IFMSA: not just for medical students
Going by the name, you might think that only medical students would be welcome at IFMSA: the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations. But among the members of the Maastricht branch of this international organisation, there are also Biomedical sciences or Health sciences students. In fact, the four committee members explain from their crowded room between Universiteitssingel 40 and 50, any UM student who would like to work for global health is welcome. This is actually what attracted them to IFMSA themselves. ‘And the fact that you learn new things,’ says treasurer and second-year Biomedical Sciences student Frederike Vrouenraets. ‘I didn’t used to be able to do my own bookkeeping, but I can now.’
Dr House and sick teddy bears
IFMSA has five working groups, each with around 15 members. Interested students apply to a working group and then help to organise one of the many activities of this working group. Three times a year there’s a ‘Dr House’ event, in which students watch an episode of the TV series and then take part in a critical discussion with a medical specialist in the field that featured in the episode. And for one week a year, primary school children can bring their ‘sick’ teddy bears to see the doctor. ‘A lot of medical students participate on a one-off basis, and it takes a lot of organisation,’ says third-year medical student and IFMSA chair Daphne van Ierland. ‘You’re exhausted by the end of the day, but it’s really nice to do.’
In 2016, the City of Maastricht and UM jointly founded Match. Match acts as an initiator and intermediary to connect the supply of socially engaged student volunteers with demand in the community.
This is the second episode in a short series about Maastricht students’ reasons for choosing different kinds of volunteering. Only four other student organisations will be mentioned in the end, but there are obviously many more student organisations active in Maastricht. For more examples, see the UM website.
A bit of a butt…
Another popular activity is recruiting new organ donors at the hospital. And there’s also the Carpe Diem project, in which volunteers take elderly people to the cinema, or fulfil a wish in some other way. IFMSA-NL runs many activities at a more national level, but Maastricht can also come up with its own ideas. One of them was the ‘I’m Perfect Healthy Fashion Show’, in which ‘models with a healthy weight’ present a realistic image of a healthy body under a snappy Dutch slogan which loosely translates as ‘a bit of a butt is also healthy’. At the end of the academic year, the committee produces an annual report. ‘When you see the list of everything that’s been done, it does make you feel a bit proud’, says Frederike.
You can spend most of your time as a student in the library with a book or in the bar with a beer, of course – both are important in your student days. But it’s great to see that there are students in Maastricht who choose to devote some of their free time to society. I firmly believe that this benefits not only society, but also the students themselves. By working together, we can all help to improve society. I’d like to compliment all the students who realise this at such a young age.