Giving students a voice with Maarten Butink

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

Interview, photography, and text: Valentin Calomme


Who is Maarten?

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

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

What does a student assessor do?

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


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

Why did you want to apply for the position?

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


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

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

What do you want to accomplish as a student assessor?

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

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


Where do you see yourself in the future?

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

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


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 (

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (

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 (

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (

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 (

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (

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 (

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (

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 (

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (

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 (

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (

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 (

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (

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

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 (

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 (

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!
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 (

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!

© 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


Coffee Bars in Maastricht: Bandito Espresso

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

Bandito Espresso FASoS
Jeroen & Diënne

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

Bandito Espresso FASoS

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

Bandito Espresso FASoS

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

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

Bandito Espresso FASoS

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

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

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

Bandito Espresso FASoS
The FASoS Common Room

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

Bandito Espresso FASoS

Bandito Espresso FASoS

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

Bandito Espresso FASoS
Enjoy their soup in the Bandito garden

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

Bandito Espresso FASoS

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

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

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

Bandito Espresso FASoS

Bandito Espresso FASoS

Text: Karissa Atienza
Photos: Brian Megens

Coffee Bars in Maastricht: Alley Cat Bikes and Coffee

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

Alley Cat Bikes and Coffee

Alley Cat Bikes and Coffee

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

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

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

Alley Cat Bikes and Coffee

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

Alley Cat Bikes and Coffee

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

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

Alley Cat Bikes and Coffee

The perfect place to relax in Maastricht?

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

Maastricht in three words:

Both:  Diverse, cosy, vivid.

Alley Cat Bikes and Coffee

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!


Opening MyMaastricht

© Brian Megens

Yesterday the website was officially launched. 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


Maastricht of.. Judith Oostwegel-van Uden

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.


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.