It’s Not the Place, It’s the People

There are days when I lose focus of everything around me and find myself transported back to that tiny bedroom that I tried to make my own in a town whose name I still can’t pronounce right.

How it all began

Everyone who has met me knows that I traveled to the Netherlands for graduate school. I don’t hide it and I don’t wait for anyone to ask me. If I could come to work wearing my Maastricht University jersey I wouldn’t say no.

I have a history of doing being too faithful to my universities. I was so proud of where I graduated from in Lebanon that I kept wearing my class ring through the whole year abroad.

And I also don’t make it a secret that I miss the Netherlands and Maastricht, and procrastinate by going onto Google Maps and retracing my daily steps or going through pictures. I took a lot of pictures in one year but they are nowhere near enough when that feeling hits.

Adding insult to injury is videos like this. Marketing done just properly enough to slap you with nostalgia.

Maastricht isn’t vibrant or lively. Of all the places I’ve seen, it is the most boring. It was so boring that going to the supermarket was a weekly highlight.

For many, the train station was the start of many journeys out of Maastricht. For me it was the start of being there.

I used to beat myself up about spending most of the days in my apartment or at the university until I finally came to the realization that there wasn’t much to do anyway.

Its definitely not as suited for student life as the promotions make it out to be.

But I was fortunate enough to meet a group of people that changed everything and many of whom are lifelong friends.

When I re-established this blog last week, I went back through the archives to read what I had written way back when, and it is no surprise that my most favorable moments involved a large gathering of people (and a lot of food). We came together from all different parts of the world to study and ended up impacting one another.

Food and drinks, you can’t ever go wrong.

Every year for Eid el Fitr I go back and watch the impromptu video we shot and smile. I can still remember all the dancing in my living room with Rohan and Simas and Lina and the amazing brownies Caroline made.

What was left of the brownies

An equally incredible moment was Lebanese night where I put my hostessing skills to the test and cooked for 20 people. No one got food poisoning and everyone had fun- and it was the most patriotic I had ever felt.

We had Eid El Adha and my 21st birthday at Capadokia on the Markt.

Greek night at Alex’s and the graduate student barbecue (where no one knew how to light up one to begin with)

One of the pictures we keep coming back to

Inkom parties and the Maastermeeting during our first week there.

When writing about people that made an impact in Maastricht, I have to say that it’s not all about the parties and the dinners.

It’s about laughing through homesickness, cold nights, taking the same exam three times, being infatuated with someone who didn’t return your feelings, falling short of your own educational expectations (I did really well in my Bachelors but was average at Masters), with people who understood what you were going through.

It’s about walking or cycling home in the dead of the night and having tea or YumYum Noodles after.

Or gossiping about your instructors after class while working on projects and finishing one cup of Douwe Egberts after the other (Note: I miss that stuff!).

We studied with Freddie Mercury!

Or playing Wordfeud when we should’ve been paying attention to lectures.

Or being astounded by the Netherlands losing in the first round of Euro 2012

Or meeting up at the statue of the guy with the torch..

I also have to mention travelling: Berlin and Liege with Lina, Aachen and Brussels with Samar, Brugge, Liege (again), Amsterdam and Den Haag with James. I am thankful for their company and companionship. Travel does bring out your true self and I’m glad these people stuck by me through it all.


A lot of relationships started in Maastricht. Some ended, some changed, some are exactly the same. At some points, I lost touch with old friends not because I stopped liking them, but because I was too busy figuring out my own life- and actually very scared of knocking on that door and being sucked into that hole of memories.

Never underestimate the power of a Skype call or email, though. That alone can transform everything. And if you’re lucky enough, you might just get a chance to see them after a long time and give them a hug and thank them for making you the person you are today and for making you happy.

Samar and I in Beirut, December 2014. One of my most favorite surprises as of late.

Sometimes I feel I want to go back.

It’s an overwhelming urge to take on a second masters and go back. Then I am reminded by a great piece of advice: it’s not the place, it’s the people. And I realize that’s true. Even if by some magical force, we were all put together in the same places, in Wardehofplein and Musketruwe and the university, we’re not the same people we were when we enrolled in 2011 and undoubtedly our outlooks have changed. Better to look back at the pictures than attempt to recreate what had-been.

This post is special because it reminds me of special people that I met over the course of that year. Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing with your life, I find myself thinking about you constantly, hoping you are happy and well.

Much like Wardehofplein 15C was always open for you, so is my home in Beirut.

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