Questions for international students
Hi Tiffany, thank you for participating in our interview project. To start, can you tell me a bit about yourself?
Hi, my name is Tiffany Fung, and I am doing my masters in Scientific Illustration at Zuyd.
Where are you from? Do you view this country as home?
I am from Washington DC, in the US. My parents live there, but home is kind of a strange concept to me.
How often do you go back to the US, even if you don’t view it as home?
Pretty much never, I haven’t gone back in 5 years. Ever since I left for my undergrad, I moved away from home and just didn’t develop a connection with DC as an adult. It feels like the city I lived in as a kid.
Why did you decide to come and study in Maastricht?
Maastricht had the very specific programme that I was looking for and it was the best in Europe. It was also taught in English, and the language that made it an easy choice.
How long have you been here? Would you say you’ve settled in?
A year and a half. I definitely appreciate the location of the city, and the people and all the resources. I think without both of the Universities, Maastricht would be a different place, and it does make it sad that people often leave after 3 years. I like my life here, its very comfortable, but its weird to compare it to places I’ve lived before.
Did you ever think about returning home home at the start of the pandemic?
Not really, I knew I wanted to stay here, especially because I wanted to start a company with my classmates after the pandemic.
What do you think of your home country’s response to the pandemic?
Ugh. I mean, its not surprising, its very ingrained in the culture of the US to not give up any of your rights with regards to wearing masks and stuff, and you can see that its backfiring with the big spikes in cases. Even though DC doesn’t feel quite like home, I still have family there and its very sad that there is nothing I can do. I just have to hold onto that blind American optimism.
Do you think you feel safer Maastricht?
Yes, my social circle feels very safe, whereas if I was in the US the temptation to see more people and do more things would be much greater. I don’t have a car here in Maastricht, I just have to stay put and work on my Thesis, but I can see people not wanting to compromise in the US, still wanting to have the same social life they had before.
What did your family think of your decision?
For the pandemic, it was kind of expected that I would stay here, because it started so quickly. There was a lot of logistical stuff, it would be a massive effort to go back to the US. No one knew how long it would last, I couldn’t just uproot. I think I was lucky in that my school was very understanding, they gave us lots of resources to cope with online classes. But even without the pandemic, I think my parents want me to come back to the US after I am done with my studies. As first generation immigrants, they can’t understand why I wouldn’t chose to build a life there.
What has lockdown life been like for you?
It was tough mainly coming to terms with the fact that I have so much more time to think. That energy, if not focussed in the right direction can make me have arguments with people, or stress relationships with people. I realised I was agitated by living with someone all the time. It was very agitating and definitely not the best for my mental health. At my Uni, some teachers were more equipped than others to teach online, so sometimes all I have scheduled is one weekly meeting. I don’t feel like I have the level of supervision that I had before but I’ve come to slowly figure it out.
Whats been the toughest thing so far?
Its having the communal resources taken away, having the gym taken away, which was my social activity, my exercise, the community. Its starting to come back a little bit. I just miss the routine, and feeling comfortable in a place where I can work out.
What have been the things that make you happy? 🙂
The thing that has been really cool is talking to other people and seeing what stage their mental health is in. Understanding how they’ve come to surpass the negative feelings. I’ve learnt a lot from how other people find ways to stay happy, from almost challenging myself that if my friends can stay positive then I can too. And its cool that people are now more open to communicating about their struggles.
Well thank you for a very interesting interview! What would you say to new students coming to Maastricht in September? Any advice to pass on?
I think have an idea of what you would like to explore outside of your school. The length of your programme feels so short that you funnel all your time into school, but if the pandemic has taught us anything its that you need something outside of school to focus on.