My last four years with the Maastricht Diplomat are coming to a close. This will be the last Editor's Letter that I will write here. Indeed, this may be the last piece that I will write as a student journalist. In my time I have written dozens of articles, some of which I am proud of and some of which I am not, edited many more articles, contributed to nine print magazines, help transform this project from a small publication to an online outlet spanning multiple medias that arguably has a lot of potential to make a change in Maastricht's student life, and learnt more than I could ever have imagined (clichés are ok, I'll allow myself one even if I refuse to publish others'). I may not be around to participate in that change, but such is the nature of planting a tree for others to enjoy.
Alongside the wonderful people that I have had the privilege to work with over the past four years, my efforts have included weekly meetings (and beers at the Shamrock) discussing hot topics and why student journalism is important, committing to tasks which have at times had a detrimental effect on my grades, and driving my partner mad with the phrase "I'm sorry, I can't, I have UNSA work to do". To keep a student journal, let alone a student association, is a labour of love. The pay is terrible, if you're lucky enough to make it high up enough to be reimbursed, the hours are non-stop, and if someone references an article back to you it's the greatest thing since not having to take a resit during the summer. This is a job that many don't envy me for, but a job I would not have any other way.
Student journalism is important. Student politics are important. Student activism is important. Student conversation is important. In a time when social movements are gaining traction once more, it is crucial that students not only take a part and have their say, but know why they are doing so. The past year has taught us all that while we may be forced to stay apart, connections will never truly die. Many in my circle have commented time and again that student politics in Maastricht has more energy now than we have ever seen. Social media is awash with groups, parties, factions, initiatives, and associations. The UNSA this year has enjoyed a membership in numbers we could scarcely believe, and I know we are not the only ones. Young people want to be a part of something and are not afraid to say it. Change is coming.
Change is good. It forces one to assess. When the pandemic hit, a friend of mine said he was excited to see what would happen. Give the ol' magic 8-ball a shake and see what comes out. In our little city, it would seem that while covid fatigue sits over our heads, social stimulation is gaining pace. University elections are around the corner and the lists are stacked. Networks are building and rivalries are taking shape. There is every sign to see that to be a student in the coming years will be a special position in society. This not only applies to Maastricht, but to students all over the world. Marches and protests are simultaneously being thrown to the winds and being quashed by governments. The global natives are becoming restless and we are all the better off for it. To be a student in this time is to have the opportunity to make a difference.
The press has a difficult place in this maelstrom. Every year brings fresh reports of journalists dying in their droves, whether through lack of protection or through direct persecution. Press freedoms are being rolled back and voices are being stifled. Students, in their university bubbles, have an opportunity to make a difference. There is no warfare on campus (yet), there are no (Western) governments out to kill them. There is a space for students to have their say, regardless of what side of the pen they sit. And this is the best possible state that anyone could ever ask for. Discourse is important. Opinions are important. Without it, a liberal democracy as we know it cannot exist. Whether or student or workers union, an association board or a national government, an activist or environmentalist group, discourse is important. This is difficult to achieve with a functioning and relentless press corps.
It is here that I take my departure. Maastricht and the Maastricht Diplomat are in a good place. There is energy at the core and structures in place to help it thrive. The desire is there and the opportunities are rife. It has been an absolute pleasure to watch the scene grow in this town and an honour to play a small part in that scene. This little city in South Limburg has all the ingredients to make an incredible recipe, with the cooks to boot. I am more positive about the future than I have ever been.