“I found a home away from home”
“I was born in South Africa, my mum is from Taiwan and I grew up in Cyprus. With this background, plus the many international internships I did during high school, it was quite natural for me to choose a study programme abroad.”
“Most Cypriots choose the UK or Greece as their first choice of study location, so I wanted to go somewhere really strange to me. I met people who were positive about their studies in Maastricht and I found the bachelor’s in European Law: a programme with a good curriculum, taught in English.”
Do you like it so far?
“The whole experience has exceeded my expectations. If you had told me five years ago, when I started my bachelor’s, that I’d still be in Maastricht today, I wouldn’t have believed you. The sense of community here is great; within the university you’re not a number and you build relationships very easily. I sometimes miss the weather and the food from Cyprus, but apart from that, I found a home away from home here.”
Are your new friends mainly from your home country?
“No, to the contrary. When I first arrived, there were about ten Cypriots at the university. That number has risen over the years, but I never felt the urge to stick exclusively with them. When you go abroad, you have to maximise the experience for yourself, which means exposing yourself to other cultures and people. In my first year, I shared a house with a Brazilian, a Malaysian and a Japanese guy. They’re now good friends of mine. The one from Brazil even flew over for my bachelor’s graduation ceremony last year.”
What’s your experience with the International Classroom in Maastricht?
“It’s a place where you make new friends. It creates a space for you to connect with different realities and perspectives on both an academic and a social level. If the atmosphere is informal and you’re in the room with open-minded people, as most of us in Maastricht are, it really works. You connect with one another and you hear perspectives on solving problems that you’d never imagined before. For example, what human rights means to me can differ from what it means to a German, or someone from China. Or the question whether the burqa should be criminalised. Unconsciously, you develop skills that I think will be very beneficial for a future career.”
Why do you think it’s important to have international students at a Dutch university?
“I think universities have an important role to play in today’s society, given the rise of populism, extremism and more. As an international university you can have a positive impact on these challenges, because on a smaller scale, you prove that it’s possible to coexist peacefully while keeping your own identity.”
What are your future plans?
“I plan to finish my master’s in the summer of 2018. I’ve worked a lot alongside my studies, for the Faculty of Law, organising the Ambassador Lecture Series for students, and now at the university’s department of Academic Affairs. I like it a lot in Maastricht and would like to stay as long as possible, to give back to the university what I’ve gained here.”
By: Femke Kools