Posts

© Brian Megens

Soup, Salad and Smoothie Bars of Maastricht: Vers

Maastricht is well known for its historical city centre, shopping, hilly surroundings, and gastronomical cuisine. However, since the foundation of the University of Maastricht, a younger, more international generation has entered the stage. Inevitably, these new inhabitants have an impact on the city as they come from various backgrounds with different lifestyles, preferences and demands. In big cities like London and New York, a plethora of soup, salad, and juice and smoothie bars abound. Gone are the days where healthy living is boring. Like the increasingly cosmopolitan city that Maastricht is, healthy living has caught on. In this new column, we will visit the recent arrivals of soup, salad, and smoothie bars in Maastricht and meet their passionate owners, hear their stories, show their place, and of course, have a taste of what they have to offer! In our first column, we interview Paul van Aubel and Marie-Claire Giessen of Vers. 

What is Vers?
Vers is a soup bar with extras! We make homemade soups, salads and fresh juices and smoothies. We try to make good, healthy food based on the season which you can eat here or take to work, in class or at home.

© Brian Megens

Vers Maastricht

How did you end up starting a business?
Marie-Claire: I always had it with the smoothies and juices. Abroad, you can find it everywhere. It’s so easy to have a fresh juice, but we thought it would be a little too small just to do juices and smoothies.
Paul: We really liked soup bars, but we always had to go to Belgium, in Hasselt or Ghent. We said there’s nothing like a soup bar in Maastricht, so let’s do it. We always said it to ourselves that we wanted to start a business and we thought it would be nice to do it together.
Marie-Claire: We wanted to start something, we wanted a new challenge. We said let’s do it now, otherwise we won’t be able to do it again.

© Brian Megens

Vers Maastricht

What do you aim to bring with Vers?
Marie-Claire: We hope to bring good, healthy food that make people happy. So when people take their juice in the morning, they have a good start to their day or that they can have a good quick healthy lunch, even if they only have half an hour.
Paul: It’s difficult to find healthy fast-served food so I think it’s one of our strong points. You can have a quick lunch or sit down for a cup of coffee.
Marie-Claire: You can also stay longer and work or study here. We have Wi-Fi and we have plugs for your laptops.

© Brian Megens

Vers Maastricht

© Brian Megens

The red lentil soup and the Vietnamese pho bo

What’s your favourite in the menu?
Marie-Claire: We regularly change the menu based on the season, and we also change something every week so it’s not always the same.
Paul: For the soups and salad, we try to focus on the season but it’s a bit more difficult with the fruits, especially in winter. A lot of the vegetables are locally produced, I think it’s very important to have local and seasonal ingredients.
Marie-Claire: For now, I like the mango-raspberry-orange smoothie and the pho (Vietnamese noodle soup with beef).
Paul: We started with a red lentil soup and we still have it in the menu. It’s very popular and I really like it. Even after almost three months, I can still eat it every day!

© Brian Megens

Vers Maastricht

How has the students changed Maastricht?
Paul: In the last couple of years, you see there are more and more students coming to Maastricht. It’s become a student-town. What that brings, especially the international people…
Marie-Claire: …is diversity in the people and of their food. For example, you see it now with the Korean place. It brings new things and I think that’s good for the city.
Paul: In the holidays, we get a lot of tourists from Belgium and Germany. Now that the holidays are over and the students are back in Maastricht, we immediately feel their presence.

© Brian Megens

Vers Maastricht

What do you like most about Maastricht?
Paul: I like Maastricht because it’s diverse. It’s international, it’s not a typical Dutch city. Everyone who comes here say that Maastricht is very different. For the students, just enjoy Maastricht.
Marie-Claire: Explore the little streets and try the local spots. Don’t just go straight to the Vrijthof square, but go outside Maastricht too. For example, the Château Neercanne, you can bike there, or go to the Sint Pieter. The surroundings of Maastricht are very nice.

What are your favourite events in Maastricht?
Marie-Claire: The Food Truck Festival in the summer is really nice (the Stadspark turns into one big outdoor restaurant with dozens of mobile kitchen, live music and theatre performance) and of course, we have the Preuvenemint (the annual food event of Maastricht and the largest food festival in the Netherlands)
Paul: The Bruis (a free multi-day music festival) and JekerJazz (a two-day event with concerts at various venues spread across Maastricht) are good too.

© Brian Megens

Vers Maastricht

Interview and text: Karissa Atienza
Interview and photography: Brian Megens

Vers.
Grote Gracht 31
6211 ST Maastricht

Coffee Bars in Maastricht: Bandito Espresso

Maastricht is well known for its historical city centre, shopping and hilly surroundings. However, since the foundation of the University of Maastricht, a younger, more international generation has entered the stage. Inevitably, these new inhabitants have an impact on the city as they come from various backgrounds with different lifestyles, preferences and demands. A necessity for many students is a relaxed environment to study, and enjoy a good cup of coffee accompanied by homemade cake while keeping up-to-date via a WiFi connection. As quite a few international students come from a country wherein coffee is so much more than the traditional Dutch drip coffee, Maastricht’s entrepreneurs saw the opportunity and several coffee bars, where coffee is served with craftmanship and passion, enriched Maastricht. In this new column we will visit the many coffee bars that Maastricht has to offer and we will meet the passionate owners, hear their stories, show their place and of course taste their coffee! This time, we interview Diënne Hoofs and Jeroen Brouwers of Bandito Espresso, the much loved café of FASoS students, for whom going to Bandito is almost a daily routine. In the morning one can see the Bandito staff chopping onions and other condiments for their daily soup and throughout the day, batches of cookies can be found baking in the oven. It is a hidden gem within FASoS which is worth exploring. The Bandito Espresso’s fresh and organic food and drinks are now also available at FPN.

Bandito Espresso FASoS
Jeroen & Diënne

What is Bandito Espresso?
Diënne: We call ourselves an espresso bar with organic specialty and fresh food! Everything we do is organic. We try to be as fair trade as much as possible, but that’s always a challenge because companies often choose one of the two, organic or fair trade.

Bandito Espresso FASoS

How did you end up starting a business in Maastricht?
Diëne: In Landbouw Belang (a social group with cultural and social activities), we had a voluntary dinner café where we had the crappiest coffee. At the same time, I had a friend who’d just moved to Berlin to start a coffee business and taught me about coffee. I really enjoyed it so I convinced everyone to buy a coffee machine.
Jeroen: I was totally against it at the start, like why should we buy an expensive machine? But then when they bought it, I totally got into the machine.
Diëne: Me and Jeroen were always getting into fights on who should be making coffee and we realised to make more coffee, we needed to turn it into a little business. Jeroen went to Berlin and my friend taught him about coffee and the business.
Jeroen: We started as a mobile business here at the Markt on the Wednesday and Friday market. We just had a table and an old Faema. Bandito was born officially on paper and slowly, it evolved to the Bandito Espresso now in FASoS and FPN.

Bandito Espresso FASoS

How did you end up in FASoS? in FPN?
Diëne: At the time, Jeroen and I knew that there were no facilities at all in FASoS and a lot of students were complaining about it. At first, the Director said no. So then we did a coffee assignment here for 4 days, but there wasn’t a reply from the Director. We were almost thinking of moving to Berlin to fuse our business with our friend’s company but all of a sudden, we got a phone call from the Director who asked us if we wanted to open a café within 4 weeks! The week we opened here, they called us asking if we wanted to open another café over at FPN. By that time, the building wasn’t even there. It took us a long time, but in the end we decided to do it.

Bandito Espresso FASoS
Kwinten Hoofs, one of the four owners of Bandito Espresso

Bandito Espresso FASoS

Bandito Espresso FASoS
Sean Hoofs, also part of the founding four.

What do you aim to offer with your business?
Jeroen: We’re trying to do everything as fair trade and organic as possible. Not only from where we buy our groceries, but also until the customer. With the customer, we try to be as fair trade and not as pricy. I want to offer fair food and drinks but also fresh, I don’t want to sell something that comes out of a package. We do it how we do it, and we try to keep this price low. This is our philosophy.
Diëne: We want to give this moment to get together for students to have a nice coffee in a homely situation. It’s important to us for the students to feel that this is your Common Room, it’s your space so we want to accommodate the students as much as possible. 

Bandito Espresso FASoS
People queuing to get their coffee, lunch or cookie and then they are off to either to common room or the Bandito garden

Bandito Espresso FASoS
The FASoS Common Room

How do you explain the rise of new coffee bar in the Netherlands and in Maastricht?
Diëne: People nowadays have proper coffee machine at home, so why would you go to a café for coffee that’s worst to what you’re used to at home? People just don’t want to put up with it anymore, luckily. The rise in coffee bars in Maastricht is definitely a good thing. I hope that it will bring up the standard of coffee in every café in Maastricht.
Jeroen: You have cities that lead. It’s not Maastricht, but in the Netherlands it’s Amsterdam. In Europe, Berlin is one of the leaders. They were influenced by a lot of the Australians who came there. Australians who back home used the old way of Italian coffee-making. Over in Italy, I think they’ve lost a bit of the spirit. Coffee bars really exploded in Berlin and then, it came in the Netherlands.

 
Bandito Espresso FASoS

Bandito Espresso FASoS

How important is the student community for the city?
Jeroen: The students are very important, I think without the students Maastricht is nothing. Factories are closing down, yes there’s a tourist sector but that’s probably it.
Diëne: I think the students saved Maastricht. In Maastricht, the vibe is so international. It was the New York Times who called Maastricht the smallest cosmopolitan in the world. That’s exactly what Maastricht is.

 
Bandito Espresso FASoS
Enjoy their soup in the Bandito garden

Bandito and the students:
Diëne: We really like working for and with the students. We get to meet them every day for 3-4 years, so you build this relationship with people. You go through their highs and their lows, being a part of all that is really nice.

 
Bandito Espresso FASoS

The perfect place to relax in Maastricht?
Diëne: I’ve just moved out of the city, but I really like being outside in Maastricht. I like hanging out at the Maas, at the park or at Tuinen van Vaeshartelt where you can grow and pick your own fruit and vegetables.

Maastricht in three words:
Diëne: Cosmopolitan, cosy, (has) potential

Verdict: Great coffee, amazing homemade soup, baguettes and cookies for a student price. The perfect place for your daily coffee or lunch.

Bandito Espresso FASoS

Bandito Espresso FASoS

Text: Karissa Atienza
Photos: Brian Megens

Coffee Bars in Maastricht: Alley Cat Bikes and Coffee

Maastricht is well known for its historical city centre, shopping and hilly surroundings. However, since the foundation of the University of Maastricht, a younger, more international generation has entered the stage. Inevitably, these new inhabitants have an impact on the city as they come from various backgrounds with different lifestyles, preferences and demands. A necessity for many students is a relaxed environment to study, and enjoy a good cup of coffee accompanied by homemade cake while keeping up-to-date via a WiFi connection. As quite a few international students come from a country wherein coffee is so much more than the traditional Dutch drip coffee, Maastricht’s entrepreneurs saw the opportunity and several coffee bars, where coffee is served with craftmanship and passion, enriched Maastricht. In this new column we will visit the many coffee bars that Maastricht has to offer and we will meet the passionate owners, hear their stories, show their place and of course taste their coffee! We’ll kick off this column with the ‘new kid in town’ Alley Cat Bikes and Coffee.

Alley Cat Bikes and Coffee

Alley Cat Bikes and Coffee

Located 50 meters away from the market, Alley Cat Bikes and Coffee is a spacious coffee bar where the love for bikes (you can stall it inside) and coffee comes together. Located in the Hoenderstraat (side street of the Markt), the bar is run by the couple Renske Tackenberg and Ruud van Loo together with Jack, their 2-year-old Australian Shepherd. Renske and Ruud both have a background in healthcare and switched careers as they opened Alley Cat Bikes and Coffee on June 6 this year.

How do you explain the rise of new coffee bar in the Netherlands?
Ruud: I think people in general never appreciated coffee the way they do now. They became aware because of the big companies who introduced new home coffee brewing machines that coffee can be in all sorts of tastes and that there is so much more than just the average drip coffee that is traditionally used in the Netherlands. Furthermore, people travel a lot more nowadays and visit countries where coffee is so much more than what they are used to. As people are discovering the diversity of coffee with their new machines at home, the restaurants and bars couldn’t stay behind and stepped (or still need to step up) their game in order to stay in front of the home machines. Just ask around, everyone can remember their first good cup of coffee and we try to offer the best!

What do you hope to bring in with your business?
Both: We hope to create a place where people can bring in their bike (Yes you can stall your bike inside!) sit down and relax, work, study or whatever they like to do while enjoying a quality cup of coffee and a nice piece of cake. For the future, we would like to create a community with people who share the same passion for bikes and coffee and organise events like: coffee workshops and bike rides.

Alley Cat Bikes and Coffee

Where does the passion for Coffee and Bikes come from?
Ruud: I started cycling when I was a kid, but soon I was more intrigued by the mechanics of cycling than riding itself. The passion for coffee came when I was in New York where I saw the diversity of the several types of coffee. I bought the little red machine and started to explore the world of coffee, what do I like, what type of bean do I need for the perfect espresso, how do I make a good espresso, cappuccino. In short, I started to experiment in order to master the art of coffee as best as I can.
Renske: Ruud dragged me into both and now I am as passionate about coffee and cycling as he is. For example, I never could imagine all the work and dedication that goes in a good cup of coffee and how much variation you can create when making changes to each step. Moreover, I am crazy about cycling as well and love to ride my bike.

Alley Cat Bikes and Coffee

Bikes, Coffee and Maastricht:
Both: The south of Limburg is well known as the cycling area in the Netherlands with its hills, attracting not only leisure cyclists but also professionals to this area. Moreover, one of the big cycling classics, Amstel Gold Race, starts in Maastricht on the Markt and brings the cyclists over all the famous hills in the surroundings. This race is also our favourite event that Maastricht has to offer. So one of the reasons to start our business here is that Maastricht is the centre of cycling in the Netherlands. Another is the university which brings a whole new international generation to the city that we hope to serve. Furthermore, Maastricht is well known for its restaurants, shopping and historical city centre, thus attracting tourists from various countries who hopefully feel like dropping by our place as well! As Maastricht is already notorious for its cuisine we feel that we (and some other coffee bars) can contribute by setting the bar on the quality of coffee higher. Furthermore, we also sell bikes to people who are looking not only for a reliable way of transportation but people that want a unique and special bike that they can cherish.

Alley Cat and students:
Renske: We would probably not have settled here when the university wouldn’t be here as it’s the university that brings young ambitious international people to Maastricht that changes the dynamics of the city. For example, last week there was a student from America that told me so much about the country that it almost feels like I’ve been there myself. However, we don’t only aim at students, we hope to become a place where students, locals and tourists mingle and where we can share our passion for coffee and cycling.

Alley Cat Bikes and Coffee


The perfect place to relax in Maastricht?

Both: After a long day of work, walking along the Maas, sun going down. You see people, sporting, relaxing BBQ-ing, just having a good time.

Maastricht in three words:

Both:  Diverse, cosy, vivid.

Alley Cat Bikes and Coffee

Verdict:
The place: as a coffee lover and former cyclist, I absolutely love the fact that both come together in a relaxed environment where you can just come in to study while being around such awesome bikes.
Coffee: I always drink my coffee black and prefer a good strong cup, I’ve tried a doppio (double espresso) and ever since, that is my standard order here.

Alley Cat Bikes and Coffee

Photography and text: © Brian Megens
More photos click here

Contact information:
Alley Cat Bikes and Coffee
Hoenderstraat 15-17
6211EL Maastricht

Our next interview in this series will be with KOFFIE by Joost & Maartje, stay tuned!

Can changing our culture change us?

TED always provides a great forum to discuss the future of our planet and how we, as humans, need to change the world. Two weeks ago the TEDx Maastricht event continued the tradition of spreading great ideas to help us find solutions to issues that we humans face. In this Blog post I would like to look at a couple of the speakers from September 4th‘s event in Maastricht and examine how our culture and society effects how we interact with the world. Many of the speakers argued that we need simple changes in our society to start to heal the world and this Blog will focus on these arguments.

The first speaking to fall into the category of pushing societal change came in the morning. Bart Knols talked about the growing social isolation that is plaguing western society.  Bart’s observations came from experiencing the differences on a train ride he experienced in Tanzania versus one in the Netherlands. The train in Tanzania was a social event where he met people, discussed the world and even sang and danced with total strangers but in the Netherlands he saw how people go into a bubble where they are isolated even though they are surrounded by people. This is the isolation that Bart wants to change, even though we are surrounded by people we don’t interact with them. However, there are solutions to the growing isolation that had been coming into our society and Bart Knols believes the solutions are very simple. On some trains in the Netherlands there have been experiments where you designate a train to be a social zone. This is all Bart believes it takes to make a change and it has been shown effective. By simply designating this environment as one to talk and socialize people did and it shows that humans are a product of our surroundings and by changing our surrounding you change human behavior.

On a completely different topic, Shyama Ramani gave a talk on bringing toilettes to the coastal towns of India. After the 2004 tsunami, many of the forests where women would relieve themselves were destroyed and a real need for toilettes arose when women lost the privacy that the forest provided.  When Shyama institute put toilettes in these towns the women used them but the men would still walk down to the beach and just go into the ocean. The issue that Shyama faced was how to change the patterns of the men that had been built into there culture since their ancestors settled on the shores of India. There were several ideas but one that showed success was a toilettes beauty contest where different villages battled to have the nicest water closet with cleanest and most beautiful hut that surrounds the toilet. The one condition for the contest was that the men had to use it for 6 months. This seems to be a form of social training and conditioning. Shyama Ramani was working hard to make toilet use a societal norm and to do this she must make permanent changes to the male Indians behavior to keep the men using toilettes. This would not only provide privacy for the women but it has been shown to raise hygiene levels throughout the towns.  Like Bart, Shyama is trying to make simple changes in people by changing their environment and it seems effective. It’s a pretty simple concept. Change the environment and it changes the people.

As the TED talks progressed throughout the day there were two talks that focused on the food we eat and changing the way we see food. Marian Peters tried to convince us that we should eat insects as a way to help create a more sustainable food industry and Mark Post talked about the hamburger he grew in a lab here at the University of Maastricht. A problem that both faced is how to make this food culturally accepted. Marian Peters has a more difficult job because bugs are not on the menu of our western culture. However, she makes the point that many societies around the world have no issues with eating bugs and are very integrated in many cuisines-such as in Laos. Marian Peters was at the TED talk to not only discuss why we should eat bugs but she was there to start to change our societies view on bugs. She made sure that there were enough chicken/bug nuggets (80% chicken 20% bugs) for everybody to try at lunch and the majority of the TED attendees actually tried the food that was 20% ground up insects. I did not try the bugs and I don’t want to… Marian Peters has a lot of work to change my dislike of bugs that has been ingrained in me my whole life. But that’s her goal. Marian Peters is trying to make insects a social accepted food source. I think she has a long way to go but it’s possible. If the children of western culture were to eat products with bugs in them since birth their generation would probably have no issues eating food with insect in them. Other cultures don’t have any issues eating bugs so what’s to say that we can’t change western culture to make insects a social accepted food source. Marian Peters has not convinced me yet but she made some very good points one day we might see insects on the list of ingredients in our favorite foods.

Mark Post has similar issues but not nearly as drastic as Marian Peters because eating beef that was grown in a lab often seems unnatural to real beef but doesn’t have a social stigma to work against. This makes it easier for Mark and he believes one day there will be meat incubators sitting in everybody’s kitchen next to the oven. One of the points Mark Post made about the beef is that he often has to tread lightly when talking about culture beef because some people have a hard time accepting it as an alternative. However, many people are willing to try the beef and so the hurdles are a lot smaller for Mark. But it still goes to show that even with cultured beef, there is a need to change our cultures attitude towards how we feed ourselves. These two talks and ideas are based in science and biology but both need a cultural change before they become accepted into our society.

While there were a lot of speakers that I could have discussed in the blog I chose these speakers because they specifically talked about changing societies and cultures to have positive effects on the world. They showed the power that social change can have on changing human behavior and this is an important message that many TED talks have been spreading.

We are social animals and our environment, culture and society have a huge influence on how we perceive the world and act in it. These speakers raise the point that if we change our environment we change humans. I think this is correct, but to what extent. Being a social species our surroundings have a very large influence and many of our issues can be solved by a change in culture. I wanted to write this blog post on social constructionism because I do believe humans are products of the surroundings. But, I think we are still heavily influenced by our monkey ancestry and I think our human biology still plays a huge part of human actions and interactions. The thirst for money, power, fame, and acceptance is part of human nature and while it may be a crucial in our make up I believe it can be overcome through societal changes. I thought one of the most inspiring talks of the day was by a 17 year old student, Rebecca Vos, who talked about changing the education system and one of the issues she talked about was reducing the hierarchy and power structure of education. She is making the push to not separate ourselves from each other and have everybody work together as one collective unit to better the world. This is a great idea because if we change the way our society interacts with each other it might prove powerful enough to overcome our human nature. Rebecca Vos’ talk made me very optimistic about the future because she is still in high school and if she can convince all her class mates to think like this then their generation with have built a culture of working together as one to overcome our human instincts and push our species forward towards a better and harmonious future.

——-

Whether I am right or wrong with my views of human behavior, the future is coming and it was nice to spend a day listening to some bright minds present solutions to issues that face our species. Our planet is resilient and will survive until it is swallowed up by the sun in 5 billion years, but as humans we will not necessarily survive. Because of this we need TED and we need these brilliant people to present their solutions so we can ensure a world that is habitable for the future generations.

 

Adam

About the author

I am Adam Daddino and I am a graduate student from University of San Francisco. This summer I was an intern at the Center for European Studies at Maastricht University which is what led me to TEDx. I studied history and religions and have done so with a sociological focus on human interactions with one another. Specifically how we balance the influence of our our biological nature with our social environment.

Full bottles, empty brains

This is it. It was only a matter of time. I am prepared for the fact that nobody will agree with me, that the majority of my (overwhelmingly large) readership will find me arrogant, conservative, judgmental, and a lot of other not-so-nice things. I know that this will happen because I am dealing with it on a regular basis. But this blog post was inevitable from the start. This is the post in which I shamelessly express my repulsion towards alcohol and a society that glorifies it. A.k.a. the society we live in.

If you’re a person that goes out almost every single night just for the sake of getting trashed, feel like there is nothing wrong with it, and you’re even proud of it, then there is a good chance that I hate you.

I have friends overseas and they drink specifically to deal with their nervousness and anxiety and to forget about their problems for a while. Because they didn’t get a loan for college, their parents hate and disowned them, they struggle to pay for two meals a day, and if they have a car it is so shabby it breaks down every morning on the way to work. I would now assume almost everyone that lives in Maastricht can afford to pay tuition fees, with or without study finance, and thanks to Aldi and the market none of us will have to worry about the possibility of starvation. Of course everyone has their own individual battles to fight, without a doubt, and admittedly not everyone is happy. But I would hardly call the general circumstances in this town as provoking to want to start binge drinking.

I always get asked this question, why don’t you drink? But there isn’t one good reason. There are a million. If I wanna keep the convo short I just give it the oh-so witty “Why should I?”. (In my opinion, the question should not be “Why don’t you drink?” but “Why do you drink?” anyway.) If the person insists on details I’ll tell them I don’t like the taste. This alone should be a good enough reason. But for many people it’s not, because drinking is just part of going out, and being young- what else is left for you to do if you don’t drink? But it is exactly this logic that makes me mad and goes against everything we are supposed to be- critical towards attitudes and things that remain unquestioned by the majority of people. And this is where for me, in addition to the taste, (and the poor, drunk creatures in the club or at house parties who don’t notice they reek of cigarettes and a mixture of alcoholic drinks) the issue becomes one of principle. This is also why I am way past that phase of being easily influenced by other people, through peer pressure or other means, even if every single person I meet still takes it as their mission to get me drunk at some point when they find out I don’t drink. (Joke’s on you, by the way!)

Just to clarify, I understand the reason people get together over a beer, have a glass of wine, or go out for cocktails. Heck, if you get out of your mind drunk once or twice a year to compensate for the pressure you’re under, I even have understanding for that. My problem lies with the general approval that students and other young people like us participate in the consumption of mind-altering substances for fun. I think it is shameful that we live in a society where it is normal, and even expected that you drink, that that makes you one of the “cool kids”, and that you’re stuck-up, antisocial and weird if you don’t. I refuse to take part in a lifestyle where drinking large amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication is celebrated as “the time of your life”. I reject a culture that unconditionally accepts that the drunkest person in the room is praised and cheered on, and that being in an inebriated state is the goal, the definition of having fun and “living life to the fullest”. I repudiate the norms of a society that encourages senseless, heavy drinking. There is no glory in getting trashed.

Drinking provides everyone with an excuse. They did something embarrassing, they blame it on the alcohol. They made out with someone unattractive or cheated on their boy or -girlfriend, they weren’t able to make sound decisions. They are rude, insulting and yell terrible things at you, they didn’t know what they were doing… I want to be conscious of my decisions. I’m okay with it if that makes me boring. I might still not make the right ones but at least I was aware I was making them. No matter with what you might want to argue against this, alcohol changes your behavior. It either turns you into an obnoxious adult version of a 5-year old and your friends have to take care of you, or you become aggressively desperate to seduce someone with your new gained confidence and it is beyond you how anyone wouldn’t find you irresistible. I’m pretty okay with myself and if I want to be embarrassing, I’ll be it sober, and if I wanted to be a lying, cheating girlfriend, I’d also do that sober.

If you don’t drink, going to parties sucks. I think it is scandalous that, in order to have fun, kids are forced into drinking activities to endure the night and to have at least a bearable time. So many friends of mine admit that going out without drinking is terrible. When I say that that’s the reason I don’t really go out, a lot of people suggest me to go out anyway and if I don’t drink myself, just watch all the drunk people around me do stupid things, but it gets really old really quickly. Because after all, you’re still in an often enclosed darkened room with blasting music with nowhere to sit, surrounded by sweaty, touchy-feely people hunting for a victim for their reproductive purposes, spilling their drinks on you as you are squeezing your way past them. Welcome to my life.

This is how it is- either you get over yourself and join in on the “fun”, or you stick to what you actually want to do and flee. It is actually kind of like carnival. You can be one of the singing people in costumes or you can stay true to your grumpy self and avoid the wild hordes of crazy.

I have the conviction that it’s all psychological too. It’s about being part of something. You don’t want to be like me, standing around at parties with nothing but occasionally a plastic bottle of water in your hands. I would like to throw a party, and fill up bottles with fake alcohol. Then wait. And see what happens… I think this would make for a fabulous graduation party! In my opinion, we can do much better without it. The myth of “You can have fun without drinking” has, in my experience, proven to be true way too many times. I know there will never be a time in our culture where people like me will be in the majority. But I’m just saying, we can do better.

————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Disclaimer: I have never been drunk in my life. I tried beer, wine, and champagne when I was younger, but the maximum amount of alcohol I have drunk would amount to maybe a regular sized beer bottle. People then give me the How-do-you-know-you-don’t-like-it-if-you-never-tried-it/never-been-drunk? -treatment. And to that I say, I don’t have to try to jump off a cliff to find out if I like it or not when I see dead people lying at the bottom of the mountain. I don’t have to try anything that is bad for me or alters my brain, especially if I am not tempted by it in the first place, and I shouldn’t have to justify myself for it. I never say to anyone that they have to go to a punk or hardcore show to be able to judge whether they like it or not (which they would never do anyway), and you can always leave a show if you want out. If you’re drunk you have to wait until it’s over. I know you don’t necessarily get drunk when you “go out to drink”, but that is often the objective. A major reason why I am extremely turned off by the idea of drinking or being drunk is seeing what it does to other people when I’m out.

Idyllic phrasing of a city

When people back home ask me what it’s like to live in Maastricht I start smiling. There’s enough to tell about the city, its culture, its parks, faculties, diversity in students and activities. It mostly comes down to me telling them it’s like living abroad, and to the real foreigners in Maastricht: it really comes down to that for people ‘from the north’. It’s not at all uncommon to think of Limburg as a holiday destination pur sang. Read more

Abandon Spotted, fall in love

Okay funny story. I met my boyfriend of now almost three years here in Maastricht. At the library.

I walked towards him. Our eyes met. Instant attraction. The tension was almost unbearable. Fireworks, butterflies, the whole shebang. I walked past him. I went to get my books. Then to the copy machines. Made my way back. And then. I guess I felt adventurous and rebellious and a badass so I straight up walked up to him and hit on him. We started dating immediately.

I had just started my Bachelor and he had just gotten to Maastricht for his Erasmus semester. Clearly, neither one of us knew what we were getting ourselves into. You don’t expect the very first person you go out with in a new place to be the person that will change your life. Especially since a First-year student and an Erasmus student are about the most unsettled type of student out there, and not really in it for long-term relationships. But luckily there are always exceptions to the rule.

Now, Spotted, the (in)famous Facebook website dedicated to pointing out eye candy at the library or other UM- premises, is pretty old-school if you think about it. Whatever happened to face-to-face interaction, and self-esteem and charm? Everyone seems to be so overly confident and sassy on the Facebook page so instead of blurting out vulgarities online, why not turn it down a notch and come up with a more everyday-appropriate pick up line and actually approach your crush? And don’t anonymous suggestive comments scare a person off rather than increase the chances of the interest being mutual? No matter your intentions, if you are looking for a casual affair or are genuinely interested in getting to know a person, why do we feel like we can’t initiate it in person?

Is our generation to blame, for being too judgmental, too superficial, and too condescending to each other all the time? Why do we need an anonymous online platform to mediate our flirtatious conversations? Are we being too cruel to each other so that nobody can be entrusted with reacting to being hit on in a way that it is not humiliating for the other person? I know the website is also a compensation for our hard study and an outlet for adolescent antics containing the classic formula “Why don’t you x my y with your z next time?” and variations. But I can’t help but think of how crazy and wild things would get if it were a common thing to do that people actually worked up the courage to talk to each other. It is so socially accepted to walk up to a person in a club or just shamelessly start grinding up on someone on the dance floor so why not simply talk to someone in a more civilized environment? If anything, it will increase your chances of not regretting your partner choice the morning after because you consciously chose your subject… Think about it.

What I am trying to say is that had I allowed myself to listen to doubts or fear of rejection, my life would be completely different right now. I wouldn’t have traveled to the places that I traveled to. I wouldn’t speak Italian now, to him and his family. I wouldn’t have met some of my best friends. He would have gone back to Italy after only one semester instead of staying for two years. We wouldn’t have rented an apartment together. I wouldn’t walk through this city full of awe and wonder and exhilarated by the richness of memories I have of us. And then I think about how easy it could have been for us not to have met: I could have gone to the library on a different day, he could have been on a different floor, or by the coffee bar downstairs, or I could have walked a different way, never seeing him in the first place. The chance of us never meeting were much bigger from the start than the odds of us ending up together and that is a pretty scary thing to think about considering the huge impact we have had on each other’s lives. I swear, nothing would be the same.

So if you see someone you’re attracted to and you have a certain feeling about it, just be aware that there is a possibility, even if it is miniscule, that your life will change for the better. (There is always a chance that you might have bad luck and it will be the worst mistake you’ll ever make, and lead to the most terrible broken heart, leaving you emotionally scarred or forever resentful, in which case I will take zero responsibility.) But obviously the choice is up to you to make it happen or to always remain wondering what could have been. Think about all the people you will never meet that would make you happy, that you would love, and that you would want to share your life with. If you want to do your part, abandon Spotted, and fall in love for real. Or fall in whatever you want. I can’t wait to hear your stories. Or read them on Spotted.

Surviving The Trains

Michael’s red jacket and pack flashed in and out the crowd as he bulleted around each person. Craning my neck while avoiding a confused man to my left, I attempted to keep him in my sight. We were all together in this, running for our lives to make that train connection with one minute left on the analogue clock above me. Read more

A Running Commentary

For whatever reason, when I arrived in Maastricht, I expected “running” to be a foreign concept. Perhaps this is because I had only previously run in the U.S. Perhaps my stereotype of a European involved more bicycle wheels than it did Nike shorts. In a way, I felt I was going to be smuggling the concept of “running” over the Atlantic Ocean and into the Netherlands. This, of course, is a ridiculous notion; however when I set out on my first exploratory jog, I expected numerous odd looks and stares. To my surprise and amusement, no one took notice. A few days later, on an early morning run, I even spotted a few other joggers.

Though completely the same activity here as it is back home, running in Maastricht has proven to be a unique experience. The brisk temperatures leave my legs icy, but shivering for longer distances. I get lost almost every time I set out with my tennis shoes amidst the uneven cobblestones and the winding roads. I feel a strange camaraderie with the bikes flying down the street. I’ve discovered anything from random giraffe statues and bridges to abandoned castles and dirt roads. Every running-related experience has proven to be an adventure.

Maastricht7_a_1

Running has become several things for me while in Maastricht.

Running is a familiar activity… something that hasn’t changed from my “normal” life across the pond.

Running is a stress reliever when due dates and computer screens need to be left behind.

Running is an adventure and a way to explore this new city I now call my home.

 

Kelsey YanduraAbout the author:

My name is Kelsey Yandura, and I’ve been infused with a wanderlust that can’t be suppressed. I have basic facts like everyone else (21 years old / English major / Baylor University / Texas, USA / likes peanut butter). I’m in Maastricht from February-April, and I hope to soak up as much as I can. Forgive my ramblings.

Getting around without getting lost

It’s been about a month since I left my home in Texas to study abroad in Maastricht. Through this program, I’ve had the chance to visit some amazing countries and meet a lot of interesting people. However, I realized that I never took the time to explore Maastricht. In fact, the only places I can get to without getting lost is the Albert Heijn that’s located next to the guesthouse, the CES building and Vrijthof Square. But why is that? You would think that after being in a city for a month, I’d be a pro at getting around, right? Read more

Living abroad

It’s been three weeks since I’ve landed in Maastricht, and I’m still having trouble coming to reality.

Am I really here? This is actually Europe. I’m in Europe! Read more

Carnival in Maastricht

Carnival is a three day party that folks in Maastricht celebrate before Lent. For some, it’s a little more than three days, for others it’s a little less. Either way, people appeal to the heart of it all by dressing up in costumes of all shapes and colors.

Last Sunday I put on thermals and thick wool socks beneath a bright blue track suit. My roommate sported a green one to match. My costume made me feel goofy and wonky and not at all to be taken seriously. Yet I never felt out of place. 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.

Maastricht: a diamond in the rough

How would you describe Maastricht when you have to explain what it is all about? Well, here’s my view on it. Read more

Nightmare

So that’s it. Four months as an exchange student in Montréal, OVER. Somehow I got back home again, to Dutchland. I still can’t stop wondering why. I’m back to the old life, shit weather, dead town, everything too familiar, too much work for uni, working and everything I was happy to leave when I went to Montréal. I have the feeling that I’ve been there for just a month, and there are still way too much things I wanted to do while I was there. And I’ve just started making new friends there! Honestly, I’m homesick, I don’t want to be here. I always wondered how it’s possible how people can get a depression, but I think I’ve just found out one of the ways to get one. Finish your exchange period and you’ll know what I mean! And I still got so much money left, I could as well just go back.. Read more

Montreal: the best is yet to come

FINALLY I’m able to write something about my first days in Montréal! It’s not that I haven’t had any time to do so, but when I had the time, I was so exhausted that I could do nothing but sleep. My biological clock doesn’t seem to have set itself jet, sounds pretty much like a jetlag :’) Well yeah.. Read more

Studying in Vienna

People who complain the University Library in Maastricht is overcrowded are probably right but they have never been to the WU library.

My current university, Wirtschaftsuniversität (WU) Wien, is situated in a 1970’s building which was built to accommodate a student population of about 15.000 students, currently there are 35.000 students attending classes at the WU and the university is by Austrian law obliged to give every new applicant an equal chance of studying, a lottery such as in Maastricht for some studies is out of the question.

Read more

Dutch Student Associations and INKOM

INKOM vs. ‘Fresher’s Week’

A lot has happened since INKOM. I have heard a lot of feedback about INKOM – which is generally an amazing party to start off student life here in Maastricht.

However, INKOM has been mistaken by many as being an equivalent to ‘FreshersWeek’ in the UK (the first week of universities with introduction activities, but best known for the parties). INKOM began as a way for one of the biggest Student Associations in Maastricht to gain members. This was later adopted by the university but still has the overtone of ‘student association’.

Read more

“You say hello and I say goodbye”

After a weekend of recovering from the Inkom the ESN Arrival Week started on Monday already. (ESN is the organization responsible for incoming exchange students and the Arrival Week is sort of the Inkom for exchange students. Joep and Shona are also in it.) Starting with three so called pick-up days, arriving exchange students get being picked up in vans from the train station and brought to the Guesthouse. Afterwards ESN takes everyone who’s interested on a city-tour. You wouldn’t believe what ridiculous stories we make people believe. It’s funny to see that even intelligent people (which I figure most students are) are led to believe that, for example, the Second World War was actually about hamburgers (the Americans and Germans had a disagreement on the origin of the dish hamburger and fought that conflict out). After giving city-tours we ended up in the KiWi to fill our empty bellies with this very hamburgers (which is actually a Mongolian invention) doing some preparations for the beer rally of that night. A beer rally is basically a drinking competition with teams of four sitting on their knees oppose each other at one game table. You can only start drinking when the team member next to you finished his or hers beer. Most people suck at it, I win at it.
Read more

INKOM: Sports day & open party.

Wednesday 13AM: Welcome at the sports event of the Inkom 2011. Unfortunately, there’ll be no beer. So what do you do when you’re dead-tired from the first MECC party and the after party at M.S.V. Tragos which lasted ‘till 6AM, when you’re hungry for beer and obliged to promo for your student association? Find the couches at some Dutch bank stand giving away free ‘poffertjes’ (delicious Dutch mini pancakes) and try to catch up some of the sleep you’ve missed so badly. Promo is like an aura you wear, if you’re a natural talent at it like me, you can do it napping.

Read more