“You never know who you are going to meet” with Costas Georgiades

Law Ball, Ambassador Lecture Series, Opening of the Academic year… We sat down with Costas Georgiades, a 23-year-old law student from Cyprus, who is the epitome of student involvement. We discussed the different projects he is involved with and what led him to where he is now. Read on to find out more about Costas!

Interview, and text: Valentin Calomme


Why did you come to Maastricht?

Born in South-Africa from a Thai mum and a Cypriot dad, Costas started his life as a citizen of the world. His family moved to Cyprus soon after, where he grew up. As he told us, he has always been interested and involved in youth work. Thanks to that, he got to travel all over Europe for conferences and other youth events. He constantly ran into people who were associated with UM, were they students, alumni, or staff. After having served his military service in the air force, he decided that he too wanted to join Maastricht University. The central location of Maastricht, its European Law programme taught in English, and its international environment swayed him and made his decision easy.


What was the first project you worked on?

The Law Ball. As most of you know, this has become one of the most successful events in the student community, and it is growing bigger every year, going from 150 to 800 people in 4 years! What many do not know was that it all started with a few European Law students who wanted to organize a formal gathering for their year. Then, it became much bigger than any of them would have ever imagined. Costas made sure that we understood that he was not alone his endeavour, putting forward his friends Max Hümer, Luca Bücken, and Felix Schulte-Strathaus who all contributed to the project.


Costas also mentioned that this was one of the many examples that shows that the university is a great platform to help students achieve their ideas. UM gave them full support and after the first two editions, the Law Faculty decided to officially endorse the event, thanks to efforts by the dean herself.

What other projects are you currently working on?

“I am currently the project coordinator for the Ambassador Lecture Series. I am very proud of what we have been able to do so far and I am very excited to see what the future will bring. And I can’t stress enough that the entire project is run by students. I think this is something special”.

Back in 2013, Costas was going to class and as he walked in the Law Faculty, he met the person in charge of the Ambassador Lecture Series. He was intrigued by the concept and asked her who was in charge of it and how he could help. He did not look back and now, he is in charge of the team of students who brought Jimmy Wales, Erin Schrode, or even Patrick McGee to the university.


“Currently I am also the project secretary for a big gathering of young people on the 7th of February 2017. The event is called Generation Maastricht – YO!Fest and aims at gathering 3000-5000 young people from all over Europe to come to Maastricht and have a meaningful discussion about Europe on an equal footing with politicians and high-level EU officials. It falls under the Europe Calling! Campaign that is run by the municipality of Maastricht and the provincial government.”

Costas explains this came quite unexpectedly after coincidently meeting the policy advisor from the municipality working on this project. He told us that it was great to be able, as an outsider, to be this involved and get a non-academic experience. This opportunity has also allowed him to set up a meeting between Cypriot students in Maastricht and the president of Cyprus!

What are your plans for the future?

“I really want to stay in Maastricht for a year or two because it has so much to offer. I also want to give back to the city and the university. This feels like home, I don’t want to leave very soon”.

After obtaining his bachelor’s degree in European Law, he is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Globalisation and Law, and told us that he wants to stay here for a few years. He loves the university and never fails to promote it when he goes to conferences abroad. He added that he was part of the team that helped organize the Opening of the Academic Year in September after being approached by the organizing team. Costas found this to be a valuable experience. Working with other fellow students, staff but also the president of the university himself Prof. dr. Martin Paul was a great example of why Maastricht University is special. “We all together managed to give the OAY a refreshed look to the ceremony taking into account all of the university community”. He also believes that the Ambassador Lecture Series concept can really take off, and who knows, maybe it could become a fully established project of the university. He also shares with us his secret ambition that hopefully, one day, prominent speakers will be keen on being a speaker, while at the moment the major task is convincing the speakers on why they should come to Maastricht.


What advice would you want to give incoming students?

“The university offers great opportunities but these opportunities do not come to you, you have to be proactive, have initiative, you have to force your luck. Be active, meet people. As Steve Jobs said, you can only connect the dots looking backward.”

He also added that it was important to find a balance. Joking about the fact he is not certain that he has found his yet. Indeed, on top of his studies, work, and all of his projects. He still finds time to go to the pool to swim and play water polo. And on top of that, he works more than 30 hours a week at a Greek restaurant in the city. Some would think that this is in no way relaxing, but he would beg to differ.

“It’s intense but relaxing. It’s a good way to take your mind off things. When you swim, it’s you against the water, it’s you against the world. I would totally recommend it to anyone. As for the restaurant, it’s a great opportunity to interact with local people.”

We were then able to ask him a question that many people have asked him before us. “Why the suits?!”. Costas is always sharply dressed, and many are shocked if they see him wearing a hoodie. He explained that it all goes back to everything he previously explained. “It might be a lawyer thing, but you never know who you’re going to meet, so you better be prepared”.

Giving students a voice with Maarten Butink

Maarten Butink, a 21 year-old Health Sciences student who chose to focus on the Policy, Management and Evaluation of Health Care specialisation, sat with us to discuss his position as student assessor. He shared what got him where he is now and what he hopes to accomplish thanks to his new position at the university. Read on to find on more about Maarten!

Interview, photography, and text: Valentin Calomme


Who is Maarten?

I had the pleasure to meet Maarten on a sunny Wednesday afternoon. When I saw him, I directly understood why he was chosen to be the student assessor for FHML. On time, sharply dressed, and a firm handshake left little doubt in my mind that I was going to have a very interesting conversation with him.

As we started the interview, he told me a bit about himself. Born and raised in Heerlen, he decided to study nursing (HBO) in Den Haag. After a successful year where he earned all of his credits, he decided to return Southwards and study Health Sciences in Maastricht. During the course of the last two years, Maarten became very active. He worked as a student researcher for the Oncology Clinic of the hospital, wrote a few papers for Gezondidee, a healthcare university magazine, of which one was published, and was also involved in student representation as the external commissioner of MSV Santé.

What does a student assessor do?

We then started to talk about the reason I was interviewing him, his role as student assessor. He explained that each year, a student is chosen in order to advise the board of MUMC+ as well as the Board of Directors of FHML. The student is in charge of giving the student body a voice during these meetings, as well as during national meetings of (bio)medical education. I directly thought to myself: “that is no small task”. Maarten confirmed that it was indeed a great honor that came with many responsibilities. As he puts it “You have to know everyone. This is your job. You need to work on all levels of student representation in order to give each student a voice”. Not a small task indeed.


Maarten then went on to tell me about how grateful he was to study at FHML. He explained that student involvement and representation is really high there through the 4 bachelor and 14 master programmes. This represents a total of around 4500 students! It makes his job not only more manageable but also more enjoyable. He also added that his experience in his study association helped him get prepared for his role.

Why did you want to apply for the position?

“I wanted to do more”. Maarten’s answer was concise and clear. After being involved with MSV Santé, he wanted to expand on what he did before. His passion for policy making in healthcare and his will to give students a voice in university matters were all he needed to start the application process. After motivation letters, interviews, and a long onboarding period, Maarten was finally named student assessor at the beginning of the academic year. Not long after, he was already introduced to our new Rector Magnificus, Rianne Letschert, and they agreed to meet to discuss student matters.


What do you think about the unique collaboration between AZM and FHML?

As student assessor, Maarten sits next to board of FHML, as well as the board of the academic hospital. He told us about this unique collaboration and what he believes is beneficial for both sides. On one hand, students get to use high-end facilities, real-life cases and have access to a large network of companies that work alongside the hospital. The collaboration with the Brightlands Health Campus would be a good example of this. On the other hand, the hospital has access to many bright minds, conducting research on medical as well as non-medical topics. This collaboration between academia and the healthcare world is beneficial to all, as both sides push each other to become better.

What do you want to accomplish as a student assessor?

When asked about what he wishes to accomplish during the upcoming year, Maarten gave me a very humble answer. He truly hopes that he can stimulate student representation so that there is an even better conversation going on between the students and the staff of the university. He also hopes to improve the way the system works so that it would be easier for everyone’s voice to be heard. He also ambitions to help with placing Maastricht on the map at a national level, in order for the university to be more involved in the discussions regarding education and healthcare.

He showed me the location of the students’ new office, where students will be able to meet their representatives, and anyone would have been able to see how happy he was to see that the university was giving him the opportunity to reach the students in a better way.


Where do you see yourself in the future?

To conclude the interview, we discussed a lighter topic. Where he sees himself in the future. He mentioned working  in politics in order to be able to have an impact on healthcare on a policy level. Shall it be at the local, provincial or even national level. He said that one of the biggest dreams for a health science student interested in policy would be to become the first minister of health with this kind of background in the history of Dutch politics. However, again, he humbly added that even though he is very ambitious, he did not want to sound presumptuous. He knows how hard he needs to work to accomplish what he aims for. He then concluded with this final quote:

“If I can convince anyone to get the most out of themselves, then I would have made an impact for others. This may be a bit philosophical, but I believe that it would make Maastricht, the Netherlands, Europe and the world better. Have ambitions, participate in (in)formal jobs and be a social one.”


The Simpson Desert

There is one massive blank spot on the Austrlian landmap and it is called: The Simpson Desert.  It is Australia´s fourth largest desert and covers up roughly 170 000 sq. km. between Alice Springs and Birdsville. This part is well known for its remoteness and the immense parallel dunes. If you want to cross it, you will have to tackle the 1100-ish sanddunes to get to the other side. Some of them are 200 km long and that makes the Simpson Desert home of the longest sanddunes in the world.

Now of course, why would anyone cross it? I mean, going up and down 1100 km sanddunes to get to another small town in the middle of nowhere, not to mention the amount of dust entering your car while driving. Besides that, there runs a highway north of the Simpson Desert. You might better take that one. You must be mental to do this.
It turned out, we were.

If there is one thing what it is inherent to the Australian culture, it is 4WDing. This means you drive around on – sometimes very- rough terrains, tackling washouts, sanddunes, beaches, creek crossings and such a like, just for the fun of it. With a good, well-maintained 4×4, you can almost get everywhere. I can tell you it is extremely funny to drive over a roundabout rather than taking it. It is also very helpful when driving sandy or corregated roads. As with a normal car, you will be shaken to death and more likely to roll over and lose several parts. In a 4×4 you simply release some tire pressure and off you go.

Back to the Simpson Desert, where there is obviously a 4WD track. Australians love driving and make tracks where ever they can. The road in the Simpson called The French Line and is one 439km straight line from west to east. But even before getting to the beginning of the road, it is a long rough way with dustholes, corrugation and some terrible steep washouts. I remember one creek crossing where I walked in first to see how deep it was and got suddenly stuck up to my knees.
Luckily, this is not something you will experience in the Simpson, as there is no water.

At lest that is what we thought. It turned out, there has been an incredible amount of rain, in the days before we arrived. This means more mud and damage to the track. On the other hand, the desert has never been that green since 10 years.

Driving through the desert doesn´t go without any risks and the Australian government and visitor centres take therefore any oppertunity to warn you about them. Lives hve been lost out there.
The French Line is one of the most feared tracks in the 4WD world and with that knowledge, I picked up a `HOW TO BE SAFE IN REMOTE AREAS` brochure to find out if there are any precauctions we had to take. Just in case.
To state the obvious, here’s a list of what you should know before heading out:
– Carry plenty of water: 7 L/ a day/ per person + 7 days extra.
– Enough food + 1 week extra
– In case of a breakdown: STAY AT YOUR VEHICLE! A missing car is easier to find than a person and this is how many people died. They leave their vehicle in search of water.
– Let someone know of your travel plans and when you are expected to be back
– Warn the police on both sides when you should arrive.
– Have a well maintained 4WD
– Carry enough fuel
– Carry a satallite phone + a 2m long red flag, attached to your bullbar.
– Do research and know what to expect.
– Know your vehicle and know how to repair it.
-Deflate your tires.
-Be experienced in 4WD and sand.
– Don’t go alone.

There are probably another 10 things to add but this is in big lines what everyone will tell you.
To be fair, I was scared to enter this god forsaken place. No shadow, no people, a long not-so-easy road and we would travel alone, not in a convoy or tag-along-tour. We would be alone.  Surely the list stated clearly: “Don’t go alone.” That means something, right? Right?!
What if we would tip? What if we get stuck-stuck? I could hear myself saying through our radio: “Blue troopy just tipped over, please help.” It would take days to someone would show up! And then , somehow, they would have to tow us out, tip us back. The disaster!

My partner, qualified mechanic, had nothing to fear. He wasn’t afraid. Nor scared. It was just a sandy and hilly drive in his eyes. In the weeks before, he had done every single repair on our vehicle and fixed things of which he thought had to be fixed. He reassured me that we had done so much 4WD the past 2 years, that the Simpson would be more than fine. (Fair enough, I can’t remember how it is to drive on a sealed road).
So off we went, up to the 1100 or so, sanddunes.

And was it one of the scariest tracks? Was it really that remote? Was it dangerous?No, no and no.
On the first day, we have met so many people, that it seemed impossible to even be stuck out there. Wait an hour, maximum, and someone will drive along. We have met tours, recreational drivers, seasonal drivers, locals, bikies, rangers and a massive truck. The landscape consisted indeed out of a lot of parallel sanddunes which means you will go up and down and up and down. It was sandy but not that sandy as the Sahara and above all, it was GREEN. Bush, small trees, salt lakes were filled, clouds were hanging above our head and even a few drips of rain came down.

The Simpson Desert was nothing like a dry, arid or remote place. Sure; there was no drinking water or communities around, but you were never alone.
Of course, we were perhaps lucky or experienced enough, but we did meet people who had some issues with their car. Also, some washouts were extremely scary. If you are unexperienced in 4WDing, it might be a difficult track to tackle. Nevertheless; if you are prepared, you can do it.


The Australian Kitchen

Chop. Slice. Blend. Stir. Mix. Rinse. Mash. Fry. Pop. Steam. Cook. Boil. Grill. Smoke. Dry. Rest. Bake. Fillet. Season. Drizzle. Mix. Beat. Slimmer. Serve. Eat.

In November 2015, Australia launched a new food channel: The Food Network. Not that this country lacks any cooking show. During prime time you can get inspired by Aussies BBQ Heroes, Jamie Oliver’s Superfood, Chopped, The Spirit of Japan, Inferno Kitchen, UK Bakes, Cabinet’s Kitchen and a dozen of others. Despite the huge range of these programs, it seemed viewers were in the need of something more. Quite funny, in my opinion, as Australia doesn´t really have decent food culture.

Every single European I come across has been complaining about the same thing: Australian food sucks. The bread is too soft, the coffees are too weak, soda’s are incredibly sweet and artifical. Above all: who came up to create Vegemite chocolate?! No, Australia is not a country like France or Italy where you could go to just because of its kitchen. France can be named in one sentence with croissant, crêpe, brie en Boeuf Bourguignon. Italy just breaths pizza and pasta. Perhaps Australia can be described with sausage rolls or pies. Not the chocolate pie or Dutch apple pie, but minced beef pie. It comes with a dash of ketchup and if you’re lucky, it had been made the same day. If not – what most likely the case is – you will probably munch it after a good night out.

The cooking shows are a big puzzle for me, as there is no point in broadcasting them. Why look at them and not use them? Sure, Jamie Oliver can provide you great ideas for dinner and it is quite entertaining but how likely is it you are actually going to put this in practice? Nihil, I assume. It is a real shame, as Australia has many farmers and produces a lot of fresh vegetables, meat and dairy. However, most of the harvest will be exported to other countries and Australia ends up importing more products. For example: the Passionfruit Christmas Pudding has been created in England from imported ingredients and exported to Australia. Same for the Belgian Chocolate Cake, made in Belgium – I guess this is actually a good thing – and the kiwi’s are imported from Italy. You start to wonder if this country keeps anything for themselves and if they are able to cook something more than a mashed avocado toast.

Well, there is one thing Australians are bloody good at doing: the barbecue. It is the French gourmet pan, the Italian pizza oven and the Belium deepfrying pan. All hail, make way for the Australian Barbecue! You cannot live without a barbecue unless you deny that you are in Australia. There are options for vegetarian and vegans so no one will be left behind. Every household owns at least one of these smoking hot grills. Either working on gas or with – flavoured! – coals: char grill, steam, woodfire, spit, portable or smoking. Australia has the answer. There are free electric barbecues in parks if your backgarden is too small. Every day, the council cleans them but on the country side, you might be a bit unlucky. Most rest areas have designed barbecue pits so that you could still light the barbie, if you could not afford a portable on – and also to prevent bushfires.

Knowing this, the only understandable cooking show which makes sense, is Aussie Barbecue Heroes. I wouldn’t be surprised if locals pick something up from this show. Three couples have to face different barbecue challanges such as “create a dish with prawns, sweet chili and basil, within 30 minutes!” or “give me a fushion steak!” It is far more interesting than Australia’s Master Chef with the tension around Sally’s dish and the question if the eggs of her quinea salad are boiled on the point or not.

To wrap up the Australian kitchen, you will need 3 things. Pie – preferable a few days old, reheated – a barbecue – to create excellent steaks – and an ice cold beer – but due to the heat, it is more likely a warm one. I haven’t discussed the matter “beer” but as most students among us know what a beer is, it seemed irrelevant to me to elaborate on that subject. There are no extrodinairy beers here: think about a simple beer and reduce the alcohol to 3.5% and that is your Australian beer. However, you never know what Jamie Oliver comes up with and turns it into a gourmet superfood. This country is full of surprises.

So there you go: pie, barbecue and a beer that goes along with it. Simple and easy, that is Australian food culture. Who needs Passionfruit Christmas Pudding anyway?

MUSST with Anouk Pouwelse

The new University Sports Centre officially opened earlier this year boasting more modern and spacious sports facilities, increased study spaces and a chic Sports Café Time Out! One of the first to move in in the new building is the university sports council, MUSST. They have their office right by the main entrance and you’ve most likely met them as they are the ones to greet you and scan your sports card. But do you know who MUSST is and what exactly they do? Read on to find out!

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



What is MUSST?
MUSST stands for Maastricht University Student Sports Council. We are the coordinating body for all the sports associations. There are 26 associations right now and each has their own board. We act as the umbrella organisation above these 26 boards. Our job is to help the sports associations and the board members in their functions.

UM Sports Gym

UM Sports Gym

What does MUSST do?
Our task ranges from administration work to organisational matters. In terms of administration, we handle the requests for administrative board months as well as helping sports association apply for various subsidies, register for tournaments and so on. We help in setting up new sports associations. For example, earlier this year, we helped the cheerleading team become an official UM sports association and get to know the other associations.

We also take care of the organisational matters for various events like the Batavierenrace (the largest relay race in the world) and the Faculty Fight 2016 (the friendly battle between the six UM faculties) as well as inter-university competitions like the GNSK (Large National Student Championships). In the beginning of the year, we also organise a board weekend for all sports association for everyone to get to know each other and also for them to know that they can come to us for help.

UM Sports

UM Sports

What has changed this year especially with the news sports centre?
It’s really important that we’re now by the entrance of the University Sports Centre. We’re more visible and easier for people to approach so everyone gets to see us and can get to know us. There’s also a lot more promotion for the sports association. Since more sports associations are housed here and more activities are done here in the Sports Centre, the sports association can get more members because they’re more visible to everyone and it’s just more convenient. The number of associations also increased this year which was only possible because of the new building. We’re really happy with the new building!



For more information on MUSST, check out their website. Would you like to represent 26 student sports association for one year, in the function of president, secretary, treasurer or PR-sponsoring commissioner? Send an e-mail to before Friday, 24 June!

Would you like to represent 26 student sports association for one year, in the function of president, secretary, treasurer or PR-sponsoring commissioner? Send an e-mail to before Friday, 24 June!

Rendy Jansen in His Paradise

You may have seen him in Rendy’s Paradise where he talks to students about important information in a much more fun and interesting way, but Rendy has a much more serious role in student affairs. He is the Student Advisor to the School of Business and Economics Faculty Board. In short, he sits at a table with the shakers and movers of SBE, but what exactly does he do? Read on and get inspired!

Interview and text: Karissa Atienza
Photography: Brian Megens

What do you do?
My main task is to be the person between the Faculty and the students. I have a seat at the SBE Faculty Board which is composed of the Dean, Vice-Deans and managing director. The main responsibility of the Board is the general management of the Faculty. My role is to represent the students’ interest, I give advice in all situations concerning the students. I also act as the communicator of the students to the Board, and as the communicator of the Board to the students.
In addition, I work in close cooperation with the other SBE student council members. We have a monthly meeting of the bachelor and master’s Programme Committee representatives and the student Faculty Council members where we talk about our work and our plans. I chair this meeting but I also meet with them often outside the meetings to help them in their work. My third responsibility is my work as the Operations Managers for the International Case Competition Maastricht. Every year about 16 universities from 10 countries from all over the world come here to do a case competition and they compete on real life cases to see who can come up with the best answer in a small amount of time.
It’s a lot but all my work revolve around the students and I love it! It’s a lot of different things but it’s all for the students interest. My spare time is spent on Rendy’s Paradise, which is still connected to students.

SBE Faculty Board meeting

SBE Faculty Board meeting

What’s the idea behind Rendy’s Paradise?
We wanted to improve communications with the students. Most don’t read newsletters, so we wanted to try something new. We shot a pilot, and people supported it.It’s always about something going on at SBE, for example, how to make your decision to go abroad or a chat with the Dean on why do we need a new strategy. I try to cover topics that are interesting for students in SBE in a more interesting way. Another series I’m doing is Geeks 4 You which is where we explain simple technological problems that people have, for example how to attach your calendar to your phone, your timetable etc.

What’s your goal this year?
I hope to improve the student community, especially the SBE community. I think we can do a lot of improvement regarding community, that people feel part of the SBE community and proud to be from SBE.

What surprised you in your position?
How open and innovative the people in SBE are! It’s great to work with these people. Everyone who runs this Faculty has so much energy and people really want to improve. They are very open for suggestions and open for change. It’s a really nice place to work! I was surprised in the modernity. Often universities are very old school. Here, everyone has the spirit that if something can be improved, we’ll do it.

Rendy Jansen

Rendy Jansen

Why did you want to become the Student Advisor?
I was the chairman of Focus (financial study association of Maastricht University) in my last year of Bachelor’s. As a chairman, I was responsible for the communications between the association and the Faculty, so I got to know a lot of the people here and I learned how things are beyond the normal student life. As a student, you only see a little and in my work, I got more informed on what’s going on in the Faculty beyond just my courses. I also worked my predecessor quite often because of my work in Focus and we talked about the role. I found it very interesting and I decided, this is what I want to do!

Why should students in Maastricht become a Student Rep, more specifically a Student Advisor?
It’s about the experience. If you are a person who sees a problem or something can be done better and you feel the need to change it or improve it, then do it! You have the opportunity to learn how to change things. You have the opportunity to practice a lot of skills, such politics, lobbying, and drafting proposals. The best part about it is that you achieve something positive and beneficial at the end. After your work, you walk way knowing you made something a better place!

The 40 of Limburg

A group of UM professors, staff, students and relations opened the ’40 of Limburg’ route last Friday, which is a bike route through the hills of Limburg to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Maastricht University. The route is open for everyone so you can explore the hills in Limburg yourself!

The 40 of Limburg link

Here’s a piece written by sports journalist Robin van der Kloor who shares his experience in the peloton that opened the ’40 of Limburg’ route.

Text: Robin van der Kloor
Translation and Photography: Brian Megens

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (

Among Professors (in lycra)
What do you talk about when you find yourself solely among scientists on a bike, for example, during a bike ride through the hills of Limburg in celebration of the UM 40th birthday? Must one talk about the regenerative medicines when you want to start a conversation with a scientist, who is let’s say the Tom Dumoulin of the UM?

A peloton of professors, researchers, students, teachers and doctors, all of whom are riding in lycra. Last Friday, an interesting mix of ‘UM people’ or ‘UM related people’ rode on the small, beautiful roads of South-Limburg. Some of them were business relations, one of them a former governor, who is a member of the MSM board. That’s reasonable, but me? “What is your link with the university?” Uhm, I write articles for a newspaper and for some time education was in my portfolio and now I write on cycling a lot. Is that a valid argument? “Uhm, I don’t think so”.

At a break in Gulpen, a young man entered the inn heavily sweating. He had missed the start at UM Sport due to a tire that blew up and he had to chase our group for over 50k. A sort of hide and seek with the peloton as on every point he was just too late or had already left when we reached it. Luckily, he can push the pedals quite well, he almost made it to professional cycling and he is also a former world top youth darts player, good for him as elsewise he probably wouldn’t have survived his road to unification with our group. We call him ‘the Talent’.

The Scientist meets the Talent, who decided to ride on a fixed gear (he thought it was fun, but I could only think: why?), the conversation didn’t focus on muscle tissue recovery, but on ‘giving it all’, watts, 40-20s and its use. During the evening, the Scientist saw that he had managed to get 4 KOM’s in his age category. Whatever that might be. His Strava profile is impressive by the way. He tends to ride 250k on average a week, a true cycling fanatic.

Impressive was also the former governor, whom I had never seen on a bike, but soon I couldn’t imagine him without one. Entwined on his hybrid bike, attacking on his climb like it was his last. To me, I witnessed a transformation going from politician to a cyclist from the early days. During the ride his posture got rougher, his hair wilder, his chain dryer, and his eyes more red. For a long time he missed the mud to become the true ‘laborer of the road’. He changed that immediately by pulling his front brake too hard to safely land on the grass of the Molenberg. There he lied, our Wim van Est.

Every now and then it seemed to be a chaotic Friday afternoon, with people from all different sport levels brought together on a bike to ride the ’40 of Limburg’, that turned out to be only 14 for us. Due to the organization, the motards, the people of UM Sport, and above all special guest, Hennie Kuiper. Against all laws of physics was the former World Champion of cycling present at several spots in the peloton at the same time. While he was instructing the guys at the front, he was also giving tips to the slower cyclists at the back (hands on the brakes, switch gears before the hills not on it), while also showing his fans how to ride to the front of the bunch by using the motors. A person with a high dosage of self-knowledge and humbleness. A man that can talk about himself for over half an hour without it becoming the ‘Hennie Kuiper Show’.

Also the maker of the route (what a one it became) deserves compliments. His claims that the UM is a place wherein the strong drive the weak to improve is true. Although the American woman gave the impression of quitting after the first hill, also she rolled back to Maastricht 4 hours later together with the group. Partially, because of her Transatlantic perseverance, partially because of the help by students, who by the way had to leave right after the ride as they had a 175k relay run to do. A cohesion like this is rarely found among the average leisure cyclists.

“What are you doing here?”, is a question I got asked again, this time during the pasta meal where I saw the former governor serving himself pasta like he just finished Bordeaux-Paris, which in his perception he probably did. Yet again I did not know how to respond. “But who invited you?” I pointed towards the Communication guy, who despite the sun and 18 degrees was wearing winter gloves all the time, also during the pasta meal. Not really a credible alibi. Until now, although I had an amazing day, it is not clear to me why I was there, maybe to write this?

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (

Robin van der Kloor

Origineel, Nederlands:

Onder professoren (in lycra)

Waar praat je over als je je tussen louter wetenschappers begeeft op een fiets, bijvoorbeeld tijdens een toertocht door het Heuvelland ter ere van de veertigste verjaardag van de UM? Moet het gaan over regeneratieve medicijnen als je met een onderzoeker, laten we zeggen de Tom Dumoulin van de UM, een gesprek wilt aanknopen?

Een peloton van professoren, onderzoekers, studenten, docenten en artsen. En dat allemaal in lycra. Een bont gezelschap zocht vrijdag de mooie, smalle, soms zelfs onverharde weggetjes op. Enkele zakelijke relaties waren erbij, vooruit. Een oud-gouverneur, die in de Raad van Toezicht van de MSM zit. Moet kunnen. En ik. “En wat is jouw link met de universiteit?” Ehm, ik ben stukjesschrijver bij een krant en had ooit onderwijs in mijn portefeuille en nu wielrennen. Telt dat? “Ehm, nee.”

Bij de pauze in Gulpen kwam een bezwete jongeman de herberg binnengewandeld. Door een klapband miste hij de start bij UM Sport en probeerde vervolgens vijftig kilometer lang onze groep bij te halen, maar op elk punt was hij net te laat. Het scheelt dat hij hard kan fietsen – hij had het bijna tot beroepswielrenner geschopt en is overigens meervoudig Nederlands jeugdkampioen darten, maar dat terzijde –, anders had hij deze tantaluskwelling waarschijnlijk niet overleefd. We noemen hem het Talent.

De Onderzoeker ontdekte het Talent, dat besloot mee te rijden op een fixie (vond ie leuk, maar ik dacht alleen maar: waarom?) en het ging niet over weefselherstel, maar over ‘diep gaan’, wattages, de 40-20’s en het nut ervan. Het Talent concludeerde: het menselijk lichaam kan veel meer aan dan we denken. ‘s Avonds op Strava stelde de Onderzoeker tevreden vast dat hij ‘vier leeftijdskommetjes’ had gepakt. Wat dat ook moge zijn. Zijn Strava-profiel is indrukwekkend, trouwens. Hij rijdt per week minimaal 250 kilometer. De Onderzoeker is een trainingsbeest, in wielerjargon.

Imposant was ook de Oud-gouverneur, die ik nog nooit op een fiets had gezien, maar die ik me al snel niet anders dan fietsend kon voorstellen. Gebeiteld op zijn hybride attaqueerde hij elke meter omhoog alsof het zijn laatste was. Voor mijn ogen zag ik de Oud-gouverneur transformeren van politicus tot coureur van de oude stempel. Gedurende de rit werd zijn houding robuuster, zijn haren wilder, zijn ketting droger, zijn ogen roder. Waar in zijn poging om de eretitel ‘slaaf van de weg’ te bemachtigen het slijk op zijn lijf lange tijd ontbrak, bracht hij daar eigenhandig verandering in door vlak voor het einde iets te rigoureus in zijn voorrem te knijpen en in het gras van de Molenweg te duiken. Verdomd, daar lag Wim van Est.

Bij tijd en wijle leek het een redelijk chaotische vrijdagmiddag, een berg los zand in het Heuvelland. De 40 van Limburg bleken er 14 te zijn, het niveauverschil was aanzienlijk en er reden wat exoten mee van wie je je kunt afvragen wat zij in dat mooie shirt deden. Maar er was voldoende lijm aanwezig: de motards, de mensen van UM Sport en bovenal Hennie Kuiper. Geheel tegen de natuurwetten in was de oud-renner op meerdere plekken aanwezig op hetzelfde moment. Tegelijkertijd kon hij de voorsten mennen, de onwetenden onderwijzen (“handen aan de remmen”, “lichter schakelen voor de helling, niet erop.”) en de wielerfans demonstreren hoe je tussen de motards naar voren rijdt. Bezitter van een zeer plezierige dosis zelfkennis en bescheidenheid. Een man die een half uur over zichzelf kan praten zonder dat het de Hennie Kuiper-show wordt.

Ook de routemaker (fraaie ronde!) verdient een pluim. Zijn bewering ‘bij de UM maken de beteren de zwakkeren sterker’ klopte helemaal. Waar de Amerikaanse al na een helling de indruk wekte te willen afstappen, rolde ook zij vier uur later Maastricht binnen, in de groep. Deels door haar transatlantische onverzettelijkheid, deels door de duwtjes in de rug van studenten die – hoe is het in godsnaam mogelijk – meteen naar Nijmegen doorreisden om een 175 kilometer lange estafetterace te lopen. Zulke cohesie kom ik bij wielertoeristen zelden tegen.

“Wat doe jij hier eigenlijk?”, werd mij opnieuw gevraagd, dit maal bij het avondeten waar de Oud-gouverneur pasta stapelde alsof hij zojuist Bordeaux-Parijs had gereden (had ie ook, dat kon je zo zien). Weer had ik geen passend antwoord klaar. “Maar wie heeft je uitgenodigd dan?” Ik wees naar de Communicatieman, die ondanks de zon en 18 graden de hele rit dikke winterhandschoenen droeg en er ook pasta mee at. Niet bepaald een geloofwaardig alibi. Nu nog, ook al heb ik een zeer plezierige dag beleefd, is mij niet helemaal duidelijk waarom ik daar was. Om dit stukje te schrijven misschien.

© Brian Megens

WE Festival with Alexandra Frank

In a few weeks, Maastricht will play host to the vibrant WE Festival. But what is it? This week we met with Alexandra Frank. A third-year Arts and Culture student, she has been involved with the annual WE Festival since her first year and currently leads its programme committee. Read on to hear more about the upcoming WE Festival.

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

© Brian Megens

Alexandra Frank, WE-Festival 2016

What is WE Festival?
It all started in 2010 as a small event organised by students who wanted to connect the squats (people who occupy empty houses to live in them) with the local community. Since then, the festival has grown much bigger, year after year, as well as our organisation team and local partners. What we aim to do is to stimulate local culture by connecting different communities in the city, focusing on sustainability and community building.
There are many different activities organised for the week-long festival centred around 5 categories: arts and culture, food and sustainability, workshops, music, and film. The arts and culture category includes cultural activities and performances like theatre, circus performances and art exhibitions while under food and sustainability, we have workshops, lectures and debates dedicated to create awareness about sustainability as well as daily vegan/vegetarian cooking workshops and walking dinners. Workshops can be for any skills that our volunteers want to share, last year we had belly dancing and woodworking for example. The music category includes the evening parties which features a mix of world-renown and local artists and bands. This year, we are hosting our first dedicated film festival.

© Brian Megens

Alexandra Frank, WE-Festival 2016

How can students participate in the WE Festival?
Students can participate in many ways. They can join the WE Festival as a visitor or a volunteer. They can share any skill or hobby for a workshop or an exhibition. It could be skills like pole dancing or cooking, anything or display their artworks during the event. Students can also attend the parties we organised. The bigger parties are during the weekend while in the weekdays, we organise smaller events like a chill music evening. As a visitor, students can also learn new things, go to skills workshops,lectures on sustainability, or watch films. There are a lot of activities organised throughout the week on various things and for different interests.

© Brian Megens

Alexandra Frank, WE-Festival 2016

How is the WE Festival different from last year?
We are getting bigger year by year, both the festival and the organisation team. Last year, we only had 4 categories, this year we added another category – film. The activities within the festival itself also changes year by year. The artists and the workshops are different every year depending on the volunteers and people’s interests.

© Brian Megens

Alexandra Frank, WE-Festival 2016

How did you get involved?
I heard about it from a friend 3 years ago who was involved and asked me if I wanted to join.I joined the organisation because I like the idea of community-building, connecting the students with other Maastricht communities. I was first in the promotion team and then last year, I joined the programme committee. This year, I’m head of the programme committee.

What are you looking forward to the most?
Everything! I’m looking forward to see the whole event happening.

© Brian Megens

Alexandra Frank, WE-Festival 2016

The WE Festival is from 24 April to 1 May at various locations in Maastricht. The festival kicks off with a free Open-air party at the Stadspark on the 24th  and two back-to-back closing parties on the 29th and the 30th. For more updates on the WE Festival’s programme, check their programme page or Facebook event.

© 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!

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

When Germany opened its borders for 1 million refugees, Australia allowed 12 000 asylum seekers into the country. This is just a fraction compared to Merkel´s quota, especially when we look at the size and population. With 22 million inhabitants and a land of the size of North America, you would think it is more plausible that Australia would take in a few more. This, however, is not the case, at all. Australian immigration policies are complicated and make it very difficult for immigrants to enter or settle down. Yes, it is one of the most multicultural societies in the world, but that doesn’t mean it is very welcoming to strangers.

With 4 coastlines to protect, one of the most discussed issues for Australia is to hold back the illegal immigrants, coming from Indonesia by boat. These people are so desperate, they get on a tiny dingy and cross the Indian Ocean in the hope to find some luck in this sunburned country. Unfortunately, most of them get the status “unlaw-ful non-citizens and end up in a detention center where they are waiting to be deported. They will not be granted a visa and deportation can take up to a few years. The detention centers are known for being harsh and problematic. Over the last few years, riots have been taken place and asylum seekers have sewed their lips together as a form of protest. It is the uncertainty and desperation for these people what drives to anger.

The discussion about boat immigrants, as they are often called, played up after the Paris attacks. The question was if Australia was safe, and what would happen if they would allow more immigrants into the country. The majority of the population was afraid of a terrorist attack. People explained that it is “very likely” that something will happen because “you don’t know where the enemy is.” Paris was taken by the media and politicians as an example to show what could happen if a country takes up too many immigrants. It confirmed what the majority feared if Australia would take more refugees.

In the past, Australia hasn’t always been so neglecting to foreigners. In the 1970s, there was a completely different approach to refugees. The immigration minister back in 1976, Michael MacKellar said the following after the first boat of Vietnamese asylum seekers arrived in Darwin:
“As a matter for humanity, and in accord with international obligation freely entered into, Australia has accepted a responsibility to contribute towards the solution of world refugee problems.”
Promises were made to use the “full resources” for current and future refugees, because of “moral rightness”.

What has changed over the years and how did it changed? Media nowadays, uses phrases such as “potential terrorists”, “job-takers” and “illegals”. The promised “full resources” turned out to be detention centers which I have briefly mentioned above and the Australian Border Force, which aims to protect and control the movement of people and goods across the border. Why is Australia nowadays so neglecting towards asylum seekers?

It is a tricky question and a complex answer.

One thing is clear: Australia has changed as has their way of thinking and talking about aslyumn seekers. Immigrants are not regarded as victims of war or traumatic events, rather they are considered as persons who come here to work. By changing the way of discussion in public, it is changing the view on the subject. Another example is the phrase “how to stop the boats” instead of helping people. The detention centers are build out of vision of the Australian citizen. This creates the thought: “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Recently I have talked to a local named Jack about this topic. He stated that humanity should be ashamed of itself of what is happening in the world with the massive stream of immigrants. His argument was explained in a long speech and contradicted himself by concluding that Australia does not want more immigrants. “We are accepting more than enough refugees already. We don’t want them here, they can go somewhere else.” So if the world should be ashamed of himself, should Australia be too? Would it not be a better idea to help those people instead of putting them away? Jack sighted and looked annoyed. “Look, we probably could do more but we don’t want to. We have our own problems to take care of.Australia could do more, yes that is true, but does it want to? As far as I can see, no. Perhaps some issues are, indeed, too far out of sight to be kept in mind.

© 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

Grote Gracht 31
6211 ST Maastricht

© 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

© Brian Megens

Interview with the ISN President: Ylva Pisters

© Brian Megens

Ylva Pisters, ISN President

Personal info
Name: Ylva Pisters
Age: 21
Study: Hogeschool Zuyd, Midwifery
Position: International Student Network President (full-time)

How did ISN Maastricht start?
We celebrated our 25th birthday this year in April! So ESN, which is a network throughout Europe, was founded in 1989 and then a year later, ESN Maastricht was born. It was founded for exchange students who after having gone overseas for their exchange and came back to Maastricht wanted to have something over here for exchange students coming in, to have a “homebase,” in order to help exchange students integrate. We changed our name this year to ISN Maastricht. It’s still part of the ESN network but now we’re not only for exchange students but also for international and internationally-minded students.

© Brian Megens

Ylva Pisters, ISN President

What do you do in your position?
I do a lot of different things. I make sure everything is going smoothly. So for example, on a Monday I meet with the ISN Secretary, Tuesday I meet with the Treasurer and so on, and I help them in their function. It’s especially important that I help the Activity Manager since every month there’s a big party at the Timmerfabriek, which is on top of other smaller parties, events, and city trips. I also deal with the administration side. One of the tasks I have is changing the organisation from a foundation to an association, which means we can officially have members, we have to hold mandatory assemblies and so on. One of the biggest responsibilities I have right now is the International Student Club (ISC) project. It’ll be a pub with living room concept which we’re looking at launching in 3 years. It’ll be at the Timmerfabriek and students can meet friends there to have a drink or play pool, so it’ll be a really chill place to hang-out.

© Brian Megens

ISN Maastricht

Why did you join ISN?
I did a bilingual education at secondary school so I had many contact with international students. We had a lot of exchanges, I went to Slovenia, Portugal and Norway. I loved the international atmosphere, but then suddenly it stopped. My study is in Dutch and the people are all Dutch. So I wanted to be involved in an international atmosphere again in Maastricht and that’s why I joined ISN.

Last year, I was an active member, I was part of the Sport and Culture Committee. I really enjoyed organising things, being involved in ISN and I also got into contact with the ISC Project. I was really interested in the project but it was impossible with my studies. So it was either continue with my study and totally stop ISN or take a gap year and continue with ISN. The thought of a gap year in between my studies in combination of contributing more to ISN really appealed to me.

© Brian Megens

Ylva Pisters, ISN President

What do you aim to achieve this year?
We as a Board are aiming on an increased branding in the city, so brand awareness of ISN to students. Before ESN was mainly for exchange students, but now ISN is geared for international and internationally-minded students too. So we’re working on having a broader target group.

What surprised you in your position?
I didn’t realise that the position had so many aspects. I knew a lot before because I was involved before I took over, but before I was still thinking how do you fill in this position full time? I thought I was going to have free time but I was wrong! I have e-mails and phone calls every 5 mins. There’s no stop, it’s not a 9-5 position at all.

What has been your personal highlight?
The arrival week! I love how students are so happy for the organisation of parties, dinners, events so everything sold out quickly. It was really nice when so many people thank you for the work. You get so much satisfaction.

Why should Maastricht students join ISN?
Join us not only to party but also to contribute. Join one of our committees, where students can help other students, to do something that means something. It’s also great for self development.

© Brian Megens

Ylva Pisters, ISN President

Are you interested in becoming a part of ISN? Apply for the board!

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

Interview with a UM Cheerleader: Julia Kotamäki

In between her busy schedule preparing for the biggest tournament of the year, the Euromasters 2015, the UM Cheerleading Team Captain Julia Kotamäki met with Maastricht Students. She maybe be the smallest in the team but she is one of the strongest. Read on to know more about the team and Julia herself!

Interview and text: Karissa Atienza
Photography: Brian Megens

UM Cheerleading
Julia Kotamäki

Personal info
Name: Julia Kotamäki
Age: 20
Study: European Law, 3rd year
Position (UM Cheerleading Team): Captain

How did the UM Cheerleading Team start?
We started as a group of SBE students. Janneke Geven, last year’s captain, changed the composition of the team so now we have students from all faculties of the University and two from the Hogeschool. I was actually one of the first to join who was not an SBE student! It started as a group of friends who wanted to set up a team to go to this university competition. They needed a cheerleading team that competes in all sports. Before it was mostly dancing, but now we’ve progressed to more advanced cheerleading routines like throwing girls in the air (stunting) and flips (tumbling).

UM Cheerleading
Janneke and Julia watching the last training before Euromasters 2015

There’s no traditional cheerleading culture in the Netherlands, do you feel that this is changing?
It’s definitely contributing to it. Cheerleading is predominantly American but it’s becoming more and more popular in Germany and Finland. Now, it’s slowly coming to the Netherlands. There’s actually a Dutch cheerleading association. There are two competitive cheerleading teams in the Netherlands, and we’re hoping to become another one.

UM Cheerleading

UM Cheerleading

Why did you want to become a cheerleader?
One of the girls in my high school wanted to start a team. We were still a very beginner team but we still competed and it was a really good experience. When I moved here, I wanted to join a sports team but I’m not talented in other sports! I’ve always been interested in dancing and cheer has a lot of dance to it.

Entertainment or sport?
It depends on who you ask, I’d like to think it’s a sport. For girls who are bases (those who lift other girls), like myself, it does take a lot of muscle power. Cheerleading routines are also really fast so you have to have a lot of endurance otherwise you die!

UM Cheerleading

What’s the weekly schedule of a cheerleader?
It depends if you’re a girl or a boy, girls train more than the boys. We have 1 choreography practice a week at the MAC gym and 1 jump training. Cheer jumps are quite specific and you really need to learn the technique for them to look good. There’s also a stunt practice (a group lifting a girl) once a week. Some girls are also involved in partner stunts (a boy lifting a girl). It’s an additional practice so it also depends on what you do in the team. Two weekends before a competition, we practice from 10am to 5pm.

UM Cheerleading

UM Cheerleading

What do you aim to achieve this year?
We’ve come a long way skill-wise and motivation-wise. We’re coming to the end of the season this weekend where we’re competing for the Euromasters (6-7 November). It’s our biggest competition and we’ve been going there for the longest. We won it last year. It’s a big deal because we train for it for a whole year. That’s why our season ends in November, and starts at the end of November/early December so we recruit then in order to train the members for next year’s competition. We used to be a team that focused on our dancing but we’ve really developed our stunting skills. Now we’re one of the best teams in the competition.
The biggest goal that I have this year is to increase recognition in Maastricht. I think we’ve done pretty well on that. Our next goal is to become a Dutch competitive team. To become one, we need to compete at Dutch competitions. We’re not quite there yet because we still haven’t officially become a UM Sports team, but we will be in January.

UM Cheerleading

How hard is it to recruit guys to join the team?
In the beginning before we became skilled in stunting, it was really hard. The way the team started was by recruiting friends. Their job was just to lift a girl, so they didn’t have to dance at all. Now that we’ve become much better at stunting, there are some boys who are eager to join because they see other guys lifting a girl with just one hand. To some boys, it is an appealing image to be able to do that.

UM Cheerleading

What surprised you in your position?
How hard it is to keep the attention and instruct 30 people at once, the amount of authority you need to have to be an effective captain. I developed my yelling skills!

What is your personal highlight in your position?
I love the whole thing. The team is my baby!

UM Cheerleading

People don’t expect us….
From the movies, there’s a stereotype that cheerleaders are not that bright. Half of the team studies accounting while I’m a law student! There are people on the team who are really good at their studies. They’re really motivated, dedicated people who want to get involved in something that lets them experience the satisfaction you get when you improve and achieve something.

UM Cheerleading

Why should prospective students in Maastricht join the UM Cheerleading Team?
It’s a great way to make friends, because you spend so much time with the team. Everyone is really motivated and friendly. You work together to build performances and routine that brings you huge joy when you win.
UM Cheerleading

Did Julia convince you to join the Cheerleading team? Click here to know more about joining the team!

UM Cheerleading

Summer Internship Kuala Lumpur

Some people travel to the other part of the globe during the summer holiday, some choose to stay at home and work, while others combine both by doing an internship at the other side of the world. Last Summer, Karissa Atienza, our new social media reporter and blogger, did an internship at the Embassy of the Philippines in Kuala Lumpur. We asked her how she experienced her summer working and living in a new country.

Embassy Philippines Kuala Lumper Summer Internship 2015

Karissa with the H.E. Philippine Ambassador J. Eduardo Malaya.


How does an average day looks like?
There was no such thing as an average day! Everyday was different, and that really was part of the charm. I’m always pleasantly surprised about the work the Ambassador gives me, the events I attend, and the people I meet. Normally, my work start at 9 am but I usually arrive earlier as there was always someone who cooks at home, brings in the food and we’d have breakfast together. Mondays are an exception as we start at 8.30 am because of the flag raising ceremony. In general, the mornings start easier, but as the afternoon starts, everyone shifts up a gear and doesn’t go home until work is done. In theory, I finish at 6 pm but my colleagues and I stay for another hour or so and when there are events, we don’t go until it finishes.

Embassy Philippines Kuala Lumpur Internship Summer 2015

How do you like Kuala Lumpur?
KL is a great city to live in. As a metropolis, you see all sorts of people from all walks of life from a number of different countries practicing various religions. Malaysia is notorious for the amazing street food! Jalan Alor, a famous food street in KL, is considered touristy but I can assure you that it’s a must if you’re ever in town. Various restaurants serving different cuisines sprawl along Jalan Alor. I especially love Fried Butter Prawn, Kangkong Belacan and Coconut ice-cream. I’d also recommend Chicken Fish, (yes, it’s called chicken fish).
I have to admit that I never really had much idea about domestic Malaysian politics but while working for the Philippines Embassy, I really got an insight into the state of Malaysian politics and the struggles that are going on in the country.

Streets of Kuala Lumpur

What does your function entail?
I worked for the Philippines Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. As a student intern, I was exposed to different sections in the embassy. These are the Political Section, the Economic, Cultural, and Information (ECI) Section, and the Consular section. In the Political Section, I would write reports on what’s happening in Malaysia and how this affects the Philippines politically, or the hundred of thousands of citizens living and/or working in Malaysia. I also attended a number of events, such as when I worked as part of the Philippine delegation to the 48th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting and other related meetings, which was attended by a number of Foreign Ministers. In the ECI Section, I attended events such as the Opening Ceremony for the ASEAN Exhibition where I dressed up in traditional Filipino attire called Filipiniana. I also attended briefing sessions on cultural events and drafted reports afterwards. For the Consular Section, I did administrative work like processing passport and visa applications. I also went to Sabah to join the regular consular mission there and to court hearings of convicted Filipinos in Malaysia.

Embassy Philippines Kuala Lumper Summer Internship 2015

What do you consider a highlight in your internship?
I consider two highlights of my internship. First is the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting. It was definitely a highlight as the event is one of the highest-level of politics in Asia, especially in South East Asia. I also felt proud to be part of the Philippine delegation and assist them in the event where they had bilaterel meetings with countries such as the EU, USA and Russia. It’s quite amazing for me, especially as I’ve been studying about these people in my Bachelor and my participation in MUNs. It’s embarrassing to admit, but there were a number of times where I was starstrucked. I saw the likes of Julie Bishop (she had amazing shoes) the Australian Foreign Minister, and Federica Mogherini, the EU High Commissioner. I even managed to take a personal souvenir of the event; I took a picture of the EU High Commissioner shaking hands with the Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Albert del Rosario, at the start of their bilateral meeting.
I also consider the consular mission to Sabah a highlight of my internship. The situation in Sabah is extremely complicated that despite a huge majority of Filipinos living and/or working there, the Philippines is unable to set up a mission to provide for them due to political difficulties. That’s why the Embassy arranges a consular mission every two to three weeks to visit the different parts of Sabah, and once a year or so, Sarawak. Sabah and Sarawak form the two Malaysian states in Borneo. The trip was an eye-opening experience and extremely humbling. We encountered a number of people who had travelled the evening before via bus to reach the mission in Kota Kinabalu in the early morning and were in a hurry to leave in order to reach their home before the curfew had started. There was also a time where a mother of one of our applicants came to the mission stating that her son had been arrested by the police for his lack of proper documentation.

What did you not expect to do in this work field?
There’s a stereotype of diplomats, that they have easy hours and dinner parties all the time. I experienced that working at an embassy is tough and that yes, there are dinner parties but you always have to be prepared as you’re representing your country. Diplomatic parties and events are actually extras to your work. So to say, they’re on top of whatever normal work you do but it’s a must to attend. As one of my colleagues said, it’s not the event itself but the people you meet.

Embassy Philippines Kuala Lumper Summer Internship 2015

What do you like most about your work?
The people, they were supportive and made work fun. It was an honour to work under Ambassador Malaya and the whole KLPE team. There were a lot of laughs. They actually thought I didn’t know how to speak Filipino so they were surprised when they met me and heard me speak Filipino with a strong provincial accent. There was also a lot of Filipino food! Eating all together is very typical in our culture so it felt quite home.

Embassy Philippines Kuala Lumpur Internship Summer 2015

What has the hardest thing been in your work?
The work is quite unpredictable, you never know what’s going to happen next or when you’d manage to go home that day but I was quite eager to do as much as I can during my time there, so it wasn’t an issue.

Do you want to pursue work in this field?
It’s on the top of my career list! I find the work tough, it never really stops. There’s no such thing as a strict 9-6 working hours or weekends, but the work is dynamic, interesting, and best of all, fulfilling.

Embassy Philippines Kuala Lumper Summer Internship 2015

If so, how is your next study choice affected by it?
The great thing with diplomacy is that you don’t necessarily need to be an expert in one particular field but rather knowledgeable in a number of subjects so there’s no strict academic requirement.

Embassy Philippines Kuala Lumper Summer Internship 2015

Embassy Philippines Kuala Lumper Summer Internship 2015

Photography: Brian Megens

Coffee Bars in Maastricht: KOFFIE

KOFFIE, Joost & Maartje

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! In this edition we interview Maartje Knaapen and Joost van Miert, the proud owners of ‘KOFFIE by Joost and Maartje’ .

KOFFIE is located in the Maastrichter Heidenstraat and shares the accommodation with the clothing shop Le Marais Deux where you can find designer brands which you will not find in the main shopping street.

KOFFIE, Joost & Maartje

Maartje is 24 years old and studied Theatre management at the Utrecht School of the Arts. Joost is 25 and so before starting KOFFIE he jumped from one job into another, working as a joiner in his last one. They opened the coffee bar on the 22th of March 2014 (open from Thursday to Sunday) but since the 14th of April they are open full-time!

What was the reason for you to start your business and why in Maastricht?
Back in 2014, we missed a spot where you can enjoy a good cup of coffee. We wanted to create a place where you can and without pressure to keep ordering, just a place to relax and study for an afternoon. This concept was already introduced in the big international cities and we though it was time for Maastricht to get one as well. Another reason for choosing Maastricht is that we both lived in Maastricht, we know the city and saw the opportunity as Maastricht has a young international generation which are open for new initiatives.

KOFFIE, Joost & Maartje

What do you aim to offer with your business?
We show in our place who we are, that’s why in our branding we specifically use our names Joost & Maartje. We aim at setting the bar for coffee higher in Maastricht. Nowadays, everyone should be able to get a good cup of coffee. Furthermore, our coffee is from direct trade and almost everything in the place is handmade and/or made from recycled material. The clothing shop, for example, sells Tom’s shoes which is  brand that for every pair sold, they donate a pair to a kid in a developing country!

KOFFIE, Joost & Maartje

Coffee is:
Quality, craftsmanship, relaxing, aim for improvement.

Where does the passion for Coffee come from?
I used to work for the coffee place next to the central station, Douwe Egberts. So you can say that I grew slowly into the craft of coffee. I got addicted in my journey to create the perfect cup of coffee. It’s a challenging and relaxing journey at the same time.
Joost: I met Maartje at her former workplace, she introduced me into the world of coffee and from being a typical Dutch drip coffee drinker, only caring about quantity, I transformed into a coffee freak only pleased with a high quality cup. I totally fell in love with the art of coffee. I started reading about it, watched YouTube tutorials, how does the machine work, what type of bean do I need. In short, all the steps from the bean until the finished product that need to be perfect to make the best cup of coffee.

KOFFIE, Joost & Maartje

How do you explain the rise of coffee and more specifically the new coffee bars in the Netherlands?
The development that wine has made over the last 30 years has now started with coffee. Today, people look for pure, unique and quality products, in that trend people started to appreciate a good cup of coffee. It were the big companies that first showed the people what can be done with coffee by introducing new home coffee machines and people were able to make better coffee at home than in bars. Then the bars couldn’t stay behind and improved their machines, but more importantly their knowledge about and time for coffee. However, I still think there’s a lot to improve which is of course good for us as we already are one step beyond. For the rise of coffee bars in the Netherlands, I think it was Amsterdam who set the trend as it is a very international city filled with people from countries where they value coffee much more than traditionally done in the Netherlands.

KOFFIE, Joost & Maartje

How important is the student community for the city?
With the university and its international influence, Maastricht developed into a dynamic young place were chances for people to come with something different and new grew. Traditionally the locals here can be pretty narrow minded and it are the students who open their eyes and their worldview. Moreover, they force the city and its entrepreneurs to come up with new things that students need or are in demand by them.

How important is the student community for your business?
You can say that it is vital to our business. Since the opening we had organic growth of students coming here to get a good cup of coffee and study. When we opened, it were the international students who came first, curious to explore our place and looking for a workplace outside their room where they can order a good cup of coffee and work in relaxed environment.

KOFFIE, Joost & Maartje

How do you see the mix of locals and students in Maastricht and your business?
Partially the locals mingle with the students but I think the majority still lives apart. This is not necesarrily have to be a bad thing. In core, if everyone feels welcome in this city it is not a problem that there are two separate worlds.

It’s a cooperation with a Le Marais Deux and since April 14 we have mixed the two totally, making it a unique place in Maastricht. People study, drink a cup of coffee in a clothing shop without the need to buy something but of course they are more than free to do so.

KOFFIE, Joost & Maartje

The perfect place to relax in Maastricht?
As we are very busy with the business we barely have time to relax, but every now and then a nice beer in café Zondag or de Brandweer. I also get a great feeling of happiness when I cycle over the Servaasbrug and I see the sun rise. What I would recommend for the students to experience in Maastricht is Carnival . For tourists, walk through the old historical city centre with its narrow streets, designer shops and park.

Maastricht in three words
Cousy, enjoy and discover.

KOFFIE, Joost & Maartje

KOFFIE, Joost & Maartje

As an espresso and americano guy, I ordered the Americano this time. It has a very exotic taste, a taste that makes you walk an extra block a couple times a week to get it!

Contact information:
KOFFIE (facebook)
Maastrichter Heidenstraat 8
6211 HV Maastricht

Photography and Text: © Brian Megens

More photos click here

The next coffee bar to be visited is Bandito Espresso located in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

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

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!

Roundtable on Oslo Principles, what are they and what will they mean?

“Cross-border cooperation by nations could be the key to preventing climate disaster”

Climate change, is it a ‘thing’ and how serious is it? The more legal-minded people might have heard or read about the latest ruling in Dutch courts, Urgenda, where a group of academics and private citizens sued the government for non-compliance with its plan to reduce emissions. The court in The Hague gave this organisation the victory, where many had given up hope, and said that the government had to effectuate at least 25% decrease in carbon-dioxide emissions by 2020, against the claimed 40% by Urgenda. Nevertheless, this is a worldwide landmark that is starting a trend where citizens can claim reduction of gasses with legal effect.  

On a related note, not too long ago I attended an interesting event on the ‘Oslo Principles on Global Climate Change Obligations’ at The Hague Institute for Global Justice. This institution is an independent organisation established to conduct research overlapping several fields, develop tools by specialists, sharing knowledge between several disciplines. 

The Roundtable event at the Institute for Global Justice was set up to have an hour of presentations by two professors, after which the attendees were invited to pose questions on the Oslo Principles and their obligations towards countries and corporations. In the audience were members of several ministries, international diplomats, company officials and students like myself.

First speaker with an impressive CV: prof. dr. Thomas Pogge who serves as Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs and Director of Global Justice Program at Yale University.

Prof. Pogge (left) during his address

Prof. Pogge (left) during his address

Maximizing bargains or a moral approach?
Prof. Pogge started off by stating that cross-border cooperation by nations could be the key to preventing climate disaster. The only problem with that approach to climate change prevention is that in an economic sense we’re still living in a world of competing entities, where everyone’s trying to maximize their bargains. This eventually leads to the so-called ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ where the negative consequences are felt by all, yet the gain is felt by one. The question here is how to distribute burdens to prevent climate change among states.
The Oslo Principles are therefore a cooperative legal framework, with appeal for moral common sense, instead of focusing on the vulnerability-based bargaining where a country with high CO2-emission would have to contribute more than other countries towards making it “undone” (monetary penalties/cutting the emission). However, this seems highly unfair if you consider that these countries are usually the less developed ones, with a growing economy. Pogge mentioned that the goal is to stay below a 2 degrees Celsius increase, which, if exceeded, would lead to vast negative impacts.
The main points that call for action are the following:

  1. Climate change is making oceans less alkaline, which means that the pH level has gone from 8,2 to 8,1. This might seem like a small alteration, but the impact of this has enormous consequences.
  2. With more CO2 in the atmosphere, the heat of the sun is getting trapped in, causing the global warming.

The problem is that if we would stop today with our polluting activities, the earth will still keep on heating up.
On a general note, that’s not a reassuring thing to hear.

Maastricht University’s honorary professor
One of Maastricht University Faculty of Law’s Honorary Professors, prof. dr. Jaap Spier, who is also Advocate-General at the Dutch Supreme Court spoke next.
Both Pogge and Spier led a group of elite academics in international law, human rights law and environmental law and wrote the ‘Oslo Principles on Global Climate Change Obligations’. These principles have been set up to reduce the imminent threat of fatal climate change that is happening right now on a global level.

Read more

Up the Track

The wilderness around us slowly disappeared and more houses were showing up along the road. Places such as Humpty Doo and Palmerston passed our window. If you ever have been to Australia you probably know where I am. We found ourselves in the Northern Territory’s Top End, Darwin. A sign doomed up in the distance: 10 kilometres to go.

It had been a good 2 month from Melbourne until we had reached this part of the country. Of course, there was a quicker way which might have taken half the time we took, but that would have been less enjoyable. The easiest way to get to Darwin is via the famous Stuart Highway, also known as “The Track”. The sealed road starts in Adelaide and is 3500 km long. It leads you through the Red Centre of Australia, along cities like Coober Pedy and Alice Springs. The Track is travelled by many locals and backpackers all year round. You will not be left alone when you get a flat tyre and rest areas along the way are designed for overnight stays. Often they fill up around the hour of 3 o’clock.

It would have been indeed a faster way to get to Darwin. However, we had the luxury to kill some time before we would hit the city. And to be fairly honest, avoiding the Stuart Highway is the best you can do. Yes, The Track is one of those roads you should drive when you are in Australia. In my opinion you should do it because you can say you have done it and to visit Ayers Rock, a 460 km drive from Alice Springs. Part from that, there is nothing to do or to see, between the few roadhouses which form the only opportunity to fill up your car and your tummy with a counter meal. The landscape stays more or less the same, the whole way through. The road is straight, no turns, roundabouts, curves or double lanes. Perhaps a turn off, once in a while. No, the Stuart Highway is not the most scenic or interesting route that exists. Merely, it is just a road.

Knowing this from previous experience, we took a rough 2000 km detour via dirt roads and 4 wheel drive tracks (4WD) . After crossing the boarder with the states New South Wales and South Australia, we drove up to Innamincka via he Strzelecki Track, and several non-touristic national parks. The 4WD road is not the most scenic one, and maybe even more boring than the Stuart Highway. Nevertheless, it was an experience and a challenge to drive after a week of rainfall, like we had. The track leads to Innamincka, a small settlement close to the boarder of Queensland. It has that romantic touch of a remote cattle station with dust tornadoes created by triple trailer roadtrains, rushing by. Not to forget to mention the incredible amount of flies swirling around your head, trying to get in your eyes, ears and mounth.

From here you can crossover to the Birdsville Track via Walkers Crossing, another 600 km of four wheel driving. The Birdsville track is a popular drive, bringing you from Birdsville to a little place called Marree. You will drive along the edges of the Simpson Desert, Australia’s own Sahara.

Marree marks the end of the Birdsville track but also the beginning of a new off-road: the fascinating Oodnadatta Track, leading via Oodnadatta to Marla, follows the old Ghan railway. The rail service was originally designed to transport goods from Port Augusta in South Australia to Alice Springs, but it got shut down after sixty years because of poor maintenance, which led to financial losses and extreme delays up to three months (Australia, The Rough Guide, 1999).

Despite of the relics and desolated sidings you can find on the way, it is again, not the most spectacular drive of all. The badly corrugated 620 kms road shows you nothing else than endless bushland and dust clouds.

However, this might as well be the most scenic and special experience of the outback. Australia, after all, is a big country and distances are often underestimated by us, spoiled Europeans who demand a sort of attraction every 50 kms. In my believe, the big fat nothing is the most scenic attraction and is unique compared to the European continent. This country is not filled with ancient towns or 4 lane highways. Instead, there might be 1 main route to get to another place. In that sense, we are very spoiled with our cultural heritage. With a 3 hour drive you could be in Germany or France. A three hour drive here means you are not even half way.

And although therre is not much on the way and there not many cities, it does not mean you are alone. Australians like driving and are used to the long distances. The 3 tracks, Strzelecki-Birdsville-Ooodnadatte, are therefor the most popular dirt roads in the country and are frequently travelled by locals. It is a pain if you want to be alone but a bless if you get stuck, knowing that there will always be someone to pull you out.

In that sense, driving off the beaten track might not be so much different than the sealed main roads. But if you looking for a more adventurous way to experience the outback, than this is something you should do. No smooth sealed road, but dust and corrugation. No road trains and backpackers, but locals and 4WD enthusiasts. No busy rest ares, but a whole campsite for yourself and no one else around you. Complete remoteness. Well that is an experience.

Australia Day

We happen to be in the capital, Canberra – pronounced as Canbra – on Australia Day. It was the 26th of January, a National Holiday and celebration for the country. Australia Day is celebrated throughout the country with barbeques, drunkenness and the necessary national flag waving Many countries have their own national day, to honour their establishment and achievements in the past centuries. Or to solely to acknowledge their existence.

However, Australia Day is not cheered by everyone. The Aborigines, the original inhabitants of Australia, call it Invasion Day or Survival Day, referring to the point in history that everything changed. On 19 April, 1770, the English First Lieutenant James Cook started to map of Australia’s East Coast. And with that, he was mapping the end of the Aboriginals dominance over the country.

It was not Cooks intention to take the land from the Aborigines, rather he admired them for their self-sufficiency: “They are far more happier than we Europeans. They think themselves provided with all the necessaries of Life and that they have no superfluities.”

18 years later it became clear that things would change and the Aboriginal supremacy would end. Captain Arthur Phillip landed on Australian soil. It was January 26 1788, the “First Fleet”, consisting out of 1350 convicts and soldiers with their wives, immigrated to Australia.  In the years that followed, many convicts and free settlers arrived, filled with hopes, dreams and hungry for land and work.

It was on 1 January 1901, that Australia became officially a federation. It has been a bloody war between the settlers and the Aboriginals, where the latter have been brought almost to their extinction. The first aim of the new national parliament was to protect the European Australian identity and values, from Asian and Pacific Islanders influence. It was known as “the White Australia Policy”. It took another whopping 66 years until a national referendum gave Indigenous people the right of an Australian citizenship. And it was not until 2010 when a formal apology was made by former prime-minister Rudd to the Aborigines for the past 2 centuries of suffering and injustice.

There are many opinions when it comes to Australia Day. Some find it disrespectful towards the Indigenous people; others don’t see a problem. It is merely another reason to throw a party and socialize with the neighbours.

The Canberra Times argues that Australia Day is not a political occasion but rather “[…] a place, a nation, a people, and an idea.” (2015, 26 January, the Canberra Times, p. 2C).
It pledges that
Australia Day is about the unity of the country, with all it’s different cultures, backgrounds, histories and ideas. Nobody is the same but what all the inhabitants of Australia have in common is that they are Australians. Citizens of the country with collective hopes and aspirations. “What is being celebrated here is what we are, and have been and could be.” The cheerful celebration should not only look at the present Australia, but also at the history and its future: “It might be natural for some sense of triumph, togetherness and optimism, but it is not an occasion for abandoning truth, self-criticism or some hope that we can do better.”

My current supervisor, Nicole, partly agrees with this statement: “No, Australia Day is not about our history. I don’t believe anyone thinks that far or feels guilty about that part. We weren’t there, you know.” In her eyes, the Australian history has many black pages but that shouldn’t be something to focus on. You know, every country has a horrible story to tell, she says, “and we happen to have a very recent one. But look at the Germans, they are putting far too much attention on it!”, referring to the Second World War. Nicole explains me that she doesn’t want to be judged by something that her great-great-great-grandfather has done.

Then, she says something which I find typical Australian. Not because she’s Australian but it marks the main thought of many Australians: “It is not about the history, it is more a reason to get together, throw some meat on the grill and drink.”

Perhaps that is all what Australia Day is about: the celebration of itself as a collective nation with everyone who is there at the moment. A sort of communal mate-ship. Sharing a sizzle and a cold one at the beach. It is not about the history but rather it is about the creating a united Australia today. Easygoing and definitely with a lack of fuss.


Interview with an INKOM board member: Ella de Vries

You may know the INKOM, either because you participated, or because you’ve helped during this student introduction week of Maastricht.
The INKOM board is already busy with next year’s edition, and guess what, the new theme has been presented.. Curious about what you do in the INKOM board and what the theme for INKOM 2015 is? Read on!

Personal info
Name: Ella de Vries
Age: 23
Study: Medicine, 6th year
Position (Inkom): secretary

Why did you want to help organising the INKOM?

Two years ago I wanted to do something between my bachelor and master studies. Since I started studying when I was 17 years old and I would start with specified ward walking soon, this was the perfect opportunity to do something extracurricular. I looked at the possibilities of such a gap year. At that time I knew two people from the INKOM and seeing as I’m in the independent sorority Ex Aequo, I already knew a bit about this introduction week. I wanted to go in the board of the INKOM. At that point I was still too inexperienced to apply, so I waited a year while being crew-member last year.
As for what I’d like to learn during this year. I want to experience the different aspects of such a board year, learn how to set priorities and become more apt at managing stress.

When do the preparations for the INKOM start?

After the INKOM the board does an evaluation of how it went. Within this month after the INKOM the new board gets appointed and prepares for their year. The old board and Astrid Boeijen, head of the Student Service Center pick a new board. Of course a board has to be able to end their INKOM and be able to see how things went so a new board can take the points that need to be improved and integrate it in their program.

During the interview in the Student Service Center

During the interview in the Student Service Center

How many people does the INKOM team consist of?

5 board members of the INKOM, depicted in the following order (left to right): Daphne Peters (president), Charlotte Klüter (vice-president), me (secretary), Marenne Hoogenboom (treasurer) and Werner Rijkers (Logistical manager).


The INKOM board

Where does this year’s theme come from?

The theme of the INKOM this year is ‘Time to Shine’. We came up with the theme during our first week as board, and had to keep it secret for a long time! The idea is that everyone that takes part in the INKOM, as participant, crew-member, student, commercial partners. For all of these people, it’s the time to shine!

To get a better impression on the exact meaning, check the video below.

What did you change for this year’s INKOM?

We took last year’s program and built further on that. In 2013 there was a big change in the set-up of the INKOM, where an extra day was added for instance. Seeing as we have a successful concept that works, we’re using the knowledge of the past few years. What also really helps, is that we ask our contacts and the parties involved to evaluate the cooperation and we use that in our plan on what to improve and what stays good.

What advice did the people organising the INKOM over the past years give you?

To enjoy it! The best advice that I’ve gotten is to make your own INKOM and to enjoy every minute of it. It’s also very important to organize your activities in such a way that if, God forbid, I’m sick during the INKOM, the Central Post can still organize my event, just based on my instructions and preparations.

Student Service Center

Student Service Center

What surprised you in your job?

I used to think it would be easier to organize something. But once you’re in the same position, the task seems more elaborate, also because you’re dependent on other people. As we’re working a whole year for an event of a week, it takes quite a lot of things before you can call the INKOM a done deal! People don’t realize that.

People don’t expect us….

To be busy for a whole year, but you really need it!

What is your personal highlight of the INKOM?

It sounds silly, but the registrations are crucial. All the participants are there. This year we’re improving some logistical points of the registration day. This way there’s a smaller gap between registering and the first activity.

When will you consider the INKOM a success?

That’s a tough question, I think when everyone has a fantastic INKOM. I think that organizing such an event with 5 people is tough. If that works for us without any major hiccups, it will be a success!

Why should prospective students in Maastricht definitely not miss the INKOM?

INKOM is THE week of the year for students new to Maastricht. You get the opportunity to participate in activities, party, do sports, comedy and BBQ, among other things. As you’re getting to know new people, these will become your new friends. It will be the best week of your academic year!

During the interview

During the interview

To follow INKOM on Facebook, click here.

Want to know more about the INKOM and how YOU can help? Check out the poster below and apply for one of the positions!

Want to help during INKOM? Apply now!

Want to help during INKOM? Apply now!

Interview and text by Ashika Baan, photos by Brian Megens

Changing Economy, Talkshow with Tomáš Sedláček and Joris Luyendijk

Changing Economy, Tomáš Sedláček & Joris Luyendijk, Studium Generale & SCOOP

Tomáš Sedláček (left) and Joris Luyendijk (right) © Brian Megens

Studium Generale and Scope (study association SBE) organised a talk show about the ethics of today’s economy. They invited Tomáš Sedláček and Joris Luyendijk. Tomáš is a chief macroeconomic strategist at ČSOB Banking Group and member of the Narrative of Europe group which is commissioned by Manuel Barroso. Joris is an anthropologist, journalist for the Guardian and writer of the book ‘Dit kan niet waar zijn’ translated ‘This cannot be true’ about the banking sector in London.

Sitting from out my seat in the lecture hall I can see that Tomáš and Joris have done these kind of events more often together as they are playing with the audience and each other by making jokes and telling anecdotes. Tomáš is the leading ‘comedian’ in this way and opens with a cunning joke on the city’s self-confidence and Maastricht passed with flying colours. Another good thing to know is that according to Tomáš, “Nobody hates Europe as much as the Europeans do.”

Changing Economy, Tomáš Sedláček & Joris Luyendijk, Studium Generale & SCOOP

Changing Economy, Tomáš Sedláček & Joris Luyendijk, Studium Generale & SCOOP

After this comic introduction Tomáš gets more serious and asks us to think of the most perfect society. He comes up with where the elves in Lord of the Rings live, but even there they want to move somewhere else. Another example that he gives involves milking a cow, perfect seems to be not perfect enough. We are always looking for more, bigger, better. Another remarkable message of Tomáš: everyone assumes that Karl Marx opposed capitalism, but was he? Tomáš claims that Marx criticizes the human condition of capitalism which is the alienation of people, but not capitalism itself. Tomáš continuous with an example from Christianity the Garden of Eden, it was perfect, however, just not perfect enough. It is unimaginable to have a perfect society. In short, Tomáš message is that we did not set a goal to reach, therefore, in our drive for more, bigger and better, we do not know to stop.

Changing Economy, Tomáš Sedláček & Joris Luyendijk, Studium Generale & SCOOP

Joris Luyendijk spent two years in the heart of the financial sector London to write a book about how the real financial sector actually works. Are all bankers greedy monsters, and if so, why? He tells that people in the UK have an image of the Dutch as kind hearted but stupid. Joris played this role for the two years when he was working on his book. At the beginning he had a hard time to make bankers talk to him as there is a code of silence. However, when he offered anonymity, more and more people were willing to tell their story. His main finding is that it is not bankers themselves who are greedy monsters, it’s the system that turns them into one. Bankers are exposed to immense temptations and no loyalty from their employers as they can be fired and kicked out of the building within 5 minutes. Therefore, why be loyal to your employer? Bankers are tempted to exploit their profits in the short run although this does imply a much bigger risk for the bank in the long term. As there is no guarantee that the banker will be working for the bank at that period of time, the banker does not care.

In a nutshell, the message of both Tomáš Sedláček as Joris Lyendijk was that it’s the economic system that needs revision, not the people.

All photos © Brian Megens

Pirate Week Maastricht

Did you know that Maastricht was occupied by pirates once? You don’t have to go back that long in history and luckily it weren’t real pirates either. The annual entrepreneurship Pirate Week in Maastricht was held from 24-01 until 30-01 and turned out to be as amazing as promised. Unfortunately university deadlines prevented me from participating myself but luckily I was fortunate enough to drop by now and then to get a taste of it.

Pirate Week Maastricht 2015

The concept of the Pirate Week is to bring young entrepreneurs together and work on their ideas from 9am until very late for seven days in a row. It goes as follows. In total, 30 people participate from which ten have an idea to develop, ten have technical skills and ten people have the creativity and knowledge to market and polish the image of the project. Teams are formed and during the week, these teams are guided by experts in the field. They receive training, workshops, lectures and personal talks. All in order to help them in developing their idea and pitch it at the end of the week for real investors who can provide them with start capital.

Pirate Week Maastricht 2015
Pirate Week Maastricht 2015

I attended the Pirate Week on Tuesday when they received a workshop explaining the business model and how to apply it on the projects. I immediately noticed the passion as teams were taking advantage of every minute to work on their projects. The heavy debates in some groups also showed the involvement of every group member.

Pirate Week Maastricht 2015

After seven days of hard work, it is time to go to Campus Chemelot, located on an industrial park outside Maastricht, to present their ideas in front of ‘real’ business men.

Pirate Week Maastricht 2015

The projects pitched varied from making sure you have the right shoe size when buying online to meeting the right people on events to a robotic arm which helps disabled people. All brilliant ideas and solutions to real problems, however, they did not win the first price. This honour went to Pales. Pales is a project that aims at reducing mortality among horses during birth. The project already won 10.000,- euro start capital at the Local Heroes Award 2014 and is now ready to take off with another 1st price. However, Sfitsy (shoe size solution) and City Quest (aiming to challenge tourists to discover a city interactively) receiving second and third place respectively, can both count on serious interest from the investors and might receive some start capital themselves.

Pirate Week Maastricht 2015
Pirate Week Maastricht 2015
Pirate Week Maastricht 2015

After this week, which felt like a marathon for them, there was a mixture of emotions, there was excitement, happiness, relieve, satisfaction and of course disappointment of not winning the competition. However, as much as people were aiming to win, above all they had a great experience, formed teams with which they started to develop their ideas and only future can tell how successful they are going to be. One thing is for sure this week will last forever in their minds and I was happy that I occasionally be part of it!

Pirate Week Maastricht 2015
Pirate Week Maastricht 2015

More information on the Pirates:

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.

Ka Kite Āno- see you again!

Tongariro National Park is New Zealand’s oldest N.P and the land is a vital part of the Māori history. If it so happens you are there and you got a day to spend, you definitely should do the Tongariro Crossing, which takes you literally through Middle Earth. The walk is 19,4 km and takes 6 to 8 hours. On the way you can do several side tracks leading to the Soda Springs or the summit of Mt Tongariro. Since my arrival in New Zealand I have walked the crossing three times and done all the side tracks except Mt Ngaruroe. And that is exactly what we were about to do.

Mt Ngauhuroe is also known as Mt Doom in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. The sleeping volcano is 2290m high and that doesn’t make the climb an easy scrawl. There is no marked path going up the 45 degrees steep slope and the loose tephra makes it even harder to climb.

During my way up, I got in contact with a local from Christchurch, Mike. I was relieved he was there because I am not an experienced climber and I was afraid that I would fall backwards or get hit by a falling rock. Luckily, non of this happened. Mike tried to keep my mind of things by talking about what I have done during my stay in New Zealand. My internship in the NZ film industry gave enough material to talk about.

One thing we discussed was the quality of Kiwi films. From my point of view, New Zealand makes either very intense movies such as Once Were Warriors (1993), Whale Rider (1992) or the screenings are about zombies: Dead Alive (1992), Black Sheep (2006) are just the beginning of a long list. Every country has its preferences such as France likes romance, America enjoys vampires and the UK can laugh about its own humour. But New Zealand has something very interesting, in my opinion. Mike agreed with me when I stated that the New Zealand film industry has one unique feature which represents the local culture namely, Māori films.

The Māori are the original inhabitants of Aotearoa, the Māori name for New Zealand. Their roots lie in Polynesia and between 1250-1300, several groups of settlers immigrated to New Zealand and upon today, the Māori culture is present in day-to-day life. Examples are the famous tattoos and the language usage in the media, sport events and public facilities. The intimidating haka is a traditional warrior dance which is preformed before the start of the game of NZ’s favourite and most popular sport, rugby.

As for that, the Māori culture puts its stamp on the film industry.  A recent example of such a movie is The Dead Lands (2014) which is completely written and spoken in Māori. The film follows the tale of the chief’s son Hongi, who must avenge the murder of his father in order to honour the souls of his family after his tribe has been slaughtered by another tribe. Hongi has to pass through the forbidden and feared Dead Lands, wherein a mysterious Warrior lives, also known for its brutal act of killing. My friend who worked on the film told me he never had to make so much fake blood and clean weapons as he did for this film. I won’t spoil the end because it is something you should see for yourself but I can tell you it is loaded with honour and respect.

After spending almost one and a half year in New Zealand, I still find it very fascinating how the Māori and Western culture collide. The fact that a tribal culture survives in a dominant Western lifestyle seems to me unique. The adaptation and changes Māori culture has undergone are tremendous but fascinating in every single way. The ongoing effort that is being made to keep the culture alive deserves nothing more than great respect to their cultural heritage.

Furthermore, films produced and screened in Māori language should be more encouraged to bring the culture to the main public, especially outside New Zealand. It could unfold more interests and respect from the native younger generation. Overseas it could simply increase the knowledge about the Māori culture. All in all it would be great example for other situations such as the Aboriginals in Australia.

In between time, we had reached the summit of Mt Ngauruhoe. The view was breathtaking and we could see up to 200 kms. It made it so obvious why the Māori immigrated to NZ. I would have done it too, with a view like that.
Our time here is over, but I am pretty sure I will return.

Aotearoa: Haere rā– farewell, or shall I say ka kite āno – see you again?

The World According to Bill

Since October we have swapped our Nissan Homy Caravan for an apartment. It is a cheap-as place, where dust and thin, plaster walls are the only things what separates you and your neighbours. This doesn’t count for noise because that goes right through it. Happy us. This is how we got to know our neighbours a bit better. On the left there lives a couple who loves Desperate Housewives and right door´s they are very religious and are helping our his sister who has a long history of money problems.
Often I feel like living in Die Pension Grillparzer, written by the fictional character T.S. Garp in John Irving’s The World According to Garp. The pension is inhabited by odd circus performances such as a pretty good dream teller and a beer, riding a unicycle. You hear them but don’t see them. You know they are there because during the day all the showers are taken – why?! – and after eight o’clock everyone starts cooking – why?! Nothing better than the smell of curry at 11 pm, right? At night you can hear voices but when you are looking for the right door to knock on to ask if they can shut up, they stop.

On the ground floor Bill is the manager. Whenever Bill disagrees with the daily life in the kitchen, second bathroom or washing room, he will do something about it. Once in a while, Bill likes to lock the bathrooms downstairs. Every time he hears too much noise, he assumes ´they are having a party´ and shuts down the toilets. He is also the one he turns of the gas and cleans the kitchen. If the washing machine or dryer doesn’t work, you can ask Bill to come and help you. He will show up with a hammer and makes sure it will take your coins.

The sad thing about Bill is that he looks like he has never had a fun day in his whole life. Lines in his face show that he is definitely older than sixty and his voice reminds me of Miley Cyrus. His white hair goes where gravity doesn’t and that hints that he has been Santa Claus in his previous life.

Bill kills his days by sitting outside on his Yellow Pages, sipping coffee from a beer glass and reading a copy of The Listener, a `good English book´, as he says. The latter is not really book, it is the sort of TV Guide which writes about a possible zombie apocalypse in Auckland, including an A-Z survival guide. His favourite show, he told me, is Dr. Oz who gives `great advice!` I had to try Miso Soup. “You know what Miso soup is? You can get it at Countdown, it is a soup with seaweed. It is very healthy, one of the healthiest food in the world Dr. Oz said.”

Bill’s weak spot it Tassie – Tasmania. Just like most Kiwi’s, he has lived in Australia for over six years. Now he is retired he wants to move back and settle down but first he wants to clean the aquarium because you can hardly see the fish any more. Bill has never been anywhere else than Australia and New Zealand, so Europe is exotic. My worn-out hoodie which says “PARIS, 69!” from the local Op-Shop was “a fancy t-shirt!” and my cookies are “yummie! Mum’s recipe?”

I like Bill, till a certain point. When you are in a hurry, it is not a good thing to run into Bill: whenever he starts talking, he will not stop talking. On the other hand, Bill keeps the fishes alive, saves you from wearing your swimsuit when you ran out of underwear when the washing machine gave up on you. I really do hope Dr. Oz is right about that Miso Soup and that it keeps Bill alive and healthy.

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