Leong Wing Hei, Claudia
Universiteit Maastricht, The Netherlands
It was Maastricht University’s Introduction Day! The student association in MaastrichtU held a buddy dinner that gathered all the exchange students. There were students from different nationalities and I was so glad to be there. We shared things and experiences of our home countries and we got to know more about different cultures. Interestingly, the German guy sitting next to me was interested in knowing about the formation of Chinese words.
It was a Saturday night during arrival week when we decided to join the semester kick-off party. When we went into the venue, the locals there couldn’t wait to put paint on our faces as a way of celebrating. Everyone at the party had their faces painted. We do not usually have welcoming party before semester opens in Hong Kong, instead we have orientation camp. Joining a party to welcome a new semester is a new thing for me. Most of the local students there brought beer into the venue and enjoyed it with the music played at the venue. We danced and enjoyed the music too.
One night before my floormates and I went out, I cooked some sweet rice balls and shared them with my floormates. A French guy, Lucas, who was studying in our dorm’s living room got interested in this Asian food because he has never seen it before. We invited him to try and it seemed like he liked it. That night, many other floormates came into the living room to try out these sweet rice balls that I have made. One of our floormates suggested that I cook sweet rice balls as a special dish for the whole floor!
During the carnival, we were given a week-long holiday. However, besides it being a holiday, does anyone know exactly what the carnival is in the Netherlands? The event used to be closely related to the Catholic church, but nowadays its religious aspect has become less prominent. Instead, it provides people with a chance to have street parties.
Before the Maastricht Carnival officially began on Sunday, I went out with some of the friends I have met here to get a feeling for the atmosphere of the carnival. As we walked along the street, it seemed as if everyone was all dressed up and ready to go. While we were out, we met a couple of people in costume and I had my photo taken with them. I was really impressed how it was not only youths who were enjoying this event, but older people as well. Imagine the same event take place in Hong Kong, I reckon the only ones taking part would be young people. But here, I saw everyone was enjoying the carnival. There was no age limit!.
I went out with some of the other exchange students who live in my building. The day of the carnival was probably the most crowded day ever. Someone was wearing a coloured wig, and it looked as though we were the only ones who weren’t dressed up. Not only did the adults dress up, but the children too, and they loved showing off in the parade. This was definitely the liveliest week of the year for Maastricht!
Due to religious reasons, my Muslim friends do not eat any meat. Based on the recommendations of our floor mates, three of us decided to go to the food bank and have a meal. What was so attractive about the food bank was that it serves vegetarian food! It was really interesting that the vegetables used for cooking were all leftovers that hadn’t been sold at the farmers’ market. We got the meal for free because we helped prepare the meals at the food bank. We were also able to donate money to support the charity too. It was so cool to see how this kind of non-profitable organization has so many people helping and makes full use of the leftover food to serve enough to feed more than 60 people.
As well as my friends, we also took a picture with one of the volunteers that we met. Aissata is a Canadian volunteers at the foodbank frequently. It was really impressive to see people gather together for such a great cause. I hope I will be able to find similar activities in Hong Kong as well!
It was a relaxing Sunday. My friends and I went to a grassy area near our university to have picnic. Coincidentally, all of my friends are Muslims. While we were there we had a nice talk and enjoyed some great food. Even though I was the only person from Hong Kong in the group, they were very welcoming and it was easy to get along with all of them. As a result, I have become more open-minded when it comes to communicating with people of different backgrounds to me.
This is our floor’s dinner!! It finally happened after a long discussion on our Facebook group! We tried the best pizza in Maastricht at a shop called Piano B. My floor-mates are from different continents including Europe, South America, North America, the Middle East, and Asia. It was like a mini United Nations. We talked about our different languages and even current political issues. During this whole experience, I have learnt so much more about other parts of the world. Needless to say, we had a great time. I am so glad to have met them.
Some of the Hong Kong students exchanging in the Netherlands had a fantastic dinner at our godfather’s house. Our godfather is a Hong Kong man who emigrated to the Netherlands almost 30 years ago. He’s a chef and made us dim-sum. It made me feel like home away from home! We talked a about a lot of things, his experiences, and how he now has a Dutch passport. It was a real blessing to have someone from home greet us overseas!