The Essence of UCM
Now that I have survived an entire period of studying at the University College, plus a full “reflection” week, I think I am finally qualified to blog about the University College, and what exactly, I love about it.
What is unique about UCM to most European student is the fact that it is a Liberal Arts college. At UCM we choose one of three concentrations: social sciences, humanities, or sciences (or in some cases two of the three concentrations) and then build our major from courses within our chosen concentration, plus a few outside of the concentration. Most people build a more specific focus within their concentration such as psychology or international relations. As an American, the concept of Liberal Arts has never been foreign to me as many American colleges offer majors in Liberal Arts. It’s impossible for me to compare UCM’s Liberal Arts program to American Liberal Arts programs, as I’ve never attended college in the U.S., but there is something about UCM that makes me sure no school- American or not- could be the same.
During my first week in Maastricht, when I told people I was studying at the University College, I got one of three reactions: a) “What’s that?” b) An awkward unenthusiastic, “That’s an… interesting place.” or c) “You’ll love it.” I have to say that the second reaction was probably the most common. Many people seem to have the idea that UCM is made op of a closed group of “interesting” people who never venture outside the doors of UCM. The interesting people part is true in every sense. Everyone you talk to at UCM has a different story; from being half of one nationality and half of another, but having lived somewhere else their whole life to having spent their lives at an American school in China, or having lived all over Europe, or having lived in Africa with parents who work for famous charity organizations. Everyone dresses differently, wears their hair differently, and speaks English with a different kind of accent. As for the idea that UCM students stick together and never mix with students from the other faculties, that depends on who you talk to. Personally, I find it true that there is a certain element of comfort within the doors of UCM. There is always someone sitting in the common room who you can talk too, or a newspaper laying on one of the big wooden tables just begging to be read. And why should I fight my way through the crowded public library when I can sit in UCM’s warm reading room and study for hours without being interrupted? But, just because I love being at UCM doesn’t mean that I don’t love venturing into the cafés on a week night to join the masses of other students, and I love my student sports association that is a mix of people from different faculties. And then there is Maastricht. Maastricht is Maastricht because of ALL the students. It is the groups of law students, and economics students, and all the students from the other faculties together that make Maastricht such a nice student city.
A month or so ago a fellow UCM student said, while convincing me to attend an open mic night at UCM that it was the “essence” of UCM. He said that over a couple of weeks when I felt like I was dying from stress because of exams and wondering why I ever chose to attend UCM, that I could think about things like the open mic night and remember why I love UCM. He was right about the open mic night. Within the variety and the quality of the performances: Mumford & Sons songs, gymnastics, an extemporaneous piano performance, and an exceptional poem about the love between a toothbrush and a bicycle tire, the essence of UCM hung thick in the air. But the “essence” doesn’t end there. It is in Waffle Wednesdays, when the student organization sells waffles for fifty cents. It is found in the e-mails from the management reminding us to speak English during the breaks. It is in the post on Eleum, about reflection week: encouraging us to spend the week cooking food, listening to good music, and reading the books we haven’t had time to read lately. Even during the exams, the essence of UCM was there, in the communal feeling of stress hanging over the reading room and in the much-needed breaks taken together in the common room.
To sum it up, I love UCM, and there is no place I would rather be studying. Teun Dekker said it perfectly during the UCM introduction days, “The cause endures, the work goes on, the hope still lives, and the dream will never die.”
About the author
Sofia studied in University College Maastricht. She was a contributor to the Maastricht Students blog from September 2011 to April 2012.