Portraits of international students

Aurelia Streit (22)

Grew up in: Germany. Father is German, mother is Polish
Now lives in: Maastricht
Majoring in: European Studies. In the autumn, she will start working on her Master’s degree in Public Policy at UNU Merit.

Aurelia won de UM Student Award 2015 because she is the driver behind the Refugee Project Maastricht, uniting local people, students and refugees.

‘I first heard about the Maastricht Treaty at school. It’s great to be involved in the anniversary celebrations as a student. We are learning to think critically at university. I enjoy being engaged, and I can do that here. I have an opportunity to put good ideas into practice. It’s important to get young people involved in Europe Calling. That’s one of the lessons that Brexit has taught us. Older people have decided what the future will be like for young Britons. We have to have our say too.’

Aurelia Streit
Davide Argeri

Davide Argeri (23)

Grew up in: Kenya, where he was born, and Sicily, where his family lives.
Now lives in: Maastricht
Majoring in: European Law

‘Fifty percent of young Sicilians are unemployed. That’s a gigantic percentage! Europe gave me the opportunity to choose where I wanted to attend university. I’m majoring in European Law. It was a deliberate choice. It’s a broad programme that will prepare me to work anywhere in the EU. My family doesn’t understand why I left home, but there’s a whole world beyond Sicily. I found what I was looking for over here. I’m making connections all around the world. And those connections will last. Later, I’ll be able to work wherever I like.’

Justine Richelle (20)

Grew up in: Belgium
Now lives in: Maastricht
Majoring in: European Law. She will start working on her Master’s degree in Market Integration in September.

‘I’m attending a university that’s only thirty minutes from the place where I grew up. And yet there’s a world of difference between the two places. In the Netherlands, students are empowered. That’s why I’m so happy to have the freedom to study here. The fact that it’s so easy to arrange is one of the gifts that the EU has given us. The Erasmus Exchange is fantastic. There are no borders. Students can build an enormous international network. What an amazing opportunity!’

Justine Richelle
Tim Backhaus

Tim Backhaus (22)

Grew up in: Finland. Father is Swiss, mother is Finnish.
Now lives in: Maastricht
Majoring in: European Studies. Previously, he spent six months in Estonia studying International Law.

‘I moved around quite a lot in Finland, but I really wanted to attend a university centrally situated in Europe. Maastricht is naturally the ideal place to read European Studies. I was a member of the European Youth Parliament for six years. I met other young people who think the way I do. I learned a lot, for example about politics. To me, Europe represents stability. That may sound odd, because nothing is stable these days. But I think it’s unique to have so many different countries and cultures working together. After the Brexit referendum, I see Europe as consisting of 27 + 1 countries. We’re still united.’

Atanas Atanasov (24)

Grew up in: Bulgaria
Now lives in: Maastricht, and works in Luxembourg
Majoring in: European Law. Working on his Master’s degree in International and European Tax.

‘A European project first brought me to the Netherlands as a secondary school student. I discussed “living in rural areas” with youngsters from other European countries. I made friends. I saw the place where the Maastricht Treaty was signed. And now I’m studying here and I’m part of a diverse, unique and colourful picture. I’d love to help make Europe more transparent and less bureaucratic. The Treaty was signed 25 years ago. It’s time for a new and improved Maastricht Project!’

Atanas Atanasov
Isabella Mancini

Isabella Mancini (22)

Grew up in: Bologna, Italy
Now lives in: Maastricht
Majoring in: European Studies

‘People often don’t realise just what Europe means to them. Of course it has a lot of problems too. But show me a place that doesn’t have problems! To me, Europe represents jobs, prosperity, freedom. Bologna is home to Europe’s oldest university, but I chose to go to university here, and I am free to develop my talents here. It’s a fabulous opportunity. Maastricht is centrally located in Europe. I can visit Belgium or Germany in no time. I can travel without restriction. That makes Europe tangible. It drives the sense of urgency I feel to breathe new life into Europe.’

Mark Magee (24)

Grew up in: Northern Ireland
Now lives in: Maastricht
Majoring in: Bachelor Science Program

‘I travelled around Australia for a year. I met a lot of other Europeans there. The Australians ignored us, and avoided us altogether. I found that odd. How can you have a bad opinion of people you don’t even know? People who never leave their birthplace find change difficult. It makes them inflexible. I’m happy that I can venture beyond my hometown, that I can improve myself. Universities in the UK are unaffordable. Europe has made it possible for me to study here, and to meet new people. I’m making good use of that opportunity.’