© Brian Megens

Amnesty International Maastricht Students (AIMS)

This week we met with two of the Board members, Méabh Branagan and Magali Mattar, of Amnesty International Maastricht Students (AIMS). Together with 4 other Board members, Méabh and Magali lead a group of motivated Maastricht students with a passion for human rights. Méabh, a UCM student, is the PR Person while Magali, an ELS student, is in charge of Fundraising and Promotion. Read on to know more about this organisation and some of the students behind this movement. 

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

How did Amnesty International Maastricht Students start?
We were founded in 1998 because a number of students were disappointed that only a few students joined the Torch Walk for the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In response and to raise awareness of human rights among the student population Maastricht, they decided to start AIMS.

Tell us more about the structure of AIMS…
We have 6 board members and 3 subgroups which are led by 2 board members each. The subgroups meet weekly, and these are where most of the activities are delegated. We have the Actions subgroup which is led by the PR and the President, then we also have the Lectures and Debates subgroup which is headed by the Secretary and Treasurer, and lastly, we have the Promotion and Fundraising subgroup which is what the Fundraising and External Contact Person are in charge of.

© Brian Megens

Magali Mattar

What does AIMS do?
We have a collection week every year in March, so we fundraise in the streets, which we send to the main Amnesty office in the Netherlands. This year, it’s from 13 to 19 March. We have a yearly budget of 10 percent of what we collect. We’re not funded by the University nor do we get administrative months for our work so we’re very independent and without any political affiliation. Everything that we collect from fundraising goes to the main office.

Do you collaborate with any other organisation?
We’ve had collaborations with the HeforShe UN, Justice for Palestine, and the Feminist society (UCM). We also collaborate with the Amnesty Maastricht group during the collection week in March and during the Human Rights week, we have letter-writing marathons. The Amnesty Maastricht group is separate from the Amnesty student organisation. We also collaborate with other student groups for a number of our activities like Movie That Matters. It’s where we screen movies that tackle human rights issues on the first Monday of the month. It’s the only thing that is actually coordinated within the other groups. It’s the same show throughout the Netherlands. There’s a National Student Day where Amnesty student groups get together in one of the cities and it’s a chance to meet up with the other groups and learn about their local activities.

Méabh Branagan

Méabh Branagan

Why did you join Amnesty Maastricht?
Magalie: During high school, the teachers always proposed to us that we should join Amnesty. They themselves were in an Amnesty group and if they need help, they would ask us. The activities were really supervised then. In here, it’s much more independent, so if you’re interested in a particular topic you can organise activities around that theme.
Méabh: I first came across Amnesty during high school. A teacher told us about it. I became one of their members, so we did things like signing petitions. I like that they focus on a full range of human rights rather than specific issues. When I came to Maastricht, I knew I wanted to continue.

Why should Maastricht students join Amnesty?
It’s a great opportunity to learn about human rights and be aware of the different issues in the world, and also to create awareness of these issues.

Show your support and join the Amnesty International Maastricht Students (AIMS) for an exciting Kick-Off Party for their annual Collection Week (13-19 March) this Sunday 13th March (13:00-19:00) at the Markt for an afternoon of dance, music, quiz games and other fun activities!

© Brian Megens

Samina Ansari, a Woman With a Mission

Samina Ansari is a 24-year-old Globalisation & Law Masters student at Maastricht University. Currently, she is in Kabul where she is a legal trainee at The Asia Foundation. Before she left for Afghanistan, we did an interview with her about her life, activities, and interest in women and refugee rights.

© Brian Megens

Samina Ansari

Interview & Text: Karissa Atienza
Interview & Photography: Brian Megens

Who is Samina?
My name is Samina Ansari, I am 24 years old and currently studying the Master Globalisation & Law at Maastricht University. I was born in Afghanistan but my family moved to Pakistan during the Taliban War in 1995. We lived in Peshawar for five years which was, and remains, the largest populated city by Afghan refugees. When the conflict in Afghanistan became much, much worse we realised that the Taliban was there to stay so we migrated to Norway for a better life.

I have a degree in Cyber Security Law from the University of Oslo, Faculty of Law. It’s a very new area but a very valuable one. Technology is always faster than law; law comes often when something has already happened so mixing technology and law is very interesting. After that, I did internships with the UN for a full year and then I came here.

How did you end up in Maastricht?
It was partly by choice, and partly a coincidence. I wanted to study international law, not only focusing on state interaction but also on organisations and corporations and how they interact with each other in a globalised world. They have a very good programme here in Maastricht, the Globalisation Law master. But studying international law is a bit depressing because it’s an instrument without teeth.Then again, international law is about principles and values of fundamental rights given to individuals and states. It is something that is often forgotten by the international community.

Why the interest in human rights?
I come from a family with a number of children. We all care about Afghanistan deeply. Not only because our roots are there, but also because we brought Afghanistan with us to Norway. We often talk about the issues and conflict there. It wasn’t only about state intervention or geopolitics. It’s often rooted back to human right violations. My mother was an amazing role model to all of us. She did her entire schooling all over again in Norway. Working on human rights is often helping the secondary. In Afghanistan and also other parts of the world, women are seen as the secondary. My mother, however, a woman with dignity, had achieved a lot by starting all over again and succeeding in many ways. She manifests human being’s true value, that became my main inspiration. Women are capable of what men are capable of as long as they are given the platform. Sometimes women are capable of even more!

Why refugees?
First of all, I was a refugee myself in Pakistan. In Norway, we became migrants but I could still feel the tension of always being the girl that came from overseas. Norwegians were warm with me and my family but seemed uninformed. Why are you here when you’re born in a different country? I felt that in my first years in Norway. I have this feeling of commonness with refugees, that I have felt it before and know other people might feel as well. Being a refugee is hard enough but sometimes refugees suffer multiple layers of violations, like being a woman or a child suffering from human rights abuses in the process of being a refugee. We have to help these people. From a globalised perspective, I think history has proven that the world is united so either we help them now or we don’t, but suffer with them at a later point. Why hide the cat in the hat and pretend it is not there?

What do you do?

Apart from writing blog posts about the refugee crisis, I am also a part of a group of students who are working on opening a refugee law clinic at the Law Faculty. I’m also working closely with a student refugee that has an organisation called Not Just a Number. What he’s focusing on is educating the Dutch people on what it is to be a refugee. I also recently did a fundraising lunch at the Soup Solo. We raised money for women at the Zaatari refugee camp, which is the largest refugee camp in Jordan. It was for the HeforShe campaign. We raised a little bit over €425,- to provide 50 women skills training within the Zaatari camp to fight violence against women inside the camp. It also gives them a reason to get out of their tent and participate in the community.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I think Norway, actually. It’s all about the platform you are a part of. You can still be an individual, but being part of a good platform makes you a stronger individual. Having Norway as a platform can be a great privilege in helping others. I will continue working on women’s empowerment and refugee-related issues. I want to continue reaching out where I can and I believe anyone can reach out, wherever they are, no excuses.

Do you feel Afghan?
I get this question a lot. Even though I have bits and pieces of my heart here and there I don’t belong to any country. I am just Samina.

After the interview:
Samina recently took a trip to Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem where she met with the human rights clinic at Tel-Aviv University to learn from their refugee-related research. One of the issues she learned was that Israeli territories are facing the humanitarian crisis as much as the rest of the world. The refugees they are faced with are Africans fleeing from the Ethiopian and Eritrean conflict. Many of the Eritrean refugees are being deported to a third country that is not their native country. The International Organization for Immigration (IOM) has heavily criticized these deportations, according to the United Nations refugee convention, asylum seekers cannot be sent to any country unless there is an agreement with that country that safeguards their rights and welfare. Currently, Samina is in Kabul, Afghanistan where she is a legal trainee at The Asia Foundation. Working with refugee issues is very close to her heart, and she is seeking a more sustainable solution to this crisis.

“Making the home countries of these refugees safer is the way to go, no one wants to leave their home unless they have to”

She is working on improving the rule of law through legal education in Afghanistan, both areas in the country need more attention.

“I am still a student, and I am learning every day. Afghanistan is a great teacher on many of the issues the international community is faced with today”

© Brian Megens

MyMaastricht with Thomas Schäfer

© Brian Megens

Thomas Schäfer,

As a new arrival in a foreign city, we face many obstacles in settling-in and making it our home. From finding accommodation to administrative tasks of registering at the city hall, MyMaastricht has the essentials of living in Maastricht and even more. The information platform covers what you need to know to safely settle in town, explore its possibilities to the fullest and start your ‘Maastricht experience’. This week, we are featuring Thomas Schäfer, one of the brains and brawn behind MyMaastricht.

Personal info
Name: Thomas Schäfer
Age: 26
Study: Pre-Master European Studies
Position: Project Leader

© Brian Megens

Thomas Schäfer,

What is MyMaastricht?
The project is a student-run initiative for students. It is a web-based information platform that provides all the relevant information that you need to know as a student in Maastricht. It covers practical topics from registration at the city hall, how to open a bank, understanding public transportation, and so on. MyMaastricht also covers the fun aspects of community life by informing informing you about events and activities that are worth checking out.

How did the project start?
The idea originated in early 2014 when the municipality and Maastricht’s educational institutions noticed a lack of information available to international students. At the same time, a team of Zuyd students had it as a design project in their bachelor programme. When I was in the Student Project Team, I had the chance to visit one of their presentations. I picked up the task and contacted the team in Zuyd, from which one guy is still part of the team. So it is definitely a collaborative project, we have two students from Zuyd and the rest are UM students. The municipality is also a big part of it, helping us with official texts and content. MyMaastricht was launched on March 3rd 2015, and has since undergone constant development.

Who is MyMaastricht?
We started off with quite a large number of students, but after a few months we cut down to essentially six students, plus me who worked on it. Everybody has individual responsibilities, so one student for design, another on implementation, finances, promotion, content. From this year onwards, we have an operational team of three students that run the site. Since we are still on our second year, some of the old students are still part of the project and the designer and the developer are still working with us because we’re not yet 100% finished with the website.

How is MyMaastricht different?
I think we stick out in terms of our comprehensiveness and design. What I hear as feedback is that we’re more student-friendly. The website has better design and it’s more structured. We manage to bring everything together in one platform without writing too much.

© Brian Megens

Thomas Schäfer,

What are your goals for this year?
We want to finish the sections that we’re still working on. We’re redoing the activity, media and map section. Last but not the least, we’re getting a new front page.

What are your long-term goals for MyMaastricht?
I hope that at one point, every student who come here in Maastricht is aware of it, especially the new students. I hope that we can help every student to find everything they need to know when they live here. The goal is to create a self-sustaining information platform. I think it can be done.

What do you think of Maastricht?
I love how it’s so bicycle-friendly and it’s where I belong at the moment.

Maastricht in three words:
International, diverse, leuk.

The next time you’re left wondering about the practical information you need living here in Maastricht or just in search of activities to do, MyMaastricht is your go-to guide!

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

© Brian Megens

Interview with the Freediving World Champion Jeanine

How many of us can claim to be a World Champion at our 20s? At 22, Jeanine Grasmeijers is the reigning Freediving World Champion. She set a World Record in 2013 for the Free Immersion discipline with a record depth of 90m. She also holds the National Record for 4 other freediving disciplines. She recently came back from a competition in Mexico, her last for this year’s season, where she had an overall first place.

© Brian Megens

Jeanine Grasmeijer

Personal info
Name: Jeanine Grasmeijers
Age: 22
Study: BSc Medicine graduate, incoming MSc Medicine student

What is freediving?
Freediving is a breathe-holding sport where you try to go as deep or as long as possible with just one breathe. With the latter, it’s either ‘static apnea’ so you hold your breath while lying face down in a pool, or you swim horizontally which is called ‘dynamic apnea’. When you try to go as deep as possible, there’s a floating platform with a weighted rope attached to it that is set to a certain depth. The goal is to reach the end of the rope. In ‘constant weight apnea,’ you dive with fins but you’re not allowed to actively use the rope during the dive, whereas in ‘constant weight apnea without fins’ you do it without fins. ‘Free immersion apnea’ is where you use the rope to pull yourself up and down but you’re not allowed to use fins. Aside from the sport, there’s also a recreative side to it, so you can go diving with sharks or see coral reefs.

How and when did you start freediving?
I’ve been swimming since I was little, but never competitively. I did it for my own enjoyment and because I like the silence and the serenity of it. When I finished high school, I went backpacking in Southeast Asia. I did a regular diving course in Thailand but it wasn’t what I expected, I felt very heavy and restricted. A few months later, I found out about a free diving school so I did a course there and found out that I’m really good at it and I really enjoyed it. So I got into competitions thanks to my instructor who I did my first static breathe hold with, which was 5 mins for the very first time, and he said we can train you for a Dutch record, you’re not very far off!

© Brian Megens

Jeanine Grasmeijer at Maas

How do you train?
I would train for a competition at least 6 weeks in advance where I increase my depth 3-5m at a time. I do pool training where I do dynamic and static dives to train my apneatic ability and to prepapre my body for the depth. Outside deep diving season, I do swimming, running, and just regular exercise. Yoga also goes very well with deep diving. It makes you flexible and has this spiritual side to it and freediving can be spiritual because of the whole underwater meditation.

What is the key to freediving?
Freediving is a very mental sport. We say that it’s 80% mental and 20% physical. If you would tell somebody to go to 10m, he’d probably be afraid because he can’t breathe and there’s all this water above him. Once you’re at 10m, you can’t go back at once, you’ll have to swim up so the tendency is to panic. That’s the hard part, also for us because we don’t go down to just 10m, we go up to 80m! So even we are stressed out because when you’re freediving, you’re really on your own. The key is to be in a meditative state. The brain is the main oxygen user so you have to try to switch it off, kind of. You have to be very efficient with your movements and eliminate stressful thoughts. The challenge is that you’re going to dive at immense depth, but you can’t stress about it!

© Brian Megens

Jeanine Grasmeijer

What do you think of Maastricht?

I like the city, it has a nice atmosphere. It’s not a scary city at all, it’s a very kind city, I think. Maastricht is clean and it looks good. Everything is within 15 mins. It’s cosy!

What’s your favourite places in Maastricht?

I enjoy spending my time at the Geusseltbad (Maastricht’s local swimming pool) and hanging out at the Tramhalte restaurant and bar at Cannerplein. I always recommend the Boekhandel Dominicanen. For me, it’s the most beautiful bookstore in the world. I also like the two-dimensional paintings at the Vrijthof. You can see them best at the top of the Sint Jans Kerk.

Maastricht in three words:
Historical, prosperous, and cosy.

Watch Jeanine talk about freediving at RTL Late Night, the national talkshow in the Netherlands, and be inspired!

Jeanine Grasmeijer

Text: Karissa Atienza
Photography: Brian Megens

Photo: Brian Megens

My Way to Make Money with Yagmur Masmas of aGreenStory

As bills don’t pay themselves an income is required, some obtain it by working for a wage, others by starting up their own business and some are so talented that they can make an income out of their hobby. In this column ‘My Way to Make Money’ we interview a student or a university employee about their job or business and ask them questions about how they experience their work. This week we interview Yagmur Masmas, the budding entrepreneur from aGreenStory. Although a UCM student, she is currently doing her minor at Wageningen University. She has been fortunate and talented enough to make a living out of her passion and establishing her own company. Yagmur has featured in a number of competitions in Maastricht and beyond, and has talked about aGreenStory on a number of platforms. 

My company is…
A supplier of sustainable office stationery and supplies and other accessories such laptop bags. People also use our products as promotion gifts for their company so we also do custom made orders for organisations. We sell our products online through our webshop and we deliver them to the customers via our pick-up services at university campuses, but we also join various fairs and markets.

My job is…
I’m in charge of customer service. My number and e-mail are on the website and I reply to people’s inquiries, like for example, students asking about the pick-up service or a company asking a quotation on a bulk order. I do part of the website, but this part is something my co-founder and I do together. I keep the website updates, take pictures of the products, write the text and deal with the SEO (search engine optimisation). For a long time, I did social media but now some interns have temporarily taken over that. I also coordinate the pick-up points, making sure everything goes well.

I also analyse in which ways our products are sustainable, so before we launch a new article, I do the research into the sustainability aspects. Sometimes you can find some of these details online like part of it is made of recycled materials, but then some information is missing, for example how much water is used. Quite often, the producers only state the good things and not the others and that counts. It’s a tough thing to do so it’s important to develop a personal relationship with the suppliers.

My company started…
Officially, last February when Sander (my co-founder) and I decided to work on it together, but the idea already started when I was in high school. I was looking for exercise books, but sustainable ones, and I could only find really expensive products. I thought that was ridiculous so I searched a bit further. In the end, I ended up doing a pilot in my high school with a little shop. We were fantasising it with friends on whether we could sell it in the whole of the Netherlands, but back then I didn’t have the knowledge and skills to make it happen yet.

Photo: Brian Megens

Yagmur of a GreenStory

A regular day at work looks like…
Me working everywhere. I travel a lot so I often work in trains or buses. My work is not structured so even during class, I’d be replying to e-mails. I would say I spend half of my time studying and the other half for aGreenStory, taking into account that during holidays I work full-time.

The thing that makes the job hard is…
That it’s very difficult to plan my time.

The main reason for choosing this job is…
Firstly because I thought it was missing in the Dutch market, and I’m in the position to fill it in. I’m also intrinsically motivated to contribute to sustainability and I like talking about it in different events. It helps that the work is flexible, so during exam weeks, I can devote my time to studying.

I didn’t expect..
For long distance collaboration to work. At first, I wasn’t sure about working with people from far away but for us, it works. Also, I didn’t expect how because we are a sustainable company, people are more critical of our practices. So for example, the delivery of our products are not 100% sustainable, but we’re working on it.

My goal for the next years…
Is to work on it full-time. Over the next few years, I hope to have an aGreenStory line so our own products designed by us in stores and to have a number of regular company customers who have integrated the practices of refilling pens and so on, instead of buying new articles. I’m also working on having the whole business process 100% sustainable, from the products itself to the delivery. We’re launching a new website in 2016 so I’m really excited about that too.

I love my job because…
Of the team, it’s a great and motivated team! I’m very happy to be doing something positive to make the world a little bit better. It’s also a nice feeling when you get positive feedbacks from the customers, that feeling of satisfaction.


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

My Way to Make Money with Aaron Vinnik

Studium Generale Lecture Anti-Semitism

As bills don’t pay themselves an income is required, some obtain it by working for a wage, others by starting up their own business and some are so talented that they can make an income out of their hobby. In the Weekly column ‘My Way to Make Money’ we interview a student or a university employee about their job or business and ask them questions about how they experience their work. This week we interview Aaron Vinnik who is employed by the university as a teaching assistant in the history department. Before graduating his masters at the Maastricht University in European Studies with a Cum Laude, he obtained his bachelor degree in History & Political Science at Culver-Stockton College in Missouri. In his spare time he likes to travel and experience new cultures. Aaron has a preference for outdoor sports and is in love with his new race bike which takes him to the beautiful surroundings of Maastricht.

My job
As a teaching assistant in the History department, I am employed to dedicate my time teaching meaning I have no time for research. Normally, I teach one course at the same time. I teach at FaSos, however, Arts & Culture takes only 20% of my time while 80% of my time I end up teaching European Studies students.

A regular day at work looks like…
On days when I teach, which is 2 to 3 times a week, I usually have around 2 to 3 classes a day. Most of the time the students have lectures in the morning followed by the first tutorial at 11am until 1pm, the second class is from 1.30pm until 3.30pm with the last tutorial at 4pm and ends at 6pm. Although it’s the same teaching you do, each class is different and that gives the class new dynamics. If students are well prepared, you can give them more space for discussions while some groups need more guidance. On days where I do not teach, I’m either doing some readings to prepare for classes later in the week, or I am making/grading exams or revising bachelor papers.

I like my job because
It’s dynamic, I’m not teaching the same thing for a long period of time. Over the year, I teach a number of courses, so if you teach something that’s not your cup of tea you’re not stuck to it for the rest of the year. Working with students and helping them understand the material is a fulfilling job. As a teaching assistant, I have more experience with academic materials and therefore I can help them better than if they do it on their own. Another point why I like my job is the working environment in FaSos. The tutors get along with each other and the senior staff is really supportive of us, something you don’t see everywhere I think.

The thing that makes the job hard is
Students who are not paying attention. It’s amazing because sometimes even after multiple attempts via email or announcement in class they still don’t absorb the information. You try to be helpful to students but often they disregard it and can even backfire on you. This is most especially first year students in their first 6 months. They are struggle because they’re not used to the PBL system and/or university. Another factor in making the job sometimes difficult is the third class at the end of the day. This can be tough because you want to give every group the best you have. You want to be as alert as you were in the in the first group. I notice that also some students are struggling with this, from 4-6pm they’re not the most motivated and alert which is understandable because it’s also their end of the day. The challenge as a tutor is to give each class the same benefit from the experience, regardless of the time, participants or material.

I got this job by
applying for it. In my masters I was a research assistant for the head of the history department. He made me aware of the position and advised me to apply because he thought it would suit my abilities. After the interview, I was offered the position which was 2 years ago. I started my job in the summer of 2012.

The main reason for choosing this job is
that I knew I would enjoy teaching because I have done it before so it wasn’t far outside of my comfort zone. It was the first job offered to me after university and nothing else was playing, therefore it made sense to start working for the university. Another reason is that Maastricht as a city appeals to me. It’s a good place to live especially as a student. As a student you’re surrounded by students who you can socialise with. Working is a bit different because people have more obligations and responsibilities. As I’m interested in doing a PhD, being able to do a job where I can develop skills that will become useful when I want to apply for a PhD is perfect. In my job I get feedback from experienced and skilled people from the university.

The time I spent in doing my job is..
Irregular. We have a certain amount of teaching hours. In some periods we’ll be working more than others. The reading and teaching within a course is pretty consistent but the time it costs changes from course to course.  Also the amount of work depends on the specific task I have to do. For example, assisting and grading papers takes more time, with all the meetings necessary, than grading exams. However, in the end all tutors have a maximum amount of hours.

I didn’t expect the job to be..
As interesting as it is. Everyone jokes that the Germans have invaded Maastricht. However, you’ll be astonished by the diversity you have in class. You’ll have Brits, Dutch, Germans, Belgians, Spanish, Italians and so on. This diversity makes it interesting especially because in European studies you try to teach about Europe and its diversity, seeing a mixture in your own class on where you teach about makes it a far more dynamic experience.

My goal for the next years
is to start and finish a PhD in security studies or a related field. Hopefully, I’ll be working in that field. It can be for the government, an industry or a think-tank. I want to apply my knowledge from my PhD in a related field outside of academia for a while before returning to teach.

I love my job because
Over the years my teaching schedule change, and this pushes your own boundaries.  Teaching something new demands refocus year in year out. I get satisfaction from teaching, helping students finding their way in the academic world. Maastricht is a nice place to live, although in a couple of years I want to live in a bigger city. However, Maastricht is close enough to a number of big cities which allows me to travel and explore the areas around me. This provides me with new knowledge for myself and to pass along to my students.

Women on Weights, UMsport training program

Find your strength! © Brian Megens

Find your strength! © Brian Megens

‘Women ahead in academia’ is the current topic of this academic year. UMsport takes it further and offers a programme called Women on Weights (WOW) to make women familiar with gym and resistance work-outs. This programme is given by Crystal Ceh a fitness instructor at UMSport and a licensed Naturopathic Doctor. Crystal is the embodiment of a strong, fit and feminine woman who immediately debunks the conception that women turn into a ‘Hulk’ from strength training, to the land of the myths. Sounds great, but how does a regular WOW training look like? I thought it was about time to find out myself and attend a training!

During the weeks of the WOW programme, Crystal is busy teaching three evenings a week. As the sign-up was a big success, three classes had to be made. Level 1 is given to class A on Tuesday and to class B on Wednesday, Thursday is reserved for the Level 2 class which consists of women who are a bit more familiar with weight lifting.

The session starts with a meeting in a conference room wherein Crystal explains concepts of training and nutrition, also the homework and possible problems are being discussed. Furthermore, this get together is basically to create a group feeling and make the participants talk about what they experience and obstacles they stumble upon. After this 30 minute talk Crystal announces that it’s enough talk and time to hit the gym!

Crystal explaining concepts of training © Brian Megens

Crystal explaining concepts of training © Brian Megens

The Work-out starts with a warm-up to increase the heart rate and get the blood pumping. After this, the weights need to be lifted by the women. The strength session starts with some squats followed by benching, lunches, dumbbell lateral raise, kettle bell swing and he training ends with some core work on the mat in order to cool down.

Carolina preparing for her squat © Brian Megens

Carolina preparing for her squat © Brian Megens

Karissa squat © Brian Megens

Karissa squat © Brian Megens

Benching © Brian Megens

Benching © Brian Megens

Karissa during lateral dumbbell raise © Brian Megens

Karissa during lateral dumbbell raise © Brian Megens


Carolina during lateral cable raise © Brian Megens

Carolina during lateral cable raise © Brian Megens

Dumbbell swing © Brian Megens

Dumbbell swing © Brian Megens

Cooling-down © Brian Megens

Cooling-down © Brian Megens


Crystal Ceh on the WOW programme
What is WOW?
CC: WOW, or Women on Weights, is a 1x/week, small group resistance training program, supervised by me along with weekly training “homework”, and runs for 7 weeks. You receive a WOW T-shirt, a UM Sport water bottle, and the weekly workouts all for a very modest price. The classes start off with an educational component, where we bust some common myths associated with women and weight training, followed by a 90-minute resistance training session in the gym. It’s motivational, you improve your strength and conditioning, and it’s a lot of fun!

For who is WOW?
CC: WOW is for women of any age and training experience. I created 2 levels: Level 1 is a great option for women who are new to lifting weights, who are unsure of their movement techniques, and/or have little knowledge of training principles. Level 2 is appropriate for women who have been resistance training regularly for at least 3-6 months, who feel confident with most major lifts (Eg barbell squat), and who have basic knowledge of training principles and want to learn more.

What do you learn in WOW?
CC: In Level 1, you learn how to perform a variety of free weight exercises, such as the barbell back squat, bench press, & dead lift, while also learning basic weight training principles, such as progressive overload, recovery and overtraining. In Level 2, we take the basics from Level 1 and turn it up a notch, by introducing more advanced techniques, such a super sets, split routines, HIIT, and program design.

Why was the WOW programme needed?
CC: WOW was created for women to help them learn proper lifting techniques, principles of training, to help them build knowledge and to improve confidence in themselves. Too many times we as women hold ourselves back, in addition to feeling held back or intimidated by our male counterparts. My favourite part of the entire program is seeing how the women go from shy, sometimes timid individuals in the gym, to women who take over the squat racks and demand mirror real estate when training. It’s super motivating to see more women lifting seriously in our gym!

When is the next WOW and how can people sign-up?
CC: The next 7-week courses will be offered in January 2015, with dates/times TBD. We will be sending a university-wide email letting people know when registration opens. You will be able to register online through the UM Sport web shop, or in-person at UM Sport Randwyck. We will also be having info sessions for those who are interested in learning more about the program or who are unsure of which level to join (dates also TBD)

Great that the work-out looks cool and Crystal is happy, however, it is all about the experience of the participants of the programme. Therefore, I decided to interview Carolina.

Crystal explaining the concept of benching to Carolina © Brian Megens

Crystal explaining the concept of benching to Carolina © Brian Megens

Carolina, 19, International Business student and in the level 1 group:
Why did you sign up for WOW?

I signed up for WOW because I am interested in fitness for quite a while now and I have been going to the gym regular for 1.5 years but I had a 6 months break and needed someone to motivate me again. Therefore, I saw this course and thought it would be a good way to get back to weight Lifting

What did you expect from WOW?
I expected from WOW to help me with my fitness and my nutrition. So I know how to do the exercises properly without risking any injuries.

What did WOW gave you?
WOW gave me a lot more confidence. I have never felt awkward to train “where the guys train” but I do feel more comfortable now because I feel that I now know the basics of training, giving me confidence to start a work-out on my own because I know what, how and why I am doing it.

Would you recommend WOW and why?
I definitely recommend WOW. Crystal did an amazing job. She makes everyone feel comfortable regardless age or level of fitness.

So if you feel like you need to hit the gym after the Christmas holiday, sign-up for the next WOW!
NOTE: a valid gym license is required in addition to purchasing the program

Karissa adding some weights © Brian Megens

Karissa adding some weights © Brian Megens

Push-ups! © Brian Megens

Push-ups! © Brian Megens

group picture! © Brian Megens

group picture! © Brian Megens


My Way to make money: Ward Zonneveld

Ward Zonneveld at work © Brian Megens

Ward Zonneveld at work © Brian Megens

As bills don’t pay themselves an income is required, some obtain it by working for a wage, others by starting up their own business and some are so talented that they can make an income out of their hobby. In the Weekly column ‘My way to make money’ we interview a student or a university employee about their job or business and ask them questions about how they experience their work.

This week we interview Ward Zonneveld a 21 year old student who’s doing a master in Human Movement Sciences at the FHML faculty. Ward is a typical student who likes to hang out with friends, play videogames and sometimes visits the UM Sport gym to stay in shape. In order to pay the bills he works in the Albert Heijn as a re-stocker.

A regular day at work looks like…
Usually, I walk into the store with my blue Albert Heijn shirt on and go straight to the stockroom to check my job for the day. I drive into the store , trying not to run over customers, with the container filled with goods that need to be stocked on the shells. When the container is in place, I can place the products on the shelves. At the end I clean my mess up and see if I can go home or help someone else.

I like my job because…
Although this job seems quite boring, I get to know a lot of people, colleagues, that later turn out to be good friends. During work we talk about the people walking by, football and the regular small talk, which makes the job a little more exciting. It is also nice to see friends do their shopping while I am working. Helping customers with questions and sometimes even give them advice is also a nice distraction from re-stocking the shelves.

The thing that makes the job hard is…
that I always have to work at dinner time, so I have to cook before or after work. Also customers that ask questions like ‘Where are the eggs?’ when they are just clearly 1 meter away, can challenge your temper. However, the one that is the most annoying is the music played in the store, it is just awful; it makes me want to use earplugs which I of course am not allowed to do.

I got this job by…
As every student needs money, me and a friend sought a job and found one at the Albert Heijn in the Helmstraat, close to the Vrijthof. They had some posters on the walls saying that they needed employees, so we went in, asked if this was still the case, and applied for the job. After a short interview I got the job and could start working.

The main reason for choosing this job is…
I had previous experience in another supermarket. Therefore, I knew that it was relatively well paid and the work itself was not that tough or difficult. Also you have many colleagues and you can work together and have social contacts. So when I saw they were looking for new employees I could not see any reason not to apply.

The time I spent in doing my job is…

Two to three evenings a week you can find me working in ‘AH Helmie’ for a 2 or 4 hour shift, that makes it about six hours a week. Therefore, this can perfectly be combined with the study as it does not take too much time and the study contains a lot of self-study which I can do whenever it suits me.

I didn’t expect the job to be…
working such short shifts, I often work for only two hours straight and then I am done. Longer shifts for fewer times a week would suit me better as it takes less time in preparation.

Later in life I’ll be…
A researcher with focus to sports or rehabilitation. I am really interested in perfecting training programs for obese people and/or athletes, movements and rehabilitation techniques is really my passion, therefore it would be great if I could turn this into my job!

My way to make money with Martin Lamberts Löwenbrück

As bills don’t pay themselves an income is required, some obtain it by working for a wage, others by starting up their own business and some are so talented that they can make an income out of their hobby. In the Weekly column ‘My way to make money’ we interview a student or a university employee about their job or business and ask them questions about how they experience their work.

This week we interview a student about his summer job as a waiter in the States. Martin Lamberts Lowenbruck is a 23 year old student in the second year of the European Studies program. Born and raised in the USA, he holds a German passport due to his German parents. His German ancestry was one of the reasons that triggered his interest in Europe and come to Maastricht for his studies.

My job…
I work as a ‘waitstaff’ of a seaside restaurant named Jackie’s Too in Ogunquit, Maine, USA. Opened in the 60’s, the restaurant now serves as a tourist attraction for Americans and French Canadians alike, serving both lunch and dinner every day, all year-round. I’ve been working summers at Jackie’s restaurant since 2012, and was fortunate enough to have the opportunity of returning this summer for work, albeit for only a short time, as my work schedule in the Netherlands requires my return.

I like my job because…
I enjoy working at Jackie’s too for several reasons, not least of which is the beautiful view of the Atlantic Ocean over Perkin’s Cove. The restaurant is located directly on the shore, with only a few metres between the waves and the restaurant veranda during high tide. The smell of the cold ocean on a warm morning is one of life’s simple pleasures. The ocean has always been close to home.

A regular day looks like…
I spend about 6 hours a day, 5 days a week at the restaurant. Starting work at 10:00 means I usually leave work between 4 and 5 PM, depending on how busy the day was. With tips for excellent service included, you can expect to earn around $120 to $170 for 6 hours of work, making $20 per hour isn’t bad.

The thing that makes the job hard…
The hardest part of the job, as in all realms of the service industry, are terrible customers. These very patrons, however, can be what makes the job great. Working busy hours and running food on a 100º day will certainly run you down, especially when a customer heckles for minutes at a time over simple things like water or napkins. Despite shortcomings and unpleasant guests, however, good service is usually rewarded with a good tip, unless you’re serving Canadians. The French Canadians, in keeping with good European tradition, generally do not tip the server, assuming it is already included in the bill. If lucky, I can expect a 5% tip from even the sweetest Canadians; they simply don’t understand customs, despite returning every year. The reason tips are such a big deal for the service industry in the USA is because of the low wages servers receive. Servers do not qualify for minimum wage (around $8.00), because they generally receive tips. When the tips are not received, servers essentially work for free.

The job gives me…
Apart from the location, the rest of the waitstaff is comprised of people from all over the world. Having become acquainted with numerous international employees from Eastern Europe last year, I have now had the pleasure of getting to know a few South Africans, Jamaicans, and seasonal workers. The international and cultural exposure that this job has to offer was one of the hidden gems of working in Ogunquit. People rarely realise how much of the tourist industry in Maine survives off the work of young aspiring guest workers. The cultural and worldly experience gained by the locals is just an added benefit.

I didn’t expect the job to be…
as stressful as it is sometimes. Nevertheless, I also didn’t expect the job to be so rewarding. As a server, it’s important to have the ability to sell yourself. The server’s ability to give the customer a nice experience is the fulcrum on which earnings turn. This line of work certainly puts more responsibility on the server for good wages.

Later in life I’ll…
not work in the restaurant industry. It is certainly a high-stress job and teases one’s patience. It’s ideal for young and energetic people who need something to do for a summer. For the seasoned employees, I have nothing but respect, as they toil daily in one of the harder industries. These people serve others when they are not working. I aspire a career in journalism or maybe life will surprise me.


My way to make money with Maphrida Forichi


As bills don’t pay themselves an income is required, some obtain it by working for a wage, others by starting up their own business and some are so talented that they can make an income out of their hobby. In the Weekly column My way to make money we interview a student or a university employee about their job or business and ask them questions about how they experience their work. 

This week we interview the student with probably the most recognizable face within the university: Maphrida Forichi. Although her job is a non-paid one, albeit compensated, we’re happy to make an exception. She is an executive secretary, reporter and editor at Breaking Maas. Breaking Maas is the well-known news/entertainment show made by students in Maastricht. With each episode getting tons of views on their YouTube channel, Breaking Maas has grown to almost a cult-status. Maphrida is a 21 year old second year Arts & Culture student with broad interests, from theatre to travelling to cooking and getting fit, but everyone who knows her is aware that socialising while doing her other interests is her thing.

A regular day looks like…
In preparation for a report I regularly come up with a report idea, pitch it to my team, brainstorm on creative executions, do background research on the topic or person and prepare questions. On the day of the report, I pick an appropriate outfit, show up with a camera person from the team, be awesome and talk to a bunch of people and make sure I do something funny (or at least, I think I can be funny… sometimes). While filming, it’s very important to have the structure of the final outcome in mind, so you have to have an idea of how you will edit the report already. It makes it so much easier to put it all together in the end!

The thing that makes the job hard…
is being able to satisfy everybody. It is almost impossible actually. Our main target audience are students in Maastricht who naturally have varying tastes and interests, so we try our best to produce shows that are appealing and interesting for everybody. If that was truly possible, we would have 16,000 views for every episode. But we would like to believe that our episodes are entertaining!

I got this job by…
auditioning for the role of reporter. I was SUPER nervous even though I am a very outgoing person. I soon learned how to edit, and I now I edit most of my reports on my own. I feel like this job is exactly what I want to be doing with my spare time in university. Breaking Maas inspires individual creativity and allows you to pursue your interests.

My main reason for choosing this job…
was that it added more value to my studies. I am studying Arts and Culture and plan on majoring in Media Culture in my second year, and Breaking Maas helps me combine the theory from my studies with the practicality of actually researching and producing a show.

I would say I spend…
10 hours on average every week doing stuff for Breaking Maas – from attending meetings every Tuesday to reporting and editing. This academic year, I will definitely spend even more time since I am now in the management board. But hey, I love my job! I never complain about the hours. I do, however, expect it to be quite stressful this year, not going to lie!

I didn’t expect the job to be…
this awesome! Of course I knew it would be fun, but I didn’t expect to love it this much. The Breaking Maas crew is absolutely awesome. Not to mention all the cakes and goodies we usually have at meetings. Yum!

I love my job…
because I believe one of the most important university experiences is meeting people. Covering events as a reporter at Breaking Maas has helped me meet people of various ages, cultures and nationalities, from various campuses and occupations. I also like my job because it encompasses both my passion for journalism and production!

Later in life I’ll be…
on CNN, definitely as a reporter though, not an anchor. Or I will have my own talk show but that will just be a side hustle. My main aspiration is to build a Media Empire with my sister Ewa Przybyl. Watch this space for ME Productions!

Ice Bucket Challenge Maastricht Students and BreakingMaas

The ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ has gone viral. Celebrities like Bill Gates, Charlie Sheen, and the one and only Justin Bieber, have participated in the challenge creating the publicity that have turned it into a hype.  Your timeline is probably filled with people posting their video and nominations, perhaps you’ve even been challenged yourself. I don’t normally pay attention to hypes where you oblige others to do the same like the notorious neknomination. However, the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ is different; it tries to combine the hype of challenging people via social media with creating awareness and fundraising for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS. My main argument is that regardless of how annoying you might think the videos are, the action deserves everyone’s support. However, people participating in the challenge do need to be aware that the main aim is fundraising and publicity for the disease ALS and not the five minutes of fame. The crazier the challenge the better, but it needs to be utilised towards a higher goal. Therefore, I decided to hatch a plan for my own Ice Bucket Challenge. Together with BreakingMaas, we thought it would be a good idea to make a report on it. Ayse Sarah from BreakingMaas was brave enough to join me and take up the challenge. If you’re wondering why I’m only wearing a Speedo, well we don’t have fancy shirts of Maastricht Students like BreakingMaas have. Enough has been said, now it’s time to look at the video yourself!

We have made the donation and as said in the video, we now challenge all UM students to come up with your own original Ice Bucket Challenge and donate money for the ALS foundation!

Donate now!

Brian, Ashika and the BreakingMaas crew.

INKOM day 5: Maastricht Market, Mosae Master and BBQ

The last and final day of INKOM has arrived, you can see the toll of a rough week on the students. At noon, the Maastricht Market kicks off the last day. On this infomarket associations, companies, religions, sport clubs, political parties have their stand and students can go there for information. Free brunch and coffee is provided and lots of stand offer free giveaways and food. As the students partied the day before, it was quite empty until 1pm. However, students are students and will not skip free food, so it eventually got pretty busy as you can see on the pictures!

Overview of the infomarket © Brian Megens

Overview of the infomarket © Brian Megens

BreakingMaas reporting © Brian Megens

BreakingMaas reporting © Brian Megens

Fire department giving a demonstration Ps. nice shorts © Brian Megens

Fire department giving a demonstration  © Brian Megens

Paul Vermin the student agent socialising and informing students © Brian Megens

Paul Vermin (student agent) socialising and informing students © Brian Megens

The Queu for the free brunch © Brian Megens

The Queue for the free brunch © Brian Megens

The Queue for the free Coffee © Brian Megens

The Queue for the free Coffee © Brian Megens

And then everything needs to be consumed © Brian Megens

And then everything needs to be consumed © Brian Megens

At the end of the afternoon... view from a tower ladder from the fire department © Brian Megens

At the end of the afternoon, view from a tower ladder from the fire department © Brian Megens

For the Master students INKOM offered the Mosae Master. An event where the Master students could get together and find information useful for their further career, alcohol in the form of a wine tasting and food served as a tapas buffet were provided.

Mosae Master students © Brian Megens

Mosae Master students © Brian Megens


Dinner for the master students, Tapas mmm  © Brian Megens

Dinner for the master students, Tapas mmm © Brian Megens


Did I already say that they had tapas? © Brian Megens

Did I already say that they had tapas? © Brian Megens

The weather so far was pretty good keeping in mind that it was raining all day in the rest of the country, however, when it was time for the BBQ it was pooring. Luckily, tents were provided so students could enjoy their food somehow dry.

BBQ at de Griend © Brian Megens

BBQ at de Griend © Brian Megens

© Brian Megens

© Brian Megens

Students still smiling despite the weather © Brian Megens

Students still smiling despite the weather © Brian Megens

Lovely poncho © Brian Megens

Lovely poncho © Brian Megens


Enough food was provided! © Brian Megens

Enough food was provided! © Brian Megens

Keep on smiling Jeroen! © Brian Megens

Keep on smiling Jeroen! © Brian Megens

Unfortunately, tonight is the last party of INKOM 2014. For us it was a blast and we want to thank the organisation for making this event possible! We wish all the new students a great start of their academic adventure!

Ashika & Brian

The Great Racism Experiment

”Blue eyed people are stupid, dumb, slow and lazy. They are unreliable, they blame others for their own faults and do not cooperate.’’ This stereotyping was part of a Dutch television show called the Great Racism Experiment by BNN. A social experiment where people were separated based on the color of their eyes.  The leader of the experiment was setting the brown-eyed up against the blue-eyed.

At first, the blue-eyed people laughed about the absurdity of the basis for their separation. The brown-eyed looked astonished when they were told that they were much wiser and stronger than the blue-eyed. The stereotypical description was repeated time and again and the possibility for the brown-eyed to stand up against the leader’s judgmental behavior was hardly taken up.

Then the blue-eyed were accused of doing things the wrong way. They didn’t listen, didn’t answer questions, they were using the wrong words or had a wrong facial expression. Thereby they failed to give correct answers and didn’t know a thing about social customs and norms. This negative approach initiated revolt by one or two blue-eyed, but eventually most of them assimilated to the rules. They knew they were overpowered and had no say in the way they were treated.

The gap widened. One brown-eyed girl decided to become a part of the inferior group, for she didn’t agree with the way they were treated and wanted to show her sympathy to the blue-eyed. But no other brown-eyed raised a question or argument to confront the leader. Their position was quite comfortable, even though they didn’t approve the unequal treatment. A blue-eyed boy broke down in tears. He said he knew what this experiment was about. Being judged on superficial features was something he had to deal with every day. Then the experiment came to an end.

When they were asked to put their emotions to paper the superior blue-eyed characterized themselves as angry, small, excluded,  humiliated, powerless and helpless. Then the brown-eyed were asked to  write down what the blue-eyed looked like during the experiment. Alone, attacked, void, frustrated, sad and uncomfortable were words that came up. But then the leader of the group told them that they were brave, strong, courageous and self-conscious in her eyes. The way they felt during the patronizing wasn’t what she noticed. The blue-eyed helped each other and stood up for their rights, they took a position and were not afraid to speak up for themselves.

The power is in the hands of the superior. Corresponding with the survival of the fittest theory, some are just not adapting as well as others do so the winners may rule. It’s not just an idea that comes along with social theory, it’s actually implemented in our minds. Thinking from our point of reference we project our own cultural norms and values upon others, without any consideration for the uniqueness and equality of otherness in general. Therefore we qualify people on their superficial features and depersonalize them by putting them in a certain social or cultural background.

The Great Racism Experiment uncovers not only the absurdity of stereotyping. Moreover it reveals shocking reality: we all take part in this game of winners and losers.

“Intro” blog

I have been asked to write an “Introduction blog” before I start with the ‘real’ stuff. Some people find it quite easy to talk about themselves; they can tell great stories about their lives, including their pets (usually dogs or cats) and hobbies ( “Oh my god! I loooooove baking cupcakes!”). Read more

First Impression of Maastricht

I arrived in Maastricht on a cold January morning. I had been told that I would be picked up in the Brussels airport by a student, and I would immediately be meeting the other study abroad students in the CES (Center for European Studies) program at Maastricht. Read more

A Brit Abroad…


My name is Phoebe and I’m a first year Bachelor’s student, studying Arts & Culture. I moved to Maastricht in late August from London, England where I was born and raised. After graduating secondary school (high school) I took a year out to earn some money so I could travel around Europe by train – which I did in the spring. I had an amazing time, and meeting other travellers only made me realize how much more there was to see. Next on my list are Budapest, Barcelona and Krakow! Read more

Money matters: how to make it to the end of the month (pt.1),

The end of the month; a moment of terror for most students. Those who get study-finance know that around the 20th the bank-account will run dry. They will have to force themselves in social isolation. No more going out to bars. No more eating out. The diet will drastically change from consuming a-brands from Albert Heijn and Jumbo (yes most students live like they are middle-class employers), to eating Euroshopper products or shopping at Aldi (although their quality is good enough to shop there throughout the year as well). No more vedgies and rich dishes, but bread and soup, plain pasta & rice or simple eggs for dinner. We students have a very tough life. Uuuh… Don’t make me laugh.

There are a ton of ways to make enough money to get to the end of the month comfortably. These methods account for every student; the Dutch, the German, the Chinese or whatever special exotic nationality you may have.

Read more

Update. Summer> Maastricht> INKOM

I apologise for not posting any blogs in a while, I have been very busy what with family summer holidays (apparently wifi access is almost impossible to get in the north of Scotland…), student finance applications, working in Maastricht and seeing all my friends and family in Edinburgh.

[Not all of these things however, are unrelated – as you will see in my post ‘Student Study Finance: A Blessay’ there is a lot to be done when applying for student finance.]

Although excuses out of the way, I have posted 3-for-the-price-of-one blogs in one dollop – so there is more than enough blog-ness to be getting on with.

The summer holidays drawing to an end for many, and as I write this there is a raging storm outside which pretty much signals the end to sun, ice-cream and shorts…

Behind me is my family holiday to the Isle of Skye, off the West coast of Scotland (see above re: lack of internet), as are my rounds of family/friends catching up with in Edinburgh. Also behind me are the days of stressing about study finance, my job in Maastricht and moving apartments. It was really nice seeing my friends and family who I have missed massively and now I am back in Maastricht. I have been working in Maastricht for most of August and can’t wait for my uni friends to return! J

Ahead for many a Maastricht student is returning to the city of cobbles, or the settling in for the first time for the many 1st year students arriving this August/September. Therefore it also goes without saying that a large amount of students will be looking forward to the huge introduction party in Maastricht: INKOM.

INKOM (for those who don’t know) is a city-wide introduction festival  for 5 days with parties, info events, parades and lots more! See for details.

I will be covering the various events of INKOM in FULL (or as full as I can make it without collapsing from the awesomeness of it all). So if you want to know what is hot/not/medium/weird/too dutch/not dutch enough/too drunken/too sober/must bring your own umbrella, drink, food, clothes or flying elephant – then this is the place to keep checking up on for INKOM updates! J

Also ahead of many is the beginning of a new academic year – which means new books, new stationary, new friends (optional), new tutors, new courses and lots of other new interesting stuffys and thingys.

With that can also come lots of renewed nerves/anxiety about starting up again. Especially for those starting first year.

I, personally am a little nervy (eg. will my new courses be too difficult?, will I be able to hold down a job on top of this?, will I make new friends or will my pet dragon put people off…. etc etc). So I have been doing lots of relax-y/chill-y things like saunas, face masks, long baths, good movies (and bad ones) as well as a good dose of cola (my latest addiction).

For now I hope you enjoy my two other “informative” blogs and good luck with the start of uni again!

Dutch Student Finance: A Blessay.

Student Study Finance.
A Blessay

I decided to write a post on the Dutch Student Finance as I felt the information about it was not easily accessible in one clear document. I also wanted to express some of my opinions about the student finance system itself and possible ways to improve it. Hopefully this will be useful for International students and I think that this or a document like this should be made available to all International students upon arrival in Maastricht. It’s quite extensive so I have made a mini ‘contents’.

-Composition of the student finance.
-How to get student finance: The process of obtaining it. The 7 Sacred Steps.
-The problems.
-The good things.
-International perspective, which country’s responsibility should student finance be?
-Implications that the student finance system has for Maastricht University.
– 7 Top Tips for getting student finance.

The Dutch Studiefinanciering (or student finance) is fairly easy to access if you are Dutch. However, the Dutch government are kind enough to offer to non-Dutch students with a couple of conditions. The student finance is accessed through the organization called DUO (formerly IB Groep). The website can be very conflicting/confusing.
The parts of the student finance are as follows:

The Tuition Fees Loan – €139 max per month, this is possible to get for International students with no extra conditions needed. You must pay it back as soon as you are earning over €13,215.83 (yes, apparently those 83 cents count…) per year and it has little interest on the loan: it changes per year but right now it is 1.5%. You pay it back over 15 years.
The General Student Loan – €505 max per month, this is paid back in the same way that the tuition fees loan is.
The Grant – €289 max per month. This is money that you do not have to pay back if you finish your studies. If you do not finish however, you must pay it back like a loan.
The OV Card – This is a card that allows you free public transport in the Netherlands (on trains, buses, trams etc). You must choose either a week or weekend OV.
The Supplementary Grant – €240.92 per month. This is a ‘means tested grant’ which means that it is based on how much your parents earn. If they earn under a certain amount, you qualify for this grant. To find out if you qualify, check the DUO website.
The amounts vary slightly from year to year, and the amounts are also different if you are living at home or not. However, as an International student, I will assume that you are living away from home. The ‘Tuition Fees Loan’ is possible to get for any International Student with a few form-filling-out-exercises. The general student loan and the grant however – although given to Dutch students automatically – must be earned by International Students. Students within the EU are able to get the general student loan and the grant if, and only if, they are studying AND working in the Netherlands. To be officially ‘working’ in the Netherlands you must be working for at least 32 hours a month (that is around 8 hours a week – so a Saturday job or two evenings a week or so). In order to prove this you must have 3 months’ pay slips from that job.

The Process of obtaining the student finance – 7 Steps
1. Rental Contract – you must have one of these for the place you are staying in, or another proof of address in order to register with the town hall (the Gemeente).
2. Gemeente – you must register with the Gemeente (the town hall). In order to do this you must have proof of address in the Netherlands, Birth Certificate, and Passport copy. When you register, you get a BSN number (burgerservicenummer) or what we would call a social security number. This will allow you to open a bank account. Gemeente Maastricht website: The Gemeente can be found at Markt 78, Maastricht. Their number is 0031 43 350 40 40. You have to make an appointment for a meeting with them and their opening hours are: Monday to Friday (incl.) from 8:30 AM to 5 PM and by appointment. Walk-in hours for people with only a postal address: Monday to Friday (incl.) from 8:30 AM to 12 PM.
3. Dutch Bank Account – this can be opened with various banks such as Rabobank, ING and ABN. You must have a: BSN number, passport and (if opening a student account) proof that you are enrolled at the University. This can be done through obtaining a letter from the Student Service Centre (SSC). You may wish to get a mobile phone now, as you can now have a contract if you wish and it is handy if you are working to have a mobile. Having a Dutch bank account is helpful as you will not have to pay the extra costs that are charged for taking money out of a bank account abroad. You can also use the card from your Dutch bank account nearly everywhere: from shops to cafes. Rabobank Maastricht: 0031 43 328 18 88, ,
4. Register with uni and arrange way for fees to be paid – once you have a BSN number and bank account you can now arrange for the fees to be paid to your university if paying in installments. You must go to the Student Service Centre (SSC) and get the form (or sometimes it is mailed to you). If you are not paying in installments, and are paying in one lump sum- there is no need to pay from a Dutch bank account. You only need the Dutch bank account if paying in monthly installments. The fees are paid around the 25th of each month. Once you are fully registered you can get proper access to your uni webmail, uni wifi and you can get your Maastricht University student card (UM card) which gives you access to the buildings, the printers/copy machines, you can borrow books and you can put money on it for buying food without carrying cash around. SSC: Number: 0031 43 388 5388 they can be found at Bonnefantenstraat 2 near the UCM and Business faculties.
5. Work Contract – once you get a job, you must have an employment contract. It helps for proving that you work there etc. A contract for a set amount of time also guarantees you work for that time (which is helpful, especially when you really need it: eg. when you need to work for at least 3 months to get student finance). As soon as you start working, your normal European Health Insurance card (EHI, the one you get for travelling etc) is invalid, as you are now not just a student but a working citizen and you must buy Dutch health insurance.
6. Payslips – each month you must make sure that the pay-slip (the official receipt that shows you have been paid, how much and for how many hours) states that you have worked 32 hours. It must generally be 3 consecutive months but exceptions can be made. Contact the student finance people directly about questions on this. 0031 50 599 77 55. The closest office to Maastricht is in Sittard, near the Sittard train station.
7. Forms (DIGID) – after you have 3 consecutive months pay slips, it is time to make your application. You can do this through the many forms available on the DUO website but it can also be done online like the Dutch students do, through the DIGID. 0031 70 383 70 30

The good things
-International students can accesss it.
-It is a lot of money when you get it.
-There is a grant and OV card which is not offered in lots of other places (many countries only have a student loan).

The problems
-Tricky to navigate some forms in Dutch, very bureaucratic etc
-Must have a job in order to get it (may jeapordise your studies).
-Cannot get it straight away (3 months work), must fund yourself for 3 months, maybe a little more.

International Perspective
This system is perfectly good, and better than most. However, it is difficult for those students that come from countries that will not give them a student loan if studying abroad (the UK for example) because in order to be entitled to the student loan you must have been there for at least 4 months (say 3 months working and around a month finding a job and processing the loan application). So this means 4 months funding student life yourself with no loan or grant. (The tuition fees are taken care of as you still qualify for the tuition fees loan without having to work). Many countries fund their students with a loan even if they are not studying in their own country. It seems unfair that – although the Dutch government is kind to their International students, and that I understand that they must have some sort of regulations otherwise they risk handing out money to everyone – many International students must fund themselves and work in order to fund their studies. This can jeapordise their study.
Another issue is whether it even should be the responsibility of the Dutch government to provide for students from other countries. Is the real problem here, not that it is tricky to access student finance from the Dutch government, but that governments such as the UK government do not provide for those students studying abroad? The Dutch students, even if studying abroad (for example Belgium), will still get access to the Dutch student finance. I think it is fantastic that the Dutch government takes education so seriously and are so kind to its’ students, but at the same time – why should they have to pay for the downfalls of other governments.
Programmes such as University College Maastricht (UCM) has a higher workload than other degrees, has more International students than many of the other faculties. With such a high work-load, in combination with an 8 hour a week job – should UCM students even be allowed a job? UCM expects 40 hours study a week and if there are 8 hours of work on top of this, it can be manageable – but is studying not a full-time job in itself? Cambridge and Oxford students are not allowed to have a job while studying and (if I am to believe my Oxbridge friends) they have a similar workload (although obviously the Oxbridge students are focused in one area). Are the conditions put on study finance for International students appropriate? Are we not meant to be studying right now, not working? Maybe we should be allowed to have a job if we so wish for extra money/work experience, but making it essential is maybe disadvantaging International students – especially in high-workload programmes such as UCM, and the other University Colleges in Amsterdam, Utrecht, Rotterdam, The Hague etc. Should there be an exception made for UC students – or is this favouritism taken to a new level? Would degrees such as Medicine count as high-workload? If we would abolish the ‘work’ condition for ALL students, is there a way to limit the numbers of students using the student finance – so that the government does not go bankrupt? Should it be based on your grades or another way? Or is this just as bad?
Implications for Maastricht?
If Maastricht University is trying to attract a truly International atmosphere it seems that many International students will face difficulty due to not having a student loan that nearly every student has in order to fund their education. This in turn could end up that we are attracting only the richest International students to Maastricht. From the university’s perspective I can understand why this is not necessarily a bad thing financially, although I wonder whether this will attract the best students. The International atmosphere is one of the selling points of Maastricht University and I think it important that they also attract the most motivated, enthusiastic, hard-working and inspiring International students, not only the most financially secure. Are the implications of the strict criteria for student finance going to impact on the University as a whole?
Degrees that boast a high level of international students as an essential part to the learning experience (such as UCM and European Studies) may suffer as they will have higher numbers of students working to get student finance and in turn may have lower exam results as an outcome of this.
The study finance regulations may even discourage students from coming to the University at all.


7 Top Tips on Student Finance

Don’t bet on the student finance. Have some money already saved up to keep you going for maybe 5-9 months or so, just in case. The most horrible feeling in the world is to be trapped abroad with no money.
This 5-9 month gap leaves for a few months to get a job, time to work the three months and a month or two to process your student finance. I think this is most realistic. I would say that survival in Maastricht is around €740 a month (that is roughly €300 for rent, €200 for food and €240 for fees [if paying your fees in installments]).
I would then say that if your job is 5 euro an hour 32 hours a month, then that is 160 euro a month. This means that I would recommend that you have around 680 euros savings per month so between €3400 and €6120 savings in total as back-up (or 340 a month if your parents are paying your fees in a lump sum, so that is between €1700 and €3060 back up money in total).

Beware of hidden costs such as signing up to the student study associations, introduction parties, books, bike, mobile phone, posting, any extra furniture/extras for your apartment, sports card, stationary, printing etc. You may also want to budget in a few trips home too, as the first months can be tricky. Cheap flights can be found at (flying from Dusseldorf and Eindhoven is especially cheap) however the most hassle-free way in my opinion is flying KLM from Amsterdam Schipol ( ) as the train from Maastricht goes straight into the airport, usually with only one change. You can also use the Eurostar departing from Amsterdam or Brussels but is slightly more expensive and takes more time.

Make contacts and ask around about jobs. Jobs for English only speakers can be difficult to come-by, although they are out there. A good website to look on is: . Typical jobs are waitressing/bartending, washing dishes, manual labour (eg. The Post Office), call centres (such as Vodaphone) and some office jobs for the University or companies that need Native English speakers.

Be clear with your employer that this is what you are doing. Make sure that you get the pay slips from them and that it is all legit. Make sure you get to work at least 8 hours a week (32 hours a month) and that your contract is for at least 3 months.

Have a Dutch friend to help you through the system – for example getting a DIGID etc. A lot of the forms do have English versions, but it always helps to have a Dutchie on-side. DIGID website is

Contact the student finance people if you are unsure about anything. Make sure you are clear at every stage. You can contact them on

Stay positive! It can be tricky and difficult and some-times seems impossible, but you will get through it. If you know what is involved beforehand and if you are prepared to put the work in then you can live out the remainder of your study in the Netherlands with comfortable finances and a smile on your face. 🙂

All facts and figures are curtesy of

The Ultimate Guide to Dutch Style

So you are living in the Netherlands? Want to fit in/be cool etc etc? Well this is exactly what you need. The clear, essential and user-friendly: Ultimate Guide to Dutch Style.

The ‘Kakker’  (posh kids, well turned out)




Knee High Leather boots or plimsols


White long-sleeved

Red leather laptop

Long natural (not dyed, maybe a

Hockey Stick MandatoryBoys


Brown leather formal shoes/all stars

Jeans with biggish brown belt

Striped shirt, unbuttoned a little (tucked into jeans?)

Brown leather bag (or hockey bag) and big watch

Long hair ‘Dutch style’ (ie. Too much gel, and flipped over to one side)

Hockey Stick Mandatory (possibly golfing gear too)





Sjonnys or ‘New Kids’ (chav-ish)



Black Shiny Nicholson Jacket (with furryhood)



Lots of bling



Black or White Shiny Nicholson Jacket (fur optional)

‘Pimp’ Jeans


Big trainers




Field notes for non-Dutchies:

Many Dutch people find the following things undesirable:

– Make-up on girls (or guys!)

– High-Waisted Skirts

– Bouffant/Bee-hive hair on girls


and the following desirable:

– Simple jeans and t-shirt

– leather jackets on girls

– 1950s-style college sweaters (think American sororities/’Grease’)

– Hair gel for guys