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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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1903 Tour de France with Keir Plaice

Keir Plaice, a former semi-professional cyclist and 3rd year Bachelor Arts and Culture student, is embarking on a cycling ride of a lifetime. He is riding the route of the original Tour de France of 1903 and documenting his experience in his Le Grand Tour column in the cycling magazine Soigneur. Read on to find out more about Keir and his project!

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

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

Tell us about yourself.
I came to the Netherlands to race bikes for a Dutch cycling team in the summer of 2010. I’d rode for two years before that as a semi-professional cyclist in Canada. I wanted to try and make it to the very top of the sport, ride the Tour de France and the World Tour, but after a couple of years I realised that it wasn’t going to happen. I also met a Dutch girl that bound me to the country.

Why Maastricht?
After my cycling career, I realised that I better go to school and start a future outside of cycling. I’ve always loved reading. I really love literature and arts. I love going to museums and experiencing paintings. I decided that when I go to university I would study something purely out of interest and immerse myself in something I’m really interested in. I wanted to study something to do with art and literature in English. My choice was Maastricht or Groningen. Maastricht is a much more beautiful city than Groningen, especially if you’re a cyclist.

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

How do you experience combining your study with your other interests?
When I decided start university, I decided that that would be my first priority. At the same time, whenever I had the free time I would go for a bike ride. I find that they really complement each other. I think lots of people who are very ambitious with school get completely caught up with university. When I go on my bike, I don’t take my phone, I don’t take anything. You just have a couple of hours in the countryside where it completely clears your head and it re-adjusts your priorities. It really helps you when you’re studying cos you’re not stressed about things.

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

How did you start journalism?
When I was racing, I started keeping a blog mostly to let friends and family know how the races are going. After a while, I got bored saying the race grew hard after 25 km, I was in the second group, I suffered all day but finished 30th. So then I became more interested in conveying the experience of racing through words. Bike racing is something I was completely in love with and I thought it was a cool exciting, interesting experience but anytime you read anything in the newspaper or magazine, it just states the result. None of the experience is conveyed in the stories you read about it. I found that a real shame.
The cycling magazine Soigneur somehow found my blog and they really liked my writing and got in touch. I’ve been able to do several really interesting projects with them.

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

Tell us about your project.
The project started early this year when Soigneur asked me for any cool ideas. As a cyclist, of course, the big dream for everybody is riding the Tour de France. It’s the holy grail for every bike racer. It was something I had always wanted to do. It was an idea where I could give a conclusion to my own cycling story, to have my own Tour de France. I’ve always known that the early Tour de France was really interesting. At that time the sport was just beginning
At the same time, I’ve always known that the early Tours were really interesting. Back then, it was completely new. Someone just had an idea of ‘hey, let’s race in France’ and the idea just took off. Now, it’s all very organised and it’s the same every year. The stages of the early Tour de France were also much longer so there was a more adventurous approach towards the sport as opposed to the racing today. It’s impressive what the guys racing in the Tour can do today, but at the same time, every aspect of their lives is completely controlled. Because it’s so competitive and everyone is so good, there’s absolutely no room for error.
So you miss some of those crazy stories of what used to happen where the guys would go for a 120km long breakaways, stopping for ice cream, pull over at a bar on the side of the road because they didn’t have enough water, hiding behind the bushes and let the peloton or whatever was left still think there were someone in front. Because it wasn’t at this super high-end top of the sport, of course, they were still very competitive, they had a lot of freedom.

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

What’s the plan?
I will ride the original route of the first Tour de France in 1903. So there are 6 stages, each between 270-470km. In total, it’s about 2500km. It’s basically the same programme as what they rode in 1903. Each of the stages is will be ridden in one shot. I’ll wake up at 4 ‘o clock in the morning and grab my bike and finish it. In between the stages, there are two or three rest days. There is a Maserati car riding with me for food, drinks, repairs and spare parts.

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

How did you prepare?
Apart from my regular riding of about 15 hours per week, I made sure to do a few longer drive of 200-250km range. A couple weeks ago I went to Norway to ride a really big race there called the Styrkeprøven. It’s 540km from Trondheim to Oslo. That was twice as far as I’d ever ridden in my life. I surprised myself and finished second place at 14 hours and 10 minutes.

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

Follow Keir’s journey through France in the Soigneur magazine and the Maserati Cycling youtube channel and relive the first Tour de France! Watch Keir conquer the first stage of the Le Grand Tour from Paris to Lyon:

FASHIONCLASH Festival with Branko Popovic

Every year since 2009, fashionistas descend to Maastricht as the city hosts the FASHIONCLASH Festival. It has attracted more than 900 talents from 50 different countries. This year’s 8th edition is bigger and better, involving more than 150 designers and artists from all over the world who will showcase their work and creations to a diverse international audience. Our Maastricht Students reporters sat down with Branko Popovic, founder of Fashion clash, and Melissa Stoots at Alley Cat Bikes & Coffee the location where it all began for Fashionclash Maastricht. What started as a small scale event grew to one of the main annual attractions of the city.

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

What is FASHIONCLASH?
The whole idea started at the Maastricht Academy of Fine Arts and Design. When we graduated, there was no perspective for designers so it meant that most just left. It was quite a shame because there were a lot of good designers and people also weren’t aware of the Art Academy. We thought why don’t we organise a fashion show for local designers and our own work? It’s very difficult for young designers to find an affordable stage. So in 2009, we officially established FASHIONCLASH as a foundation and secured funding from the city and the province. It was also around that time when the city filed for candidacy as a cultural capital so there was a lot of buzz in the air.
For the first edition, we said let’s try something and it just exploded from there! Initially, we targeted local designers but what happened was we had 60 designers from all over BeNeLux. The first edition was a success but we didn’t sell out. We did generate a lot of media attention and people were talking about the event and how great we could do this. So we thought let’s do it again, let’s do it better and use all the things we learned from the first edition. The second edition was a great success! The shows were sold out and we had designers from 11 countries. Then we really realised that whole idea of creating a stage for young designers was not a local problem but an issue everywhere.
When we choose a theme, we always choose a theme that is connected to something topical. For this year’s edition, we have ‘heritage’ as our topic. Since we have designers from all over the world, we wanted to talk about how designers deal with their heritage. Everybody is immigrating everywhere, so how do designers deal with that? It’s what they do, designers translate their life experiences and vision to their work. At the same time, we’ll have some fashion talks and debates where we’ll talk about these things. It sounds simple but it stimulates culture and diversity and most especially, the beauty of it.

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

Branko & Melissa

What is the aim and goals of FASHIONCLASH?
Ou aim is to provide an affordable stage for young designers to present their work and designs. Fashion week cost thousands of euros just to participate. Initially, we thought it was a local problem because for designers that live in Amsterdam or Berlin there are more possibilities but based on the first edition of FASHIONCLASH, we realised it was a problem for a lot of starting designers.
We are growing every year, developing the concept and the idea, and learn from each edition. We’re trying to contextually develop the idea of showing fashion as an art form which distinguishes us from all the other fashion weeks in the world. It now puts Maastricht in quite a unique place in fashion. Something we want to develop as well in the coming years is to become more of a national institute, meaning that we also do something in other cities like Amsterdam, but the festival will always remain in Maastricht. We’ve been growing more outside the country so we want to develop more nationally. Also, if we want to grow and challenge ourselves, it’s good to collaborate with people from outside the city because we’ve worked with everyone here. It also creates a broader audience.

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

How can the students get involved?
Most of our interns and volunteers are actually students and they come from different studies. We have Arts and Culture and European Studies students and also students studying International Business and Commercial Management. It also changes every year. Some years we have more students from the Hogeschool, some years we have more UM students.
For the festival, we build a team and together we organise the festival. There’s around 10 of us in the team but we need more volunteers for the festival itself. We need a lot of volunteers, for example to guide the international press, to seat the guests, help with the exhibitions, etc.  There are a number of students who are models during the show and a lot of students are also doing their graduation research with us, so students are very welcome to engage somehow.

Why should students get involved?
The whole project is a learning curve for everyone. Most get involved because they really like fashion, like fashion lovers who want to get involved with fashion and also students that are doing business but are interested in the fashion business who wants to see what goes on behind the scenes. It’s a very interesting experience! For example, Arts and Culture students who specialise in Media Culture can do a lot. We give student interns real work where they can learn from and skills that they can further develop. It’s also a great way for student volunteers to meet people. You get to meet local and international designers, other people from the city and fellow students.
What do we have for students? It’s a really accessible festival. Just come and watch! Bring your student card and we have student tickets for 5 euros which you can buy at the venue itself. It’s nothing to see designers from all over the world. There are a lot of things for free, for example the exhibition market and events in the city. There’s also a party in the venue. It’s a very nice gathering of young people from all over the world. I would really recommend it!

Would you like to be part of the FASHIONCLASH Festival? Become a volunteer by sending an e-mail to Melissa at volunteers@fashionclash.nl!
The FASHIONCLASH Festival is accessible to everyone. Most of the programme is accessible for free while you can secure your spot at the Fashion Shows by purchasing a ticket. Don’t forget to check out their FB page or their website for more information on the Festival!

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

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 (www.brianmegens.com)

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 (www.brianmegens.com)

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!

© Brian Megens

The New Face of Maastricht, Annemarie Penn-te Strake Mayor of the City

Last July, Annemarie Penn-te Strake came into office as Mayor of Maastricht and since then has been the face of the city. She is the successor of the controversial former mayor, Onno Hoes. One can say that this was a remarkable decision given her apolitical background and unaffiliation to any political party. Just like the impressive city hall, Annemarie Penn-te Strake is an exceptional woman. A former judge and public defender, she is the first woman to become Mayor of the city. Last Wednesday, we had the pleasure of asking her a number of questions at the majestic city hall. She is an imposing woman who exudes warmth and experience. Read more about her and her experience as the Mayor of Maastricht.

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

© Brian Megens

Annemarie Penn-te Strake

Who is Annemarie?
I’m an optimist. I have a positive outlook in life and I try to experience life in a light manner. When I think of something, find something, or do something, it has to be well thought over. In my work, I try to do things as best as I can – although I am not a person that strives for perfection – without taking my feelings into account. I do what my conscience says and what my inner self considers the best thing to do.

© Brian Megens

The office of the Mayor

How has your legal background helped you as a mayor?
I went to law school in what was then Katholieke Universiteit Nijmegen, where I studied Dutch law. At the same time, my friend and I opened a legal clinic where student-lawyers gave judicial help and advice for free. After university, I travelled to Africa for 2 years to do development work, so no law. When I came back, I thought to myself, what would I like I do with my study? The only thing I wanted to do was to become a judge because then you work in law in its purest form. There is no goal of making money or being part of a certain party. You’re working in how law should be put and used in society. As a judge, you also have an independent role and I liked that so I did my 6 years training to become a judge. I was in the judicial system for 35 years. I was a judge for 20 years while the years after that, I worked in the public prosecution.

What I learned as a judge is to analyse problems in a hygienic way, make a judgement based on it, and communicate it in a polite manner. As a public prosecutor, you have to make decisions at crises situations, so there I learned to make decisions in a quick, fast manner. Working in public prosecution brings you closer to society while as a judge you are quite independent and separated. It’s just you, your files, and your judgement. Altogether, I feel that my experience has been a great gift in helping me do this amazing job.

© Brian Megens


How has your experience been so far?

This job has been even better than I expected! The work has been exactly what I had hoped it would be and even more. It’s very close to society, and the people and the parties in our town. Everyone is very important in the welfare and well being of our city. It’s a great privilege to be able to work here. Our civil servants work very well and I’m very happy with how I am supported by all the men and women I work with.
Together with my colleagues and other mayors, we work on several very interesting themes. What can we do, not only for the city of Maastricht, but also for the whole region and the province? What is also very interesting is of course, the meaning of the university to our town. We are looking at the different ways to connect this beautiful city to the university and the students. It’s going better and better from what I see, but of course, there is still a lot to do.

© Brian Megens

If you look at the map of Maastricht and the south of Limburg, you realise Maastricht is in the heart of the Euregio. Everyday we think about how can we make a connection with Belgium and Germany on several aspects like security, labour market, environment and culture. It’s very important for this town to realise the meaning of our environment. In one way, it has a lot of potential, but also the borders are a problem because of the different legal systems. With the university, we are trying to look at solutions to this legal border.

What is your personal experience with Maastricht University?
As a mayor, I realised how important the existence of our university is to the town. I live in the city centre, and having all these young people with all their different languages walking around makes Maastricht special. Imagine Maastricht with only old buildings and the elder population. The university makes it necessary, and these students make it necessary, for us as a city to look forward to the future and to organise things that are attractive to young people, not only for the university students but also young locals.

© Brian Megens

How do you see the future of the university?
If I can dream about the university, I hope that it becomes even bigger. I hope that in The Hague, they recognise that this university was born to be one of the best international university in Europe.

What do you like about Maastricht?
It’s the feeling. I really love the city and I’ve lived here now for almost 25 years. What Maastricht has is a combination of old history, which gives you a certain feeling of wellness. Life is good here. When I say this, I realise that this is not the case for everybody; of course there are people who are poor, don’t have work or are lonely here. But for me, Maastricht has this feeling of a warm blanket around you.

© Brian Megens

Annemarie Penn-te Strake

 

© Brian Megens

Samina Ansari, a Woman With a Mission

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

© Brian Megens

Samina Ansari

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Brian Megens

Soup, Salad and Smoothie Bars of Maastricht: Vers

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

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

© Brian Megens

Vers Maastricht

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

© Brian Megens

Vers Maastricht

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

© Brian Megens

Vers Maastricht

© Brian Megens

The red lentil soup and the Vietnamese pho bo

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

© Brian Megens

Vers Maastricht

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

© Brian Megens

Vers Maastricht

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

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

© Brian Megens

Vers Maastricht

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

Vers.
Grote Gracht 31
6211 ST Maastricht

© Brian Megens

MyMaastricht with Thomas Schäfer

© Brian Megens

Thomas Schäfer, MyMaastricht.nl

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, MyMaastricht.nl

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, MyMaastricht.nl

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

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

Coffee Bars in Maastricht: Alley Cat Bikes and Coffee

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

Alley Cat Bikes and Coffee

Alley Cat Bikes and Coffee

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

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

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

Alley Cat Bikes and Coffee

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

Alley Cat Bikes and Coffee

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

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

Alley Cat Bikes and Coffee


The perfect place to relax in Maastricht?

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

Maastricht in three words:

Both:  Diverse, cosy, vivid.

Alley Cat Bikes and Coffee

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

Alley Cat Bikes and Coffee

Photography and text: © Brian Megens
More photos click here

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

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

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).

werkgroep_inkom_2015

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

Opening MyMaastricht.com

Opening MyMaastricht

© Brian Megens

Yesterday the website www.mymaastricht.com was officially launched. MyMaastricht.com aims at informing international students about life in Maastricht and the Netherlands. The website contains information varying from when the garbage is to be collected to sports & events. Check it out yourself and find everything you need to know about living in Maastricht!
About the opening, there was champagne and food, so yes it was a success!

Opening MyMaastricht

© Brian Megens

Maastricht of.. Onno Hoes, the mayor of Maastricht

You might have heard of this name: Onno Hoes. Whether have heard about him in positive or negative aspect, this doesn’t justify who he really is.  The mayor of Maastricht, whose private life regrettably played a big part on his term in public office, welcomed us with open arms to do this interview. It gave us an insight to a man, who is sympathetic, and with whom you can hold conversation about a wide range of topics.

We were invited to the City Hall on the Markt on a sunny afternoon. The time for the interview was not that long, but still enough to ask all the questions we had and take some pictures. We hope you enjoy it.

Ashika Baan: What is your favourite bar or restaurant?
Onno Hoes: It really depends on my mood. When I feel like having a drink I might go to Wyck, the neighbourhood in Maastricht that is considered as a young and hip quarter. It has attracted many young entrepreneurs and you can see that when you walk along the Wycker Grachtstraat. Café Zondag and Café Zuid are both nice places to have a drink with a nice atmosphere.
When I want something more traditional, there’s a wide variety of Michelin-star and highly praised restaurants that Maastricht is known for. It’s good to visit when your parents are in town, for instance!
However, on a Friday night you will find me at home after a long week, relaxing from the busy days that I’ve had.

Onno Hoes Interview

AB: What is a leading event in Maastricht that is important to you?
OH: This year I visited Bruis, a free music festival, spread out over 3 days. There were people of all age groups and the festival itself was different from anything I’ve seen before. It was refreshing and definitely worth being an annual tradition for Maastricht.
Of course, the concert that André Rieu gives each year are so typical for Maastricht, something you can’t NOT think of when considering Maastricht.

Onno Hoes Interview

AB: Where do you go to experience culture and art?
OH: I think that with the TEFAF (biggest European art fair in Maastricht) there is a certain expectation that Maastricht is a base for creative arts. This could be increased by opening more galeries, using empty premises and creating pop-up galeries throughout Maastricht. Of course, we have the Bonnefantenmuseum, which has amazing exhibits, definitely worth a visit!

AB: What is Maastricht’s best kept secret?
OH: I think the city wall is a very nice place to go for a walk, and experience the ambiance and history that Maastricht breathes, which you can’t just see when you walk through the shopping streets. When you walk past the University Library you see the remnants of the old, Roman city that Maastricht once was. Very interesting for the international students that come here!

Onno Hoes Interview

AB: What is your best memory of Maastricht?
OH: The first time I came to Maastricht, was when my sister Isa Hoes (actress, screenplay writer) was studying at the theater academy here. I remember walking from Wyck, over the bridge and loving the short distance between two different parts of the city. The modern and old with a connection through the Servaas-bridge. Another memory I have is when I walked with my ex-husband Albert Verlinde through Maastricht in 2002, I fell in love again with the city, which made it easy to be a mayor!

AB: Which person (historical figure, old friend) would you like to show Maastricht to?
OH: I think I’d like to show the Count of Artagnan (aka d’Artagnan, yes from the books of Dumas, the musketeers..), who died at the gates of Maastricht. I’d like to show him that Maastricht is free of the French reign.

AB: What is unique about Maastricht and the contact it has with the University?
OH: The collaboration that the Municipality of Maastricht has with the University is a very fruitful one. There is a special agena that the Municipal Council has with the Executive Board of the University. They meet once in a while to discuss the growth of the faculties and to tackle the phenomenon of too little student housing, which has been quite successful!
Something that I’d like to see change is that students come from far and close, but never stay in the region. There is a trend of young people leaving Limburg, when the province needs these young entrepreneurs and people of this generation. In my view more could be done to facilitate that more young people staying here.

Onno Hoes Interview

AB: What do you do to unwind or relax after a long day?
OH: I go home, open a window, hear the church bells and I feel happy.  A lucky person to be able to fulfil the position of mayor here. These moments of silent noise (so to speak) make me appreciate every day even more. Like a sunday morning!

AB: What makes Maastricht stand out?
OH: The fact that people value a high quality of living, is something that can really be felt here in Maastricht. People want quality in their living experience: food, clothes, going out. There is attention for you as a person here, there is room for entrepreneurship, good service and Maastricht provides that, which I think is special!

AB: Can you describe Maastricht in 3 words?
OH: International, young, dynamic.

AB: What would you recommend people that are new in Maastricht to do?
OH: I would tell them to give yourself to the city. In order to experience the city, don’t plan, just go into the center, walk around and see the churches, shopping people, beautiful architecture and history that the city oozes. This will make Maastricht worthwhile 🙂

Interview and text by Ashika Baan, Photgraphy by 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:
http://maastricht.startuppirates.org/

Maastricht of.. Judith Oostwegel-van Uden

Introduction
It was an absolute pleasure to do this interview with mrs. Oostwegel-van Uden, wife of Camille Oostwegel and together the driving force behind the Camille Oostwegel group, owners of several big restaurant and hotel properties. Mrs. Oostwegel was a perfect hostess and showed us around a lot of the incredible rooms of the Kruisherenhotel, where we met her for the interview.

There is a certain feel within the hotel and the staff that makes you feel at ease and what I thought was so special was that even as the owner of many big hotels, Judith greeted all the staff by their first names and it was very telling for the kind of business she and her husband run. They do a lot of stuff for their employees, by treating them well and making sure that even though the work is serious, everybody is the best version of themselves because of additional education and courses offered by the owners to further them in their career within the business

Judith being interviewed by Ashika

Judith being interviewed by Ashika

 

Ashika Baan: What is your favourite bar or place to have a bite?
Judith Oostwegel: I love sitting in the wine bar of the Kruisheren Hotel. It’s a unique place because of the surrounding architecture and it’s very cozy! For lunch I always recommend Château Neercanne, where a changing menu is set at the price of € 35,-. Museum aan het Vrijthof is also amazing to have a cup of tea and of course the Dominicanenchurch, in which there is a bookstore and a lovely coffeeplace.

AB: Where do you like to shop in Maastricht?
JO: I like going to Kiki Niesten, where they sell a beautifully curated collection. For a sportier outfit, the Scapa Shop here always makes me happy. I feel very at home in their clothes.
What I think is very special for Maastricht, is the Hermès store here. The Martens family really put in a lot of effort to have one here, and it definitely shows people that Maastricht is important.
All in all, Maastricht has shops with beautiful collections, stuff you don’t often find in the rest of the country. The place to shop is Wyck. It’s such a young and energetic neighbourhood with a lot of new entrepreneurs.

Part of the restaurant in the Kruisherenhotel

Part of the restaurant in the Kruisherenhotel

AB: What is your favourite event in Maastricht?
JO: I think the biggest and best event in Maastricht is and has been the TEFAF (The European Fine Art Fair), which is basically 10 days of amazing! 10 days of being able to see all the art. It’s also a good location to do some networking.
Another thing that is so unique for Maastricht is that André Rieu has really put a stamp on it by giving his annual concerts in the summer. It’s actually a nice thing to take your parents to (wink wink, students). There are special André Rieu arrangements at the hotels and restaurants, which are nice to take advantage of.

AB: Where do you like to go to experience some culture?
JO: I think the Bonnefantenmuseum has really interesting collections, put together by Stijn Huijts. Of course, the previously mentioned Museum aan het Vrijthof is also really nice. Furthermore, Marres is amazing, diverse place to experience different aspects of art (even food), and Lumière for a good art house movie.

Details of the foyer of the Kruisherenhotel

Details of the foyer of the Kruisherenhotel

AB: What is Maastricht’s “best-kept secret”?
JO: I think the observance place on the Sint Pietersberg is a very good place, probably not so secret, but definitely worth your while.

AB: What is your best memory of Maastricht?
JO: It would have to be when the Kruisheren Hotel opened. There had been years and years of renovating it before this day arrived and when it did, it was magical. There was a mass in the Sint Servaas church, after which everybody came together in Theater aan het Vrijthof, where my husband, Camille Oostwegel, was being honoured for being an entrepreneur for 25 years. As a present he got a beautiful Deux Chevaux Charleston, which was given in cooperation with all the employees. It was an emotional moment, because the Hotel was supposed to be our last project together, but now we’ve already started on another one at Château St. Gerlach, where we’re implementing technology so it runs as much as possible on solar energy. That’s how we try to make our properties as self-supporting as possible.

Judith showing one of the rooms. Beautiful!

Judith showing one of the rooms. Beautiful!

AB: Which person would you like to show Maastricht to?
JO: Azzedine Alaïa, the fashion designer, because of the versatility of Maastricht, with its arty and unique culture and heritage. It’s very modern with the academies present in Maastricht, yet very conserving of the rich history that has passed. I think it would inspire this fashion designer.

AB: What about Maastricht makes it so nice to live and work here?
JO: it’s unique because Maastricht is the gateway to Europe. Within a short moment you’re in Belgium, Germany or even France. Someone living in Brussels can easily work in Maastricht.
And the fact of the matter is that people here speak 3 languages extra (French, German, English). Furthermore, the safety of Maastricht feels like a warm cocoon.

AB: How would you describe Maastricht in 3 words?
JO: Small is beautiful!

Details of a room at Kruisherenhotel

Details of a room at Kruisherenhotel

 

This already ends the interview we did with mrs. Oostwegel. For more, look further on our blog. Enjoy!

Interview and text by Ashika Baan, Photography by Brian Megens

For more photos of the hotel and interview, click here

Maastricht of… Carmen Hermans

We start off this series with a very well-known surname: Hermans. You may have heard of ‘Bekkerij Mathieu Hermans’ from locals or fellow students, who told you where to get the best ‘Vlaai’ in Maastricht.
We got the chance to catch up with the woman who keeps the family-owned bakery business running, the face of the company for 7 years now, Carmen Hermans!

As we were invited to sit just outside the shop with a nice coffee, and a waffle (see picture below), we got talking about how she took over the business from her father, who followed in his own father’s footsteps.

SAMSUNG CSC

We were welcomed with this sight. Mmmm! © Brian Megens

According to Carmen, her father was the one that made the bakery a famous concept in Maastricht, offering bread, pastries, and tarts to the people of Maastricht according to the original family recipes. As Carmen tells us about her whole family helping out in the bakery, her face lights up. Her uncles and aunts used to and still work in the bakery, and the bakers still use fresh eggs that come from the chicken of other family members. As we get to know the history bit by bit, it becomes clear that it’s a successful family concept, which makes it very accessible to clients.

When asked how many ‘vlaaien’ the bakery sells a day, Carmen responds with an estimation of between 60-200 per day. When they see that a lot of vlaaien will be sold, the bakers make an additional batch to sell in the afternoon. That way there’s always enough. Carmen further explains that all the fruit used to make their vlaaien are from surrounding farms and orchards, with as a season special the open-plum vlaai.

A strawberry vlaai

A strawberry vlaai. © Brian Megens

As we’re sitting outside of the bakery, which has just been shut due to the summer schedule, a family steps out of a car, walking to the store with anticipation, only to be disappointed in a major way. Apparently they were on their way back from Spain to the North of Holland. They had made a special detour through Maastricht just for the famous vlaai of Bakkerij Mathieu Hermans. This is just a sign of how popular the family-owned bakery is, known throughout the whole of the Netherlands.

The bakery in the morning

The bakery in the morning. © Brian Megens

Ashika Baan: “What are your favourite places in Maastricht to have a drink, a bite and coffee?”
Carmen Hermans: “For coffee I love to go to Museum aan ‘t Vrijthof, where you can sit under a glass ceiling. Not by coincidence, they sell our vlaaien, it’s definitely worth a visit. For drinks and hanging out with friends I recommend Café Zondag, which has a very nice vibe. When going for a nice bite to eat in the evening Café Sjiek is great. With a nice variety of food and drinks you can always relax and enjoy the evening on their terrace or inside.

During the interview outside the bakery

During the interview outside the bakery. © Brian Megens

AB: “What is your favourite shop?
CH: “I don’t have that much time to shop overall, because I’m pretty busy with the bakery, but a shop worth mentioning that I love, is Festen, which is located in the Minckelersstraat. You can have coffee there, but also interior decoration, clothing, stationary and jewellery.”

AB: “What is your favourite event in Maastricht throughout the year?
CH: “Well, something that is quite obvious for me and my business, is the Preuvenemint (28-31 August), a big, annual food and drinks fair, which is located on the Vrijthof. Something lesser-known, but also very nice, with an amazing atmosphere is BBkoe, which is a cooperation of all the restaurant-people in the Koestraat, there’s live music, barbecues and nice drinks throughout the area. This year it takes place on the 24th of August, so definitely worth a visit.

AB: “Where do you go for art and culture?”
CH: -laughs- “My head is practically in the oven, so I don’t have that much time to do this, but I would say the Bonnefantenmuseum is one that you can’t miss. What’s also very nice, is the one-day music festivals that are organised for students and young professionals, much like Piquenique Électronique.

Carmen Hermans outside the bakery

Carmen Hermans outside the bakery. © Brian Megens

AB: “What is Maastricht’s best kept secret?”
CH: “There’s a little square, between the Stokstraat and the Onze-Lieve-Vrouweplein. It’s when you walk past ‘In de Moriaan’. The terrace of restaurant Rozemarijn overlooks this secret square. It’s super serene and somewhat desolate, but it’s very nice to be there and to sit.”

AB: “What is the best memory that you have here in Maastricht?”
CH: “One time a customer wanted to get a vlaai from our bakery, but there was a huge cue. Instead he took one of our vlaai-boxes and put in a vlaai from another shop. When his wife tasted it, she wanted to return it, because she thought it not satisfactory. He had to tell her that it wasn’t actually one of our vlaaien.”

AB: “Which person or historical figure would you like to show Maastricht to?”
CH: “I would like to show my grandfather, the one who started Bakkerij Mathieu Hermans, around the Maastricht of this day. I used to have a good relation with him, so I would take him to Café Sjiek and have a wine. I would also love to show him what the shop looks like now. Compared to former times the bakery has become more versatile. It has more personality, more services and there’s a focus on the clients and keeping the standard high. My dad really shaped the bakery to what it is now. I think my grandfather would be proud.”

AB: “What do you do to unwind after work and relax?”
CH: “After work I go home, my second business is my family.” -laughs-
I also love to take an hour off and to go for a work-out, which I love to do at Zenden Sport, here in Maastricht. I also have a passion for good food, so to relax I can also go with friends and family to a nice restaurant and enjoy the Burgundian lifestyle that Maastricht is known for.

AB: “Describe Maastricht in 3 words.”
CH: “Burgundian, Beautiful, Southern (mentality)

An assortiment of breads

An assortiment of breads.© Brian Megens

After the lovely afternoon we had with Carmen, she showed us through the back of the bakery, with the big, impressive machinery, used to produce the big load of breads and pastries each day to a big number of clients. The following day we return for some good pictures of the bakery in full motion. It’s a sight to see with your own eyes!

To visit the bakery, see the opening hours and what the bakery has to offer, go to the website.

 

 

Interview by Ashika Baan, Photography by Brian Megens.