From Stirling to Maastricht: ‘Multiculturalism is what makes me feel at home!’

Following on from Meghann’s post yesterday, another account of life after French at Stirling. Iida Friman graduated with a BA Hons in French and Human Resource Management last year and is currently halfway through a Masters programme in the Netherlands:

“After graduating from Stirling last June, I wanted to continue my studies somewhere in central Europe. I chose to apply and got accepted to do my masters in Maastricht, the oldest city in the Netherlands and the birthplace of the European Union. I fell in love with the lively city of Maastricht the minute I got here.

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With an urban population of over 120 000, Maastricht is a “small big city”. It is full of art and wherever you go, it’s beautiful. There’s old, there’s new, there’s water, parks and nature. You’ll find animals and historic sights, brand new business quarters and older, crowded shopping streets. There are shops from Hermes to Hema and restaurants from French to Indonesian cuisine, and every second corner there’s a bar or a pub with a terrace on the cobble stoned street. Not to forget the markets, the caves, and the borders, the numerous cultural exhibitions and the academic events.

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Maastricht is a truly multicultural hub, of which a good example is my class; there are 22 students from 10 different countries. One third of them are Belgians, and since Maastricht borders Belgium, I hear and speak French every day -not just with my classmates but also in town and at work. Especially on weekends and on public holidays, the city is filled with Belgians who cross the border and come to Maastricht for its vast repertory of shops and restaurants. It often feels like I’m in Belgium or France instead of the Netherlands, because I hear more French than Dutch in the streets, boutiques and cafés. And that is why I managed to get a part time job as a waitress without any knowledge in Dutch! Thanks to my proficiency in French, supplemented with my German skills, I was hired to an Italian restaurant and after learning the basics of Dutch, I found myself serving customers in four different languages!  Using French at work has strengthened my confidence in regard to my language skills and made me realise that I can use it in surprisingly peculiar conversations that most of the time come out of the blue. This has not only reduced my timidity but also helped me get rid of the overly modest viewpoint I’ve had over my language competency. I have even started to consider new career paths that require and would involve daily French at work (yikes)!

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In addition to the apparent benefits from the language I learned during my bachelor, studying at Stirling has influenced my postgraduate life in other, less obvious ways as well. First, having already spent two semesters on exchange in different countries, I wasn’t scared or even nervous to move into yet another new country. On the contrary, I was excited to pick and move into a new country, looking forward to all the adventures a new city would bring with it. Second, the international vibes of Stirling were something I wanted to have in my new study place as well. I guess after having lived in several countries myself, multiculturalism is something that brings together all of the different experiences I have lived and is ultimately what makes me feel at home.”

Many thanks to Iida for this great post – best wishes for the rest of the Masters and we look forward to future tales of life in Maastricht and beyond in the months and years ahead!

 

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