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

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

Interview, and text: Valentin Calomme


Why did you come to Maastricht?

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


What was the first project you worked on?

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


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

What other projects are you currently working on?

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

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


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

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

What are your plans for the future?

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

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


What advice would you want to give incoming students?

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

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

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

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

Giving students a voice with Maarten Butink

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

Interview, photography, and text: Valentin Calomme


Who is Maarten?

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

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

What does a student assessor do?

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


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

Why did you want to apply for the position?

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


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

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

What do you want to accomplish as a student assessor?

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

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


Where do you see yourself in the future?

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

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


The Australian Kitchen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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:

MUSST with Anouk Pouwelse

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

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



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

UM Sports Gym

UM Sports Gym

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

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

UM Sports

UM Sports

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



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

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

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 (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

Ambassador Lecture Series – Roadmap to Peace?

It is an incredible feat to have the highest representatives of Israel and Palestine in the Netherlands in one table openly talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The event is a testament to the hard work of the Ambassador Lecture Series team, the United Nations Student Association Maastricht (UNSA) and the European Law Students’ Association (ELSA) Maastricht. Not surprising given the contentious topic, it took more than a year of planning and organisation for the event to materialise. Our two student reporters, Brian Megens and Karissa Atienza, attended the lecture for this blog.
Text: Karissa Atienza
Text & Photography: Brian Megens

© Brian Megens

Ambassador Lecture Series, Israel-Palestine Dialogue, H.E. Mr Haim Divon

H.E. Mr Haim Divon represented the State of Israel. A native of Jerusalem, he has served as the Ambassador to the Netherlands since August 2011. Ambassador Divon’s diplomatic career has spanned over three decades, having received postings in India, Sri Lanka, Canada, and Ethiopia.Meanwhile, the State of Palestine was represented by H.E. Dr Nabil Abuznaid, the Head of the Palestinian Delegation to the Netherlands since September 2009. A Hebron local, Dr Abuznaid’s public service dates back to his tenure as a policy advisor to the late Chairman and President of the PLO, Yasser Arafat during the Oslo Peace Negotiations. 

© Brian Megens

Ambassador Lecture Series, Israel-Palestine Dialogue, H.E. Dr. Nabil Abuznaid

The event commenced with introductory remarks from each participant. Ambassador Abuznaid wasted little time for pleasantries and went straight to business, listing a number of instances of Israeli aggression including the 2014 attacks on Gaza and the burgeoning Israeli government-supported settlements in Palestine territories. To this, Ambassador Divon replied with humour, stating that “we don’t get up in the morning and say, what can we do today in order to annoy the rest of world?” He states that the settlements are not the problem. The core of the issue, he says, is the denial of the presence of a Jewish state while the main obstacle to peace is the refusal to sit down and talk. Ambassador Abuznaid recognises and respects the right of Israel to exist and live in secure borders. However, he is against the Israel policy of occupation. According to him, under this policy, all Palestinians have to go through humiliating checkpoints every day, essentially restricting their freedom and dignity.

© Brian Megens

Ambassador Lecture Series, Israel-Palestine Dialogue

The two student moderators, Jakob Henninger and Adrienne McManus, divert the conversation towards the role of young people in the conflict. Ambassador Abuznaid states that Israeli children are forced to go to war, carrying weapons at 18 years old and patrolling checkpoints. “Why not enjoy the beaches?” he says. He continues that “security comes with peace with your neighbours, all these weapons would not bring security.” Ambassador Divon retorts that if Israel does not send these young men and women to the army, there would be no Israel. The level of threat in this “crazy neighbourhood” requires them to have a strong army, “otherwise, you are out of the game.”

© Brian Megens

Ambassador Lecture Series, Israel-Palestine Dialogue

The conversation turns toward the concept of a two-state solution. Ambassador Divon states that he is very hopeful, but the key is to sit down and talk. However, Ambassador Abuznaid believes that Prime Minister Netanyahu wants to keep the status quo. He believes that Prime Minister Netanyahu will never stop building settlements nor accept a Palestinian state.

© Brian Megens

Ambassador Lecture Series, Israel-Palestine Dialogue

At this point, the floor is opened to questions from the student audience. Maastricht Students reporter Brian Megens who was three weeks in the West Bank for a personal photography project last January, asks to Ambassador Divon whether it is reasonable to expect people who live right next a wall, which is illegal under international law, to set the first steps for peace. Ambassador Divon replies that back when there was no checkpoints and no wall, suicide bombings had killed innocent people. He states that Israel was left with no choice, but he concedes that the wall is “ugly and inconvenient.”

© Brian Megens

Ambassador Lecture Series, Israel-Palestine Dialogue

This is not the first time both ambassadors have sat at the same table in Maastricht. In 2012, Studium Generale organised an event on the Israel-Palestine relationship in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, featuring both ambassadors at the same lecture hall. Have their opinions on the matter changed since then? We do not know. However, one thing is for sure. As a salesman would never say his products are bad, it was in the line of expectations that last week’s Ambassador Lecture Series’ Roadmap to Peace for Israel and Palestine with Ambassadors Divon and Abuznaid provided little concrete solution nor glimmer of hope that the Israeli-Palestine conflict would be resolved anytime soon. The organisation of the Ambassador Lecture Series deserves respect for setting up an event dealing with such high politics. However, taking a more realistic approach for future events might be advisable. Making the two representatives of Israel and Palestine sit together was itself the biggest achievement of the evening as a real dialogue between the two never took off.

© Brian Megens

Amnesty International Maastricht Students (AIMS)

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

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

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

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

© Brian Megens

Magali Mattar

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

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

Méabh Branagan

Méabh Branagan

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

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

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

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

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

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

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

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

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

It is a tricky question and a complex answer.

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

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

© Brian Megens

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

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

Photo: Brian Megens

My Way to Make Money with Yagmur Masmas of aGreenStory

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Brian Megens

Yagmur of a GreenStory

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

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

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

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

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

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


Coffee Bars in Maastricht: Bandito Espresso

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

Bandito Espresso FASoS
Jeroen & Diënne

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

Bandito Espresso FASoS

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

Bandito Espresso FASoS

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

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

Bandito Espresso FASoS

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

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

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

Bandito Espresso FASoS
The FASoS Common Room

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

Bandito Espresso FASoS

Bandito Espresso FASoS

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

Bandito Espresso FASoS
Enjoy their soup in the Bandito garden

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

Bandito Espresso FASoS

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

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

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

Bandito Espresso FASoS

Bandito Espresso FASoS

Text: Karissa Atienza
Photos: Brian Megens

Interview with a UM Cheerleader: Julia Kotamäki

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

Interview and text: Karissa Atienza
Photography: Brian Megens

UM Cheerleading
Julia Kotamäki

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

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

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

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

UM Cheerleading

UM Cheerleading

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

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

UM Cheerleading

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

UM Cheerleading

UM Cheerleading

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

UM Cheerleading

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

UM Cheerleading

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

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

UM Cheerleading

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

UM Cheerleading

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

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

UM Cheerleading

Summer Internship Kuala Lumpur

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

Embassy Philippines Kuala Lumper Summer Internship 2015

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


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

Embassy Philippines Kuala Lumpur Internship Summer 2015

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

Streets of Kuala Lumpur

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

Embassy Philippines Kuala Lumper Summer Internship 2015

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

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

Embassy Philippines Kuala Lumper Summer Internship 2015

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

Embassy Philippines Kuala Lumpur Internship Summer 2015

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

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

Embassy Philippines Kuala Lumper Summer Internship 2015

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

Embassy Philippines Kuala Lumper Summer Internship 2015

Embassy Philippines Kuala Lumper Summer Internship 2015

Photography: Brian Megens

Coffee Bars in Maastricht: KOFFIE

KOFFIE, Joost & Maartje

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

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

KOFFIE, Joost & Maartje

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

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

KOFFIE, Joost & Maartje

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

KOFFIE, Joost & Maartje

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

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

KOFFIE, Joost & Maartje

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

KOFFIE, Joost & Maartje

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

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

KOFFIE, Joost & Maartje

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

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

KOFFIE, Joost & Maartje

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

Maastricht in three words
Cousy, enjoy and discover.

KOFFIE, Joost & Maartje

KOFFIE, Joost & Maartje

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

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

Photography and Text: © Brian Megens

More photos click here

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

Bed versus Couch

Probably you just had your INKOM and either had your own room or stayed at a friend’s place. During my first introduction week, I had a girl from my group staying at my flat for a week, until she had find her own 8m2 room. Perhaps you can consider this as my very first Couchsurfing experience. It turned out well: she is still one of my best friends.

If you are not familiar with Couchsurfing and are looking for alternative ways to travel, than this might be a good option. The Couchsurfing community has been esthablished in 2003 as a nonprofit organization. At the moment, it has over 5.5 million members, being active in 97 000 different cities, in 207 countries. It is a worldwide platform for local hosts and nomads. Hosts offer their so-called Couch to travellers, in return of a home-cooked meal or other favour, such as painting a wall. The website creates an opportunity for international voyagers to connect with the locals and to come closer with the culture of the country.

The thing that makes Couchsurfing special is that it is completely based on trust and mutual respect. There is no money involved and often even not appreciated. The cultural exchange and unique experience are more important.  The mission is “[…] a world made better by travel and travel made richer by connection. Couchsurfers share their lives with the people they encounter, fostering cultural exchange and mutual respect.”(http://www.couchsurfing.com/about/about-us/) The more you interact with the local community, the more special your journey will become in return.

Personally, I cannot agree more with the statement, especially after my own experiences with Couchsurfing. Last year I have travelled through Singapore and Java (Indonesia) with this service and it was the best decision I have ever made. I ended up teaching English in the slums of Jakarta, got on a radio show in Yogjakarta and attended a traditional Indonesian wedding. These specials moments enhanched my journey.

If you don’t like the idea of melting in with the local culture too much or you would like to have your own private room – with Couchsurfing it is usually a surprise how your bed looks like – than I can advice you to have a look at AirBnB. The American firm was erected in 2008 by 2 friends who thought it was a good idea to rent out a spare room out to travellers. They would only stay for a short time so they pumped up some airbeds and the idea of Airbed and Breakfast came into being. Today, AirBnB is almost as big as the Hilton Hotel group, with 3 million guests, booking 10 million nights in 34 000 cities, across 190 countries. Different from Couchsurfing, this is a paid service. You pay the house-owner and AirBnB gets 3% of the fee for bringing the renter and owner in contact.

AirBnB provides an easy way for locals who have a room to spare and would like to earn a little bit extra, cover their rent or would like to meet new people. When you want to stay somewhere but don’t like the high prices hotels offer you, you simply pop online and have a look if there is anything cheap available – very often AirBnB is more affordable than most hotels and hostels.

The different options between private room, shared apartment or a complete house for yourself, make it easy to choose your level of communication you wish to enquire. Whether you want a private castle or a cupboard, you probably can find it on AirBnB. Another plus, especially for highly touristic areas, is that you know where exactly at what location you will end up. Than you are sure that you won’t spend heaps of money on public transport to get to that one particulair church.

So what are the main differences and similarities between these services?

The biggest difference between them is their mission. Couchsurfing is completely based on trust, cultural exchange and social. No money on the table, only favours. If you are thinking “but buying ingredients to cook a meal costs money too!” than you are better of going to a hostel and Couchsurfing is not your thing. It is not about money, it is about being grateful for the unique experience hosts provide you. And that doesn’t have a price tag.

AirBnB’s mission is more commercial and can be seen as a hospitality company. “Unlocking unique spaces, worldwide.” Connecting. Creating. Sharing. Making money. Saving Money. The intension is not necessarily social, however, it is still a good alternative next to standard hotels, as each AirBnB room is different. It opens unique doors, at unique locations.

In my opinion, the most important similarity is the communual idea of sharing. Either you share culture, your couch or inside information, it doesn’t matter, you are sharing something. In that case, it makes an unique way to travel and to explore new places. Choose the way you feel comfortable with. Make your travel experience unique. Make it count.




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!

Willing Working On an Organic Farm

Whether you have just finished your high school, Bachelor or Master, you might start to think about taking a gap year. Australia is one of the countries which offers a one year Working Holiday Visa (WHV). The visa allows you to work and travel for a year, throughout the country. It is a great way to experience its culture, cruise around and earn a bit of money. If one year is not enough, you can apply for a second WHV. However, you need to fit certain requirements. One of them is that you need to have done your 3 months specified work – also known as “the 88 days”.

The 88 days of specified work is explained in Document 1263, which you can find on the Australian immigration website. It tells what kind of work is elidigble and in which region. For example, work in hospitality, in all states, does not count, but picking apples in Tasmania does. It does not matter if you work two weeks here, one month there and another one and a half month somewhere else, as long your employer signs your days off. In any case, it is improtant that you are up to date with the visa regulations and restrictions. There are major consequenses if you fraud your days such as being refused at the boarder or paying a high fine.

So what work is elidigble and what not? Not everything is clearly stated in the Document and it can be utterly frustrating and confusting. The best way to find out is to ask your boss before you start the job or to call the immigration line.

Most jobs which count are positions on cattle stations, mining, fruit picking and pearling. The specified work is not always fun and I would not like to pick mangoes ever again. But everyone has his own favourite and it all depends on where you end up and you want to do or learn.
If you do not like the idea of working long hours for minimum pay in the hot sun with the eyes of an angry manager piercing in your back, than there is something like WWOOFing.

WWOOF stands for Willing Working On an Organic Farm. It means you are volunteering four to six hours on an organic farm in exchange for food and accomodation. To goal is to learn something about farming, the culture and country you are visiting. It is an international organization and even Holland has a department.
WWOOFing jobs can variate from feeding wildlife, planting and harvesting crops to tree planting or conservation work. Part from the learning factor, you will meet people with the same intension – namely, to help and learn – as you and a much friendlier boss who will not scream at you when you accidently put the compost on the zucchini plants instead of the tomatoes. To put in short: the atmosphere and vibe are much better. Plus, you will end up in the most ridiculious places.

Personally, I was lucky enough to learn how to make cheese and herd sheep for two months in Tasmania. How many people can say that they have milked sheep and led them from paddock to paddock? At the moment of writing, I am WWOOFing at a butterfly farm in the Nothern Territory. Every day, I have to catch butterflies, harvest lettuce and tomatoes for the kitchen, maintain the vegetable garden and feed a trizillion of bunny rabbits, chickens, goats and geese.

But there is a problem with the WWOOFing system as well. Many places do not have a register or precise overview of who is staying or going. Owners sign of more days than WWOOFers were actually there and some farms do not treat their volunteers that well. That is why the Australian gournement decided that WWOOFing will not be eligible for the 88 days anymore. WWOOFing has to become paid work.

Is that a problem? I believe so. First of all, the intention of WWOOFing falls away. WWOOFing is volunteering, the persons are in general more mature and care more about what they are doing. A majority of the persons with who I worked told me they like WWOOFing because of the unique experience and the oppertunity to learn something. Above all, it feels good to help someone, especially when you start to see what needs to be done.
Second, many family businesses rely on WWOOFers as they are a cheap way to replace workers. It is not all about the money, that is true. For them WWOOFing is often a liftestyle. They have been working with WWOOFers for years. Their idea is that, every person has its own skills and that is what makes WWOOFing work. One is good in gardnening, the other in cleaning and guys are very helpful when it comes to construction. All these little pieces make one big puzzle.

I cannot more agree with this vision and I truly hope the gouverment changes her mind.

As for now, I keep enjoying my butterfly catching and picking tomatoes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prof. Pogge (left) during his address

Prof. Pogge (left) during his address

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

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

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

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

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Maastricht of… Leo and Rianda Graus of Tribunal

When studying in Maastricht, especially if your faculty is in the city center, you know café Tribunal. Whether it is because you have an occasional coffee or lunch, or because you can relax there after a tough day, it’s the place where you’re sure that you can meet new people and have good service with a smile. And then you see Leo or Rianda, who run Tribunal, their enthusiasm is contagious and makes you smile, however shitty your day may have been.

This couple met 20 years ago (1995) when Leo was working in the café his parents had passed on to him two years prior and Rianda, then working as a stewardess for Lufthansa, was out for a drink with some friends. She thought he probably was one of those guys that carries a lot of baggage and was reluctant to start dating him. However, in 1998, the two married after dating several years.
Though his parents had stopped running the place, they still came for a drink at Tribunal everyday, until it wasn’t possible anymore.

Tribunal is a famous institution in Maastricht, offering so much more than just a drink and good food: providing the theatre students next door with crazy nights (which have a certain reputation of resulting in people dancing on tables), catering to the staff of the law faculty (you can often find the Dean there reading a paper) and accommodating students with their first coffee that day (best coffee in town). We had a talk with the owners and ‘their Maastricht’.

De Tribunal on the inside

Tribunal on the inside

Ashika Baan: What is your favourite bar or restaurant?
Rianda Graus:
As we run our own bar we have some regular spots where we go. I love Il Bacaro, it’s perfect to have a bite, seeing as they have a concept of little dishes, tapas-style, and the quality of the food and drinks are good! In the late hours we like to go to Café Sjiek, which is perfect to have a relaxing drink before going home. Also, in Wyck there’s a new bar called ‘t Wycker Cabinet, which has a nice atmosphere.
Leo Graus adds that Il Bacaro is their go-to place for a nice, light supper and that the concept they offer there is very successful, you don’t feel leaving stuffed, everything is in moderation, plus you can come there quite late and still be served dinner.

AB: Where do you like to go shopping in Maastricht?
Rianda: My style varies a little, but I love the portable line that Scapa provides. You can always find something nice there. Also, Depeche in the Platielstraat is somewhere I like to go when I need something. For classy affairs, Max Mara is ideal, because it’s very chic and you feel very feminine. For jeans I prefer Levi’s, they’re very comfortable and the styles don’t change too much.
Leo: For my clothes I go to Camel Active, it’s simple, classic and not too fussy. As for my shirts there is one place in Maastricht and that is Kölse Tes, in the Maastrichter Smedenstraat, the center. They have beautiful shirts and for shoes of course the well-known Monfrance. I’m pretty easy for clothes actually, he adds, winking.

One of the waitresses serving coffee on the terrace

One of the waitresses serving coffee on the terrace

AB: What is your favourite event in Maastricht?
Rianda: We always go to the TEFAF, the biggest art fair in Europe. The opening night we get tickets for and that night it’s all about people-watching. You see so many interesting people that attend the exclusive opening night, you could write a book about it. We also love the Preuvenemint, the restaurant event in August where approximately 30 restaurants and caterers from the region show their best and provide the public with little amuse-bouche sized bites, while drinking a cocktail and listening to music. The event lasts for several days and the Sunday is always synonymous for the night that the locals come (Maastrichtenaren), so you can find us there.

AB: Where do you go to experience culture and art?
Rianda: Well, the TEFAF, as mentioned before is a great place to enjoy art, there’s more art in one place than 10 different museum exhibitions could house. Of course, we have a close connection to the Theatre Academy next door to Tribunal, so we go to their performances and end-of-year pieces. Also, we both really love the opera, so you can find us once a year in Verona, where we visit the opera. I love Puccini, and my dream is to see Nabucco in Verona, unfortunately this year we’re going to miss it, but it will happen some day!
LG: I love to listen to jazz music, and of course, as Rianda said we love the opera.
But when you pick up our Ipod, you will find all sorts of music. Ranging from Elvis Presley to Maria Callas.

Leo and Rianda

Leo and Rianda

AB: What is a unique experience that makes Maastricht so special?
Rianda: When you wake up early and you see Maastricht is starting to rise, you can see people walking to work, going about their business. Also, something that never ceases to take my breath away is when you stand in Wyck on one side of the river and you look at the other side, Maastricht city center, with the sun shining on it. That is magical.
Leo: I’m a real chauvinist; there is nothing more beautiful than Maastricht to me.

AB: Which person (historical figure, old friend) would you like to show Maastricht to?
Rianda: I think it if Jacques Brel would’ve written a song about Maastricht it would be a song showing you the impossible and doomed choice of staying here and leaving this place. It’s poetic.
Leo: I think I’d show my grandfather around. He would’ve loved to see what Maastricht has become.

AB: Where do you go to relax?
Leo and Rianda: We go home to relax. For us it’s an oasis of peace and quiet. We live outside the city, and in our free time we keep busy in the garden and by cooking. We have a passion for cooking, mostly Italian, but not too long Leo made this amazing Tandoori, marinated and then prepared in our Green Egg (a ceramic barbecue, in the shape of a green egg, obviously). We love to cook with it.

The newly-established terrace

The newly-established terrace

AB: What is the main reason to have a shop or your business in Maastricht?
Leo: You have a chance to grow in Maastricht. We just opened our terrace outside, and it’s something we’ve been busy with for a while. The chance to make more of what you have is a good thing in the entrepreneurial spheres. As a café we don’t want to stand still, we’re always busy with something new, more innovative.
Rianda: It’s true, sometimes I wonder what I would do if we didn’t have Tribunal. I thought about it some time ago and I think I would start a dog kennel, you know, in the style of Cesar Milan, dogs that could run around and be free.
LG: Also, Maastricht is unique in the sense that it offers you top-notch quality in different sectors: fashion, gastronomy etc. Everything that happens here, happens well! The only thing that’s not so good for the region is the blossoming ageing of the population. Since all the jobs are in the North of the Netherlands, in the so-called Randstad, young people move out of Maastricht. We should do more to keep talent here. It’s also a shame because in the summer all the students have gone and we have a very quiet 6 weeks here.

AB: Describe Maastricht in 3 words.
RG: Sjoen, Sjink, Sjeng (literal translation: beautiful, ham, local. Originating from a Maastrichtian song)
LG: delicious, cozy, beautiful.

Some regulars reading the paper

Some regulars reading the paper

Once they’re done with Tribunal, the couple will probably move back to Maastricht, as we can conclude, you can’t live without Maastricht, it’s uniquely fascinating.

Interview conducted by Ashika Baan, photography by Brian Megens. Click here for more pictures.

FIRE AWAY! Questions you had, we asked the lifesavers of Maastricht..

On a sunny March day Brian and I biked to the fire department of Maastricht to conduct an interview with the officer of duty and specialist in fire prevention and risk management, Jos Loijens. We had met him at one of the ‘Get Involved’ fairs at the Student Service Center, where a playfully informative video was being shown (A Different Night Out, watch here). When he told us that reaching students was considerably tough for them, we offered to do this article.

As we entered the fire department, it seemed like a very gloomy building, but that was just the first perception. Once we stood on the roof terrace with its rooftop pond, complete with little ducks and plants, we appreciated this very unique building and its architecture.

Oase of peace, comes to mind..

Oasis of peace, comes to mind..

As we sipped our coffee in the sun, Jos told us that the pond on the roof was initially meant as a water reserve for the fire trucks. However after a while it became clear that with whole duck families settling down and using the pond, the water wasn’t clean enough. But that wasn’t a problem, as the firemen on duty started feeding the ducks, very adorable!

As to what Jos had to say about student safety and fire prevention in student houses. He explained that when students come to Maastricht and live away from their parents for the first time, they tend to enjoy themselves a lot. That’s something that Brian and I could definitely agree to. The freedom and beauty of a new city, with new friends and (seemingly) no rules are what make student life so wonderful and liberating!

The thick costumes the firemen have to wear are pretty heavy..!

The thick costumes the firemen have to wear are pretty heavy..!

However, the other side of the coin is somewhat less amazing… Reduced safety in student houses, stolen property, robberies and other incidents that all of us would rather avoid, are what can occur. Especially when you live with many housemates, the risk of any of the aforementioned taking place only increases.
What to do?

Jos told us a story of a student house in the Rechtstraat, where a fire started in the kitchen. Of course there were several apartments on the floors above, forcing the students to crawl into the gutter on the roof until the firemen came to save them. Why didn’t these students know that a fire had started in time to put it out? Because there was no smoke alarm!
I know, I know, smoke alarms are annoying. We’ve all been irritated endlessly by an alarm with nearly empty batteries, making the torture techniques used by secret agencies look tame. However, Jos told us that FIRE ALARMS SAVE LIVES! It’s not something to be taken lightly, as he also told us that too many casualties happen due to lack of this essential household friend.

Rooftop interview!

Rooftop interview pt. 2

The firemen in Maastricht work closely with the student police officer, Paul Vermin, because fire prevention and burglary deterrence go hand in hand. Within one of the taskforces, a behavioral scientist was added, to provide more insight in how students go about their own safety.
Of course, students aren’t the only ones that can do more to promote a safe student life. The owners of the student houses, our landlords, can do more than they usually do. When more than 5 people live in the same house, there are certain municipal rules that the landlords have to abide by.
However, we all know that some landlords are less willing to make sure that their tenants’ safety is secure.
In the scenario where your landlord isn’t making sure that your house is safe, open a dialogue with the other tenants to positively encourage your landlord to start making the house in order. This is the first advice that Jos wants to give to students! However, when that attempt proves to be futile, go to the competent authority: the municipality!

Hazmat suits, as the name already gives away, these are to protect the courageous men from hazardous materials.

Hazmat suits, as the name already gives away, these are to protect the courageous men from hazardous materials.

If you have questions about your safety and what you can do to improve it, don’t hesitate to contact the local fire department via the following email-address: info@brwzl.nl

For a checklist of things you can improve AS YOU READ THIS:

  • Fire alarms?
  • Order and tidiness of your room?
  • Too many extension cables?
  • Ash trays?
  • Kitchen, and especially gas?

Other things that the firemen of Maastricht have dealt with are not fire-related:

  • A few students decided to have a party in their student house. The rooms were situated on the first floor. A lot of people attended, which made the rooms overcrowded. Not only was this not safe with regard to a possible fire, but the weight of the students combined made the floor collapse. Suddenly a bunch of students had entered the downstairs neighbor’s apartment in a very unpleasant way.
  • A few students lived near the Heugemerweg in a house with a furnace. This heating device is known for its unsafe properties. The students were hanging their clothes on a wire connected to this heater. After a while the lever on the furnace broke and a big amount of carbon monoxide was released in the house. The students had to be taken to hospital, after which they decided to get a CO-monitor, a safe decision!

After the interview Jos showed us the rest of the fire department, complete with garage and training places of the firemen. Very interesting and inspiring to see!
The practice horse you see on one of these pictures is the first one in the Netherlands. Jos, a horse lover, made sure that one would come so the firemen could practice for a case when a horse would be stuck under a heavy object, it happens more often than you think!

Rooftop interview pt. 2

Rooftop interview pt. 2

We hope you enjoyed this article. To see more pictures that were made during this day, click here.

To watch the informative video that was made for YOU about not only fire hazards, but also other possibilities of not being safe, click this link!

Interview and article by Ashika Baan, Photos by Brian Megens

America: the Country of Unlimited Portions!

EuroSim 2015, Skidmore College Saratoga Springs NY

Skidmore  College, Saratoga Springs NY, the first American university that I experience first-hand. I am aware of America’s campus-culture which stands in strong contrast with the more loosely organised style of student life at most, if not all European university. However, this observation on American campus-culture is largely based on American Pie movies and media coverage which cannot really be called objective. Therefore, I see my trip to Skidmore College as the perfect opportunity to test this hypothesis. I am in Saratoga Springs to represent FASoS during EuroSim, a simulation of the European Institutions, and stay here for 5 days. Although I’m not sleeping on campus I do have most of my lunches and dinners there, and that’s exactly what strikes me most about the campus-culture: the overload of food. Lunch on the first day of the convention is my first encounter with the cafeteria. I feel like walking in an all-inclusive holiday resort with various different fresh-cooking corners, ice-cream and waffle machines, twelve kinds of cereals, fresh pizza corner, Asian corner, veggie corner, Western dinner and buffet corner etc. I cannot believe that I am in an educational institute. Overenthusiastically, I walk around without realising my plate looks like a bad miniature version of the Eifel tower and I need a second plate to fulfil my demands. In short, as always with the all-you-can-eat concept, I prove the theory of diminishing returns and I feel like never eating again at the end of my lunch.

EuroSim 2015 Skidmore College

EuroSim 2015, Skidmore College Saratoga Springs NY

EuroSim 2015, Skidmore College Saratoga Springs NY

At first sight, the concept seems great: a central place for all students to have their meals with a wide variety to choose from. However, it also makes me think about its disadvantages. First, it is well-known that the Western world, specifically America, has a growing problem with obesity and I don’t think that all-you-can-eat cafeterias in universities help address the problem. Second,  studying in America isn’t cheap to say the least and having a cafeteria that cost each student around $12.000 a year does not help. Third, having unlimited access to put food on your plate increases the amount of food waste. Fourth, students do not learn to cook for themselves. I know that not having to cook or doing groceries save time, and thus can be seen as an advantage. However, I genuinely enjoy my daily walk to the supermarket where I can enjoy free coffee (honestly it isn’t bad in Helmstraat), and start my hunt for the latest offers which save me a lot of money on my monthly grocery budget. Furthermore, I know how much food my body needs on a daily basis and by buying my own groceries I feel less tempted to overload my plate.

EuroSim 2015 Skidmore College

EuroSim 2015 Skidmore College

Personally I loved my time in the Skidmore College cafeteria but I was more than happy to return to my daily walk to the supermarket. Moreover, summer is coming so my body needs to be beach ready!

All photos © Brian Megens

Australia Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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