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Student Project Team

Next year, the university will present a new challenge for some ambitious students who think they have what it takes to be the change. A newly formed Student Project Team will tackle student-related problems on behalf of the Executive Board. The idea is pretty simple: students know what students want and thus can relate to/improve some of the problems better than staff. 

All members of the Student Project Team will be active on a full-time basis for a period of one year and the team will be based at the Student Service Centre. The team will realize projects to improve the student policy but will also supervise other student initiatives. Subjects will be put forward by the university management (Executive Board, Student Service Centre and University Council), student initiatives and the team. A steering group will supervise the team. The steering group members will include at least the vice-chair of the Executive Board, the director of the Student Service Centre and a faculty dean.

So what can you expect?

  • A fulltime position with a fully equipped office.
  • A well paid student position for € 424 a month plus a one-time compensation of 6 board months.
  • Direct guidance from higher management of the university.
  • Real organizational experience in policy making and its execution.

So if you think you got what it takes to be the change that this university needs you might want to keep the following dates in your mind

Information Session: Monday, May 13th at 16.00 in the Karl Dittrich hall, on the first floor of the Student Services Centre, Bonnefantenstraat 2.

Application Deadline: Friday, May 17th at 12.00: You will need to email the following documents: curriculum vitae, motivation letter, transcript of your bachelor’s studies and if available, a transcript of (part of) your master’s studies. Please send it to: Arno.koldewee@maastrichtuniversity.nl. That Friday afternoon you will be contacted to plan the meeting for the first interview.

Application Procedure
There will be two interviews in this application procedure. The first interview will take place in Tuesday, May 21st till Friday, May 24th. At the end of this week you will be contacted whether you are invited for the second interview. The second interview will take place on either Monday, May 27th or Tuesday, May 28th. At the end of the same week the team will be announced!

New Traditions

It is not common knowledge that Orthodox people just celebrated Easter this weekend. Being my first Easter far away from home and in another country, I had a very different experience than the last twenty years.

In my country, around Easter there is such a big fuss. Everybody is stressed and busy to finish the shopping list and cook all the delicious things, so markets are full of people and empty on merchandise. My mom starts cooking two days before Sunday and barely manages to be done with everything on Saturday night. On Saturday night at 11.30 we all go to church, wait for the priest to come outside and give us light. He lights a candle and from his candle people light theirs and from person to person we share the light with everybody else. We sing and afterwards most people go home, but some stay for the whole ceremony which lasts until around 4 am. My father usually stayed for the whole thing and we went home and slept until he came home. When he came home, we would wake up and set up the table. We cracked eggs, ate lamb and all the other good things my mom cooked. Afterwards, with full bellies, we went to sleep.

This year so many things have changed. For the first time ever, we didn’t have lamb for our Easter dinner. We did go to church as usual, we took the metro though because it was so far away and when we arrived there were so many people around we didn’t even tried to enter the church. We sat outside, waited for the holy light. Since there are many immigrants in Brussels, it was amazing to see the difference between different regions from my country. Some people brought a little bit of their Easter food and waited for the priest to bless their meal. Others waited for bread and wine as it was their custom. We went home, but my parents stayed. When they came back we didn’t have a 4 am dinner. Sunday seemed just like any other day outside. People were going around their business as usual. Nobody dressed up in their nicest clothes because it was Easter, nobody said ‘Hello’ and ‘Christ is risen’ on the street. So we went about our day as well, we went to the center, and stopped at a terrace for coffee while listening to this old man singing blues music with more energy than we could muster.

All in all I had a wonderful time. But I remember how I resented the holidays some time ago and I didn’t want to celebrate them anymore, and now my wish came true and I wish them back. Just like Kevin, in ‘Home alone’! However, it’s time for new traditions, for different experiences that I welcome enthusiastically.

 

Tips & Tops

Sometimes it feels like you can’t do anything right. And sometimes people like to tell you that.
In the day-to-day life it is called criticism.

In the academic world it is called feedback.

Feedback does not necessarily mean your work is bad but it does feel like it. On one hand, it might be helpful to take it seriously and have a critical look at your work. But on the other hand, nobody wants to hear what he or she is doing wrong. Of course, feedback can be positive but from personal experience I can tell this is not often the case. Or I’m just a bad person who does things wrong all the time.

When I had to write my research proposal I received a lot of feedback which helped me to rewrite my work. Unfortunately, most of the remarks were negative. It does not boost your self-confidence and sometimes I find it hard to see the positive sides of feedback but you have to keep in mind; the intention is good.

As a side job, I worked as an animator on several a camp site. Before we were sent off to the middle of nowhere, we had to attend to a training weekend where we were trained to become an ‘animator’. Wauwie  (it was one of the frequent heard words during the weekend). A part of the job was role playing. There were 3 stereotypes of characters we could choice to play; the “cool and hip” Otto,  the know-it-all Elle and the clumsy Izzi (unisex).
Unfortunately, I, clumsy as I am, ended up playing the blond, know-it-all girl, dressed in a bright green dress, covered with ladybirds. First of all, very important for role playing; you have to project yourself into the role. Wearing a platinum blond wig, I had to improvise a scene in where I had to find the teddy bear of my unisex friend, Izzi. Thank god my partner was transgender.
The object? A colander.

Lucky us.

So, what did we think of it?” asked our team leader the group when we were finished. He looked like a real farmer, including the blooming cheeks and pudding-basin haircut. I think he would have been a great Otto. “I don’t want to hear any negative thoughts, just the TIPS and TOPS!”
The group was (not surprisingly) silent.

I worked 2 years on several camp sites and never had to do a play with a colander again.
It was one of the “TIPS” I received as feedback.

Master Public Policy and Human Development

This blog and the following one will be about the two masters I’m currently taking at Maastricht University: the master Public Policy and Human Development (specialization Innovation, Institutions and Development) at the Maastricht Graduate School of Government and the master International Economic Policy (specialization European Economic Policy). I intend to write another blog about the Maastricht University’s PREMIUM honours programme after that, but we’ll see, I haven’t been good at regularly blogging lately so I cannot promise anything. Don’t worry; there’ll be drunken stories again in the future, but not in these few blogs. I hope that these blogs will answer many of the questions I often receive about all the stuff that’s keeping me so darn busy all the time. Even my parents are still having difficulties remembering the names of the programmes I’m enrolled in (I try to keep it simple by just addressing them as economics and public policy) so I have no high expectations of that. More importantly, I hope that these blogs will inform future master students so that they either get super enthusiastic about these programmes or make them realize that there’s really no reason to stay in Maastricht after having studied here for years already.

The UNU-MERIT/Graduate School of Governance, which is located at the Keizer Karelplein next to the Vrijthof (there’s a UM flag indicating it’s entrance but it’s still difficult to find it, it took me two trips around the Vrijthof when I was first looking for the place at the Master Open Day last year), takes around 100 students from over 40 different nationalities to enrol for the master Public Policy and Human Development. Although the application requirements seem very stringent the admission board is the first to stress that those strict requirements are more or less a formality which are pretty easy to suffice. One of the major advantages of this big international student body is the open-minded attitude of the students and the eagerness to undertake social shenanigans and go to parties together (about one third hasn’t done a bachelor in Maastricht so they’re still fresh) but more about this later.

After having been accepted you’ll get offered to partake in the summer courses in either mathematics and/or politics which serve as an introduction into these topics for people who have absolutely no background knowledge. These summer courses are offered online for free and require about ten to fifteen hours per week. I took politics, which was nice and informative. I heard from people who had the mathematics course that this wasn’t really preparing you for the level of mathematical knowledge required for later courses but I’m sure they’ll adjust the contents next year (Lutz, are you reading this?).

Courses at Public Policy usually take four weeks so every block you have multiple of these small courses. The first semester courses Introduction to Public Policy (4 EC), Introduction to Statistics (6 EC), Public Economics (4 EC), Public Policy Analysis (6 EC) and Econometrics (6 EC) are all mandatory but you have the option to request an exemption for Statistics if you’ve had Quantitative Methods I, II and III or a bachelor degree in Econometrics. I could’ve applied for an exemption for econometrics too but instead I took the optional Econometrics+ course (8 EC) which parallels the regular course but advances at a higher pace and hence covers many more topics. The econometrics courses are generally considered to be the most difficult courses but I felt that anyone who is not completely thrown aback when learning that Greek letters are very often abused to form parameters instead of hexameters could pass this course with a little extra effort. I can offer assistance for a reasonable charge.

In the second semester the large group of students divides over the seven specialisations Regional Integration, Risk and Vulnerability, Migration, Social Protection (in co-operation with the ILO), Trade and Development Law, Sustainable Development and Innovation, Institutions and Development. Descriptions of these specialisations can be found on the MPP (that’s the common abbreviation of the master Public Policy) blog or the Maastricht University website which are listed below. I can only speak for myself when I say that I think my specialisation, that is Innovation, Institutions and Development, is quite interesting, time-consuming but apart from that not extremely challenging. I’ve heard similar stories about the other specializations.

One of the biggest advantages of the whole master is its large international student body. This not only benefits the discussion in the tutorial groups, which are often inspired by Peruvian, German or Catalonian experiences brought up by enthusiastic students, but the extracurricular activities organised by MPP students and it study association DEMOS are also a lot of fun. We’ve had International Dinners, a Sinterklaas evening, plenty of birthday parties and occasional random activities such as the impulsive decision to go to the Christmas Market in Aachen. You were wrong when you thought that people of a certain age start drinking more responsibly.

Given the workload of the programme it is difficult to combine it with a social life but this is clearly not impossible, it works out quite well for me to combine it with the honours programme and still be present at ESN parties, my fraternity drinks and the MPP shenanigans. Doing another master at the side is only possible because I’m still taking courses next year but this allows me to stay in Maastricht for another year. I find this prospect very pleasant – something I could not imagine myself saying a year ago.

Please contact me if you’re interested and want to learn more, you can also inform yourself by clicking on these links:

http://mgsog.merit.unu.edu/prospective_students/pphd/index.php

http://mpp.maastrichtuniversity.nl/

Abandon Spotted, fall in love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beginning of a new era: Kingsday

Welcome to the Netherlands; the place where people don’t feel Dutch. If you would ask a random Dutchman to what they identify most with, their country or their province/city, most of us will favor the latter. I myself am no exception to this rule and in general feel more Limburgs than I would consider myself to be Dutch. Every person thinks their background is the best evah and will start ranting and even causing troubles if you are an ‘outsider’ that does something that insults their pride. There are two exceptions to this rule that will cause all Dutch to feel as one: With matches of our National Football Team and whenever we celebrate the existence of our monarchy.

As long as I have been walking this planet and way before (since 1949) we celebrate Queensday on the 30th of April; A day that for some reason almost always is sunny. During this day we turn our country orange and all go mental either in regional events or in the big human stampede towards Amsterdam. Although it officially should be to honour or monarchy, most of us simply couldn’t care less about it and just take this occasion to party their ass off (again I am no exception). So as all farmers and hillbillies (this is the way people outside of the big cities are seen), I travel towards Amsterdam in orange every year to go absolutely mental.

Yesterday was kind of a special one, as this was the last Queensday in a long time. Good old Bea handed over the throne to her son Willem-Alexander (also known as ‘prince pils’) who will now rain over the wilderness of the Netherlands. He subtly hinted that he will become less formal than his predecessors and will be more approachable by the common people. A good thing in my opinion, although there is the exception that in my mind he has to look as traditional as possible on formal events.

As from next year, we will be celebrating Kingsday that comes with a new date: the 27th of April. Next year will be an exception as Kingsday can’t take place on Sunday due to backward retarded laws and thus will happen on Saturday the 26th. I’m pretty sure that Kingsday will be just as awesome as every Queensday I had so far.  I hope we will keep up our tradition of feeling Dutch for one time a year (even if it is merely for the sake of being one hell of an excuse to party). Other than that I really don’t give a rats ass about the monarchy and everything that comes with it. I hope the king will have a blast with his new title and everything that comes with it. I wish him good luck and I look forward to everything that this new era has to bring.

Proost.

Science in contemporary life

I sat beside a woman. She just told me about her personal past, her life until now and didn’t fail to leave out the pain life had caused her. I asked if she still could find pleasure in life. I asked whether she considered life in itself beautiful and if she had dreams for the future. She told me she wanted to become part of the animal rescue team, to take care of all those bunnies, cats and dogs in need. Read more

Journey to the past

… or how I traveled 1957 km and I ended up back home.

Everybody went somewhere last week so I decided to take a trip as well to visit family but more importantly, my boyfriend. I avoid going to Brussels as much as I can because family relations are tense and, no matter how bad it gets here in Maastricht sometimes, it`s still better than there. But I thought I put the ´cold war` on hold and just go and try to enjoy the city, which I absolutely love, and try not to get caught up in any family drama. Meanwhile I got a message from an old acquaintance and we set up a rendez-vous. I was extremely excited and thought that the weekend might actually prove to be better than expected. (Of course I just went there over the weekend. One week would have been like walking on coals.)

Going by train was exciting, except that I was reading Nelson Mandela`s autobiography as I was staying right across from a colored (not sure if it`s discriminating to say ´black`) family and that made me feel like a complete moron. At the train station I accidentally bumped into my father and we took the tram together. Everything was great. Then I went to the rendez-vous and I was unpleasantly reminded of my life not so long ago. Same snobbery that I thought I left behind along with the people that displayed it, the judging, the superiority… everything. It`not necessarily that I have not met people like that here, it`s that the manner of it all strongly reminded me of home ´sweet` home. I left with a bitter taste but still with hope, for a better tomorrow.

Next day my uncle was celebrating his birthday so around 30 people were invited, most of them family. I was happy to see everybody but after a while everybody got caught up in conversations and I tried to mix and mingle and talk to everyone and to listen. But! the topics were the same that I had heard before, and as they all talked at the same time nobody actually listened. I felt the loneliest. There I was, surrounded by family and I felt like I didn`t belong. I waited impatiently to leave.

I promised myself I would not turn my posts into some kind of diary, but at the same time I think that the more personal input the better. Also we live in an euphoric world of `studenthood` where our biggest problems are the crappy weather and the deadline for a paper. Out there, outside our pretty little world there are sad people, going about their little life, raising kids, working shitty jobs, having real problems, people like my uncles and my aunts and my cousins, people who do not have the time to read Nietzsche and don`t want to talk about immortality. Where I come from problems were the rule and calm times were the exception. There I have seen people frowning who forgot how to smile back. I tried to leave it back in the past, the sadness, but one weekend in Brussels brought everything back. If you get lost in the poorer areas of the city, you`ll know what I mean.

Muziekgieterij: Strictly Vinyl

I think it was the second time since I’ve started my study in Maastricht; going out on a Saturday night. Last time I ended up in LBB (Landbouw Belang; shame on you if you’ve never been there), at a ‘Noise’ party. No further comments on that.

Despite my preference for the LBB and its unique parties with its high rate of drugs and/or alcohol usage, it was time for something different. The Platielstraat with its cafés (ClinQue, 2Heeren etc.) has a lot to offer but, unfortunately, it closes at 2 AM. The Feesfebrik and FM are opened till 5 or 6 AM, but it doesn’t offer a place for the more alternatives among us.

So, where to go?

A friend of mine invited my to a electroparty in the new Muziekgieterij: Strictly Vinyl & Eva. Since Solar 2011, I’m not really into electro any more. On the other hand; I only had good experiences with the Muziekgieterij and I hadn’t checked out the new location. Furthermore, if it sucked, we could always go back to his place and release him from his beer stock.

But we didn’t.

It turned out that the Muziekgieterij was the perfect location for parties like these. It made me like electro again. The new location is perfect and I agree with Sophie (The Maastricht’s students aren’t ready for the new Muziekgieterij), it is a contribution to the city as a culture capital. It is a big space but it has a lot of potential. Candles where used to create some kind of ‘special’ atmosphere. Suddenly you were forgotten that the Muziekgieterij actually is situated in Maastricht. The place could be easily somewhere else, like London or Berlin. It has created that perfect alternative for the LBB or Market. The old rock&roll style has not disappeared; I got the feeling the Muziekgieterij is more down-to-earth than other night life scenes in Maastricht. It changed, but it is still the Muziekgieterij.

Sophie expressed her disappointment of the Maastricht’s students. They weren’t ready yet. Maybe she is right or maybe it was the party. All in all, looking around, most people studied at FaSoS or UCM and only 3 of them wore those pointless beanies.
I’ve spoken to Belgium and German people, but no “hardcore-Maastrichtenaren” or other studies (FHM, Law etc.). Of course it was a Saturday, where the local youth might prefer the Feesfebrik and most students return home with their laundry. But I have to agree with Sophie; it is a pity that the Muziekgieterij has such a great new spot and not the amount of visitors to fill up the space. On the other hand, the Muziekgieterij could use this ‘underdog’ image to remain their alternative name. 

I haven’t been to a bigger concert in the Muziekgieterij yet, but looking around, it would be perfect for it. The long train journeys to Amsterdam and Utrecht would be history and I can just sway back home, on my bike.

Discussing this issue with a friend of mine, we both agreed on the lack of these kind of places. Now we got two, but both with their very own character. A third, smaller one would not be a bad idea.

Until then, I will be a frequent visitor of the Muziekgieterij and you should be too.


Changes ahead

Last week I had my last examination week of my Bachelor. After living like a nun (read; not answering the doorbell, phone calls or any other contact related actions. Except Facebook), I was dying to leave my room for something more important than grocery shopping. At least then I had a reason to dress properly, presentable and approachable, because lets be honest; your pyjamas are not that flattering. And lucky me, I got the chance! Last Wednesday I needed to get out of the house to present my thesis to the company of which I’ll write about. I got up in time, dressed properly, presentable and looked approachable. Read more

The emptiness of Maastricht

Welcome to Maastricht during resit week: a harsh landscape that resembles the scene of a Western before a major showdown is about to take place. An eagle making eagle-sounds, some tumbleweed wooshing over the dusty road, a barren landscape and dead silence. Although Maastricht is visually pretty much the opposite of this (and thus making this analogy pretty stupid), you at can catch my drift.  Read more

Jammie!

The commercial of Albert Hein tries it again: to make Easter fun.
Or delicious.
A big picture of a bottle of water stares back at me; Mmmm, Evian water! Jammie!

No, it’s not. Since when do people exactly like water? I can’t believe that I’ve ever liked it. Just admit it; it is tasteless.
“Well, how does your soup taste?”
“A bit watery…”
OK, water can be very tasty, when you’re very, very, very thirsty.
I remember a several occasions (Pinkpop festival, incredibly hot summers, long train journeys, some drunken nights) where I was very pleased with a few sips of plain water.
Also, when I would ever end up the middle of the Sahara, I would find Evian water very Jammie! On the other hand, if it was beer, (even Heineken) I would drink it too. And find it Jammie!

You know what is really Jammie? Go to the Maastricht market, on Friday. Take 5 euros with you and buy a bag of fruit, for 5 euros.
Every week you get a big bag of fruit, filled with stuff you would never even considered buying.
This week, I got a ‘tropical bag’.
There are two stands where you can buy them. I usually take the right one, because the seller does not ‘throw’ with melons or screams your head off with “OOOOOOOOOOOORANGES! VERY VERY VERY HEAAAAALTHY OOOOORANGES!”
No, the man in the right stand doesn’t. He’s exactly quite calm for a market vendor:
Free, and this one is free and this, and this and as a bonus; a papaya!”
After putting 3 oranges, 4 limes (when do you eat those?), 1 melon and 1 pineapple, he handed me over a papaya, which had the size of my entire arm.
How and when will I eat this and more important: how do I get this thing home?

In a miraculously way, I got home. And after I cut it up in 4 parts, I can tell you; the black seeds are not edible.
It is not a pomegranate, which paints your kitchen pink and where you’re supposed to consume the the seeds.
Or a kiwi, which you can eat it in multiple ways (apparently, some people eat the skin as well…)
No, from the papaya you only eat the pink, soft part. Now I understand why I got limes with it…

Another thing learned. Cultural borders are broken.
Jammie.

Second Winter

Being from Texas I never thought I would ever hear myself say, “I wish it would stop snowing.”

Coming from the south where it’s hot all year round, where cold to us is when the temperature is 50 (Fahrenheit) or below and snow is extremely rare, I was almost looking forward to getting to experience an actual winter and have a little bit of fun playing in the snow. I had no idea what I was getting wishing for. Read more

Cinematics

We were guided to a room that resembled a small cinema. The lights were dim, just like before they play the movie. In front of us appeared an older man, not very tall and wearing quite well a septuagenarian belly. He made no use of the microphone and he avoided being at the desk as much as possible and instead he walked up and down and, in his way, talked to each of us and infected us with his enthusiasm.He talked about movies and the magic that they hide and after 2h and 15 minutes, that went by unnoticed, he felt like he could still talk for hours and he just stopped because he had to. And above all, what better day to discuss movies than Tarantino’s 50th anniversary. Read more

A guide to the economic crisis

john-lanchester-whoopsMuch to my shame, I’ve found my economic training to be close to useless when trying to understand what’s going on with the economy. It’s like all those micro- and macro- and finance classes went in one ear and out both of them; news reports made no sense and neither did the buzzwords thrown around in dinner discussions. “Housing market bubble”, “USA’s debt to China”, “toxic assets” – what now?

Read more

A story about ponies

The Dutch seem to enjoy making something out of nothing. Their lack of mountains and unreliable snowfall, for example, doesn’t prevent them from creating an indoor slope. But then again, we are speaking of a country that’s half stolen from the sea. Half of its windmill-laden rolling fields were ocean floor some time ago. Let that thought sink in, lame pun intended.

So, then, why shouldn’t Maastricht have a City Polo Tournament? No fields or arenas? No problem, City Hall must have thought, as they poured truckloads of sand into the Vrijthof. So that’s why I ended up freezing in the stands last Saturday, waiting for my first polo match ever.  The games were part of the TEFAF art fair and the local team played against Mercedes Benz in a two-a-side game that turned out, to my surprise, to be rather exciting.

Now, I know absolutely nothing about polo, except that it involves people on horses hitting a smallish ball with long stick-type things. So I can’t really tell whether the game was objectively great, but I sure did enjoy it. The four guys were all over the field, showing awesome control of their horses and, you know, the stick-type thingies. The British commentator was cracking joke after joke, calling the horses “ponies” for some reason and keeping the crowd as alive as possible. (My personal favorite line was bitching about the location. “Why do you guys have two churches next to each other? I mean, I can understand eight bars in a row…”) As for the crowd, it was rather frozen at first, but livened up as the match progressed, cheering and stomping for Maastricht City as they held their own against the opponents.

We lost, apparently, and my budding fever didn’t let me stay for the rematch. But it was crazy interesting to watch. Now, if the weather finally realizes it’s spring, maybe we’ll see water polo at the Vrijthof soon.

Exam time

Another day at the library. I’m becoming a piece of furniture between the four high walls of the building at the Grote Looiersstraat. I’m here to prepare for my upcoming exam. The only physical exercise consists of walking up and down the stairs to print, drink coffee, get something to eat or to read. Read more

Good Idea

 “I’ll tell you what you did wrong”, hissed the woman, “you screamed in front of the children! That is just bad! You behaved like a child!”
The man, obviously not impressed by the speech his wife just gave him, nodded.
This train journey from Amsterdam – Maastricht, was going to be a long one.
Hmm hmm, anything else I did wrong?” he responded with a calm voice.
Yes! You did..”, the woman suddenly stopped talking and stared at her daughter. She looked at her mother with big eyes.
Can I have my toooooooy?”
How could she refuse this?

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Reviving the gentlemen’s club

We all should know pictures like the one on top of this post. A gathering of great thinkers who, besides looking like bosses, discuss the big problems of society. Although I do not qualify myself to be on the same intellectual levels of the great thinkers, I would love to partake in one of these mind-stimulating get-togethers. The question that remains is obvious: is there a future for it? Read more

Sleepless nights in Maastricht

This issue has been eating away at me since I got here. I have been struggling with one particular fact: where do students disappear at night? Read more

City story

At the bottom of the Netherlands’ southernmost province, Limburg, Maastricht is gem of cobble streets studded at its corners with warm pubs and bakery’s. Read more

Cheers!

Guess what’s in my drinking cup!” A 4 year old girl stand in front of me. Emma looks at me with her big blue eyes, filled with expectation, like I’m going to preform some kind of magic trick. In fact, the only thing I do is naming all the drinks I can imagine. It’s a simple game which I once started as a joke. But it works; children like it and they tend to drink more. Read more

Why my semester abroad in San Diego sucked

So a couple of weeks ago I came back from my semester abroad. Never in my life have I been this happy about returning to Europe, and I didn’t think I would ever qualify as a person that wanted to leave their exchange destination. Especially when said destination is San Diego, CA. Read more

Surviving The Trains

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

Another ordinary visit to the supermarket

Last Friday I visited the supermarket. As a willing contributor to Dutch economy and my own fridge I entered the shop not knowing that I was soon to be confronted with some deep thoughts on society. As I stood before the fruits and vegetable section question number one arose: should I buy the cheap or fair trade bananas? I wondered whether fair trade is really a product of fair trade, whether buying expensive fair trade bananas would make a difference at all. Eventually I compensated the cheap bananas for fair trade coffee pads. Read more

The silver lining

(No, not the movie which, irreverent truth be told, didn’t captivate me half as much as it did Academy Awards decision makers.)

The last few weeks took me on an emotional roller-coaster. Between being rejected for jobs, stressing over school-work and the worryingly slow progress of my thesis, missing friends and hating the moody weather, I thought I deserved to mope and whine about every little thing that did not go according to plan. But as I was fighting the resurrected snow on my way home today, I wondered: what if I shouldn’t complain?

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Winter Vrijthof

Breakup letter

Dear Winter,

With this letter, I am going to be really honest with you.

After (almost) 5 months, I have to say, I don’t think our relationship will work out. I have several reasons for that, which I’ll explain to you, one by one. I hope you won’t be too upset.

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Maastricht’s students are not ready for the new Muziekgieterij

It seemed like after the Muziekgieterij was shut down last year despite the voice of politely protesting students, many of us had eagerly anticipated the re-opening of Maastricht’s unique alternative club at the new location at Boschstraat. The Bruis Festival promised two days of cultural entertainment for young people like us, with an international lineup with promising bands, some of which I am sure will play arenas in the UK or tour with Coldplay before too long. Some of them are already on the way with TOY and Fidlar playing SXSW in Austin, the ladder playing festivals with Metallica and the Red Hot Chili Peppers this year. I Am Kloot from the UK played Glastonbury, Lowlands, and Pinkpop so having them in Maastricht was kind of a big deal. Read more

A Running Commentary

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

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

Maastricht7_a_1

Running has become several things for me while in Maastricht.

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

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

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

 

Kelsey YanduraAbout the author:

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

Brain Porn

The current course in my specialization of Arts&Culture called Brainspotting. It is about contemporary perspectives on the mind and body. We talk about the philosophical sides (naturalism, materialism) but also about the social and cultural frameworks of depression and autism.

This week, we had a workshop about neuroscience and how misconceptions are created through miscommunication and/in the media (neuromyths). A lot of things are published which just sound ridiculous. For example: “The Trick to Winning the Nobel Prizes: Drink Milk!” (Newser.com). The website has as the ironic subtitle:“Read less, know more”. Or: “A Broken Heart Really Does Hurt (The Telegraph). You can find this Captain Obvious and a lot of others all over the web. Just type in “brain scans” on news websites, and you will be thrilled of what you will find. My teacher calls it “Brain porn”.

This made me think about the well known book 50 Shades of Grey. And yes, I’ve read it and no, it is not that shocking. In the context of the neuroscience, we can translate it to “50 Shades of the Grey Cells. Instead of latex, it is the prefrontal cortex which turns you own and according to another headline: sex may relieve migraine…

Since our society is based on sharing knowledge, my grandmother thought it would be good if I read the book as well. I had no choice; she can be very dominant, you know. In any case, there was no way out of it. I don’t know what she thought. Maybe: what’s learnt in the cradle lasts till the tomb, but than I could never, ever, look to my granny again. There is a claim spooking around saying “use it or loose it”, but I don’t think she thought that either.
A.Moraal wrote in the Observant (nr. 23), that she refused to read the book, just because her mother gave it to her (and I have to agree with her); it is traumatizing, thinking of that your mother read it and above all, enjoyed it. If I was in the same situation, I would not even dare to touch the book at all. But in this case, it was my granny who exactly told me, in very calm and down-to-earth-tone: “Oh well, it was a cute story, but that’s it. I guess I’ve read too much already to be shocked”. I was not shocked with that answer; at least she didn’t used the word experience. Since my granny is 85,  I think she knows what she is talking about. Wisdom truly does come with the years.

But, when she gave me the book, she asked my if I could give it to my mother when I finished it. I did what she told me, but still, I don’t want to know if my mum enjoys the book or not. At least, I don’t want to talk with her about all the details. If so, I’ll join A.Moraal in a brain scan, to determine how psychologically traumatized we are.