreed to stay a little longer, but two rounds
later we finally took a cab back to the hostel. It was around four when we arrived at the hostel.

The next morning we had to take a 7:30AM taxi to the airport. When we arrived there, still
completely shit-faced, I finally found my fellow Public Policy students back in the boarding gate. One
of them was lying face-down on the cold airport floor unable to answer any of my questions. I slept

during the flight and only one and a half hours later we arrived at Maastricht-Aachen Airport.

Berlin and Dublin: Erdinger and Guinness – part 1

The following story is the first part of an account of my trip to Berlin and Dublin in the week after Christmas holidays. I split up the whole story because it was getting too long for just one post. The second part, which describes my experiences in Dublin, will be uploaded soon.

After having spent nearly two weeks at my parents’ place in Utrecht during the Christmas holidays I craved for some kicks. Fortunately, I had four more weeks of holidays and enough money saved to entertain myself for at least a couple of days, so I went to Berlin.

Because the Mitfahrgelegenheit had cancelled the day before I was forced to book a plane taking off on Sunday afternoon from Eindhoven airport and arriving a little over two hours later in Berlin Tegel, to take the shuttlebus to Hauptbahnhof. There I was, walking into home sweet home Berlin Mitte, where in my absence already some five new buildings under construction had been erected. A gentle shower stroke my face and I couldn’t stop smiling about everything I recognized: the grumpy passer-by’s, the stinking alleys, the Reichstag, the river Spree and the homeless woman with the accordion on the bridge to Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse whose lovely tunes once accompanied a magical breakfast at the Spree on a sunny morning in the summer. After unpacking my gear and changing clothes in the six-bed dorm on the fourth floor of my hostel I called Alexandra, a Lithuanian who is currently doing an internship at her embassy  (I had met her one week before I left Berlin in September), for a date later that evening. The Heart of Gold hostel in the Johannisstraße was only two blocks from where I had previously lived, and I still had plenty of time for a stroll around Mitte. In contrast to hip and thrilling Kreuzberg and Neukölln, Mitte is nice and safe, but these trendy neighbourhoods are swarmed by scary drunks. I like my bubble in Mitte.

I was really in for some excitement that night and I was a little disappointed when Alexandra said she needed to go home to do some work after having drunk a green tea and a cherry beer, I just had a couple of Erdingers and we had shared a Flammküchen with shrimps. A very short evening walk along the Spree was all I got and I went to the hostel at ten thirty to sleep. I wasn’t too concerned as I knew I would be able to convince some of the interns at the Dutch embassy to follow me to a bar the next day. And so I did. After checking the view over Berlin from the Panorama tower at Potzdammer Platz, which was sad because of the awful weather, I spent around two hours in the embassy high-fiving, catching up with people and playing Foosball with the interns (yes, they have a football table at the Dutch embassy – it’s pretty amazing – they also have a table tennis, a roof terrace and a gym). The day passed by in an instant and we went to have a couple of Rieslings in a trendy bar in Neukölln. As most of us were having a tour in the Bundeskanzleramt the next morning we departed after gossiping about the embassy staff for a couple of hours. Another night without excitement, but the catching up and the drinks had been quite satisfying.

The Bundeskanzleramt was nice and clean, as everything that is German, but we had to rush through the tour because Merkel was welcoming Samaras later that day and the Bundeskanzleramt people didn’t want any interns to hang around in confidential Eurocrisis meetings. I can tell you that most of the art in the Bundeskanzleramt is – uhm – interesting and that the meeting room for the council of ministers is surprisingly small and modest but the big balcony on the front of the building with a view over Tiergarten and the Reichstag is amazing, perfect for superawesome Bundeskanzler drinks during summer. After that, the other interns – amongst others my friends Alexandra from the Lithuanian embassy, João from the Portuguese embassy and Roos from the Dutch embassy – went back to work and I went to the Jewish museum. I am fascinated by the German history but I hate the kind of in-your-face examples you can find everywhere in Germany but mostly in Berlin which are supposed to remind you of all the cruelty. Fortunately, the Jewish museum, its design resembles lightning (or scars), provides you the entire history of Jews in Germany so you also get to see the happy family stuff, although a bit scarce. Whether it was frustration, too much energy or the paintings of really beautiful Jewish ladies – and if you know the supermodel Bar Refaeli you know Jewish women can be stunning – at some moment I couldn’t hold it anymore and I secluded myself to the lavatories. It was already five when I got out of the bathroom, I had spent four and a half hours in the museum, and I figured my friends would be finishing their work by now so I tried to arrange drinks but I couldn’t find free WiFi to contact them on Facebook so I just called Alexandra and João, after which I bought a salad, a Club Maté and a whiskey shot at the supermarket and waited at the Bahnhof for my friends. Ten Erdingers for me and João and a hot chocolate for Alexandra later, they needed to go home to sleep and I went back to the hostel. I didn’t mind not having gotten my kicks in Berlin, as I was going to Dublin the next day!

Matrimony, Martinis and Misery

It’s striking how different our attitudes to age can be.  The majority of my friends are on the cusp of turning 20 and are not looking forward to it.  One has even sworn she’s not going to celebrate her birthday and will instead remain 19 for as long as she can get away with it, or at least until she can’t cover her liver spots with concealer anymore.

But aren’t your 20s meant to be the best years of your life? Read more

Studying Positive Psychology and discovering Europe

My experience thus far in Maastricht has been wonderful! I arrived a week early into Amsterdam with my mom, or as many here say “my mum,” and immediately felt welcomed and at ease. We ventured to many churches, explored restaurants and visited museums, including the Church in the Attic, waffle shops, and the Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk Museum of modern art. We visited the Anne Frank house, the Tulip Museum , the Cheese Museum, and watched fireworks in honor of the New Year. In sum, it was a beautiful way to bring in 2013! On January 2nd, I took a train to Maastricht to settle in before orientation on the third. I reunited with my roommate, Austen Applegate, who I also go to school with, as well as the other students who attend Guilford. Austen and I are the only two Americans taking the Positive Psychology class, the others are in the International Relations program. I loved meeting the other students here, most of which are from different places across Australia. I truly believe we have shared experiences that will result in us keeping in touch for many years to come. We just returned from a weekend trip to Brussels and Bruges this weekend and indulged in history, chocolate, and beer. We walked the city learning of history from our tour guides, learned where Karl Marx lived, made wishes upon Everhard ‘t Serclaes, and then in our free time tried cactus beer at the Delirium tap house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day we explored Bruges on another tour and had the chance to climb the Belfry tower and went on a tour of a brewery and sampled beer from Belgium. We saw astounding views, danced, and expanded our minds and our wardrobes. Those experiences include our educational endeavors, walking tours, weekend excursions and bicycling to class. The walking tour of Maastricht was extremely beautiful and historical. Everywhere here truly is a monument, and I can definitely see the distinction between Maastricht in the Netherlands, versus the Protestant influenced Holland. The tour guide told us many interesting things as he led us through the city about the other side of the gate called “hell” and how different it was from the side that had little Catholic influence. Class has been fascinating and supports all the areas I want to further explore. I feel like I’m applying the lessons of gratitude, appreciation, and positive thinking effectively. This trip has me in complete amazement. So much so, that when in class, I scored on a happiness ratio a total of 16 to 1, the average happiness ratio is a 3 to 1. I have certainly been grateful to be here in the Netherlands!

About the author: Noelle Lane

Noelle profile picI am a double major in theater studies and psychology at Guilford College in North Carolina. I enjoy travelling and exploring as it helps to see that despite our differences, we are all the same.  I love making new friends, acting, exploring the human mind, and educating the public on the issues of homelessness.

Groupwork: heaven or hell?

One of the things that is an inevitable result of working in a PBL-setting is having to work together in a group. Some students like it, many wish it would die a horrible death as soon as possible. Just guess which side I, with my ultimate optimism and ‘love-peace-happiness’-attitude, belong to.

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4 books you must have read

Most students who study think of themselves as intelligent people and consequently think they are even smarter  than most other people.   I’m one of those people, but I can honestly state that I don’t even come near to what I should know. The past years I’ve been starting reading more books (as before I couldn’t be bothered less). And although I should spend more time on it, I did manage to read through 4 gems that are a true recommendation for those of us who think they know it all. Read more