Eating with Eccentric Econometricians - Kuba: The Aspiring Actuary in the Making October 29th, 2017

This period, the PR committee managed to convince a MSc student to host them a special dinner before the exam week. It was such a beautiful and warm Sunday afternoon that I got the message from Kuba saying “the food is ready”. We had an appointment with him at 17:00, but I could not resist myself jumping to my bike cycling to Kuba’s house right after receiving the message. Luckily for us, Kuba is a fantastic cook. When we arrived, he already prepared a full-meal: a creamy Zurek soup for appetizer;
a Polish couscous (Kasha) and rich-flavoured Gulasz for main course, and a fresh sweet whole pineapple for the dessert.

He actually took a risk in preparing Kasha as, according to him, it is not quite popular in Poland though it is undoubtedly healthy. However, it worked for us, we loved it! He also shared with us a special syrup that is similar to what he used to get from his Grandfather when he was little kid. The taste of this drink reminded us of wine or sangria, but without alcohol – sweet, but a bit tangy and fruity at the same time!

While sipping our non-alcoholic sangria, we chatted casually about his background and how he ended up in Maastricht. Kuba is the first child of two and originally comes from Warsaw. He had been living there for his whole life and so has his family. His grandparents even come from and still live in Warsaw. He was glad to be born in Warsaw as it is a metropolitan city where you can basically get the best opportunities in the country. He took his bachelor’s degree in Warsaw School of Economics where he studied Quantitative Methods in Economics. He truly enjoyed his study that after graduation he directly worked in Actuarial Department at Aviva – one of the multinational insurance companies from the UK which recently moved their HQ to Warsaw. At Aviva, he met a friendly, young, and bright team leader that later became one of his inspirations to continue his education to master’s degree in Actuarial Science. When we asked him why the Netherland, he simply gave us two reasons. First, the quality of education is exceptional compared to the investment you need to make. Second, the Netherland has one of the best actuarial societies in the world, so his future after graduation is wide open. Although at this moment Kuba is still undecided about where to settle after graduation, he clearly knows that he would take the Dutch Actuarial Examination. This is one of the perks of taking the Actuarial Science track at Maastricht University – you are exempt from 3 out of 5 courses examined. Good move!

Growing up in Warsaw, Kuba did not have much trouble adapting to the life in the Netherlands. He came to Maastricht during INKOM which was full of parties. The ambience of the city is similar to that of his hometown, so blending into the society was relatively undemanding. When we asked how he enjoyed Maastricht so far, he quickly answered that people in Maastricht are extremely friendly. He recalled the first time he went grocery shopping and everyone seemed to greet him with ‘hoi hoi’. It was such a pleasant surprise as he once heard that people in the Netherland were not quite warm-hearted – gladly Maastricht changed that perspective! In addition to that, according to him, Polish ingredients and spices are also easy to find in Maastricht – so goodbye homesick! Another thing that surprises him is the price of vegetables and fruits are less expensive than in Warsaw. Now we know why he bought that whole huge pineapple by himself.

Even though things are quite similar in Maastricht, it is not all plain sailing. Living in Maastricht, he has to bike for approximately 4 kilometers one-way to SBE, so if he has a class in the morning and evening, he has to bike for almost 20 kilometers daily. To our surprise, he really enjoys this. He loves the fact that everything is close to each other in Maastricht. Well, at least compared to Warsaw where he had to drive for 45 minutes one-way to his previous school.

After filling up our tummy with the delicious Polish food, we decided to chill in the balcony for a more relaxed conversation (and beer). Realizing that all of us come from three different countries, Kuba quickly shared what he thought about the diversity in Maastricht. It is fascinating for him as he made friends with far more international people within one month of living in Maastricht compared to his whole life in Warsaw. Well, we can attest to that! As Maastricht is situated at the border of 3 countries, it is definitely the melting pot and the representation of Europe.

As we were continuously digging into his amusing experiences in Maastricht, he told us one coincidental yet hilarious fact: the mysterious 18th. He recently found out that all his closest friends in the program (including him) have their birthdays on the 18th. Furthermore, his two roommates also were born on the 18th. Whether or not you believe in superstition, it is still a rare coincidence.

As our conversation went on, we were interested in his plans in upcoming months. Without realizing, it has been a while since he moved to Maastricht. He shared how excited he was for the winter break. He could not wait to be home for Christmas to celebrate the unique Christmas tradition in Warsaw. Back home, they start the Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve for a family dinner where every family needs to prepare 12 different foods that resemble the 12 apostles. The food must not contain any meat or poultry, so fish becomes a huge dish that night. There is also an opposing tradition during Christmas Eve, where people are either suggested to drink a lot of alcohol or are not allowed to drink at all. Unfortunately, or fortunately, Kuba’s family (and most families in Warsaw) follow the latter. The celebration will then continue for a mass with fireworks at midnight. Only after that people are allowed to eat meat and poultry again, but most people will be too full to eat more.

As we soon realized that he has a great affection for drinking (responsibly), we asked him his favourite place in Maastricht to spend the night. He pointed out one small bar in Brusselsestraat where they provide a €1 beer from 9 to 11 pm every Tuesday to Thursday. The place is pretty cosy and not too loud, so very suitable for a relaxed conversation with friends. This is also the place where he found out about the mysterious 18th. During the first few weeks, he used to go there every Tuesday night, only to regret the decision the next morning in the early morning class. Well, it does not seem that Kuba will stop going there anyway.

At that point, as the sun went down, we did not realize that we have spent 3 hours chatting, eating, drinking and laughing. It did not feel that long due to his hospitality and hilarious stories, but we needed to face the books and prepare for the exams soon, so we thanked Kuba and cheered for the last time – Nastravia!

We had an interesting night with a beautifully-cooked Polish meal and enjoyable conversations. If you happen to come across Kuba at SBE, at any bar, or somewhere in Maastricht, go talk to him and you will soon realize how hilarious the conversation might take off. We want to thank Kuba once again for hosting us and wish him the best of luck for the master’s studies and beyond!