Maastricht Lah!

Hallo everyone! I am a student from the National University of Singapore and am currently doing a semester of exchange at Maastricht University’s School of Business and Economics.

After a long 16 hour plane-train journey from Singapore, I finally arrived in Maastricht. My first impression of the place was that Maastricht had lots of character and yet embodied much small city charm, with the cobble stoned streets and shops housed in buildings which could be considered attractions in their own right.

Ah yes, I have to at this point, mention the cold. It was freeeeeeeezing when I got off the train. I was expecting cold temperatures but nothing actually in the negative range. And what was worse were the icy sidewalks which made walking seem somewhat like balancing on a tightrope.

Anyway, after having settled down in the Guesthouse, my first mission was to hunt down typical Dutch fare. (WARNING: The following pictures may cause several incidents of unexplained hunger.)

Pea Soup!

Pannenkoeken! i.e. Pancakes! Find them in every flavour u could possibly imagine!

Stroopwafels! Just think of the sweeet caramel in between two thin crispy pieces of wafels!

And who could forget the fries! I’ve yet to try the one in Maastricht (next to McDonalds in the Markt Square) But the Dutch seem to serve them with almost every meal! A MUST TRY FOR EVERYONE!!

So why Maastricht? Honestly, before selecting Maastricht University for exchange, Amsterdam, Den Haag (I somehow get a kick from pronouncing this in Dutch) and Rotterdam were the only cities in The Netherlands I had ever heard of. After some googling (which also involved several visits to travel websites and flickr), I decided that having my exchange in Maastricht would be ideal and here are some the reasons why:

1)      Having come from a city as urbanized and as fast paced as Singapore, it would be interesting to see and experience how small city living was like.

2)      Three cultures in one small city. Maastricht is a mini-cosmopolitan city. Located close to the German and Belgian border. It would offer a Dutch experience with hints of German and Belgian influences.

3)      Location, location, location. Maastricht’s location is ideal, especially so for avid travelers like myself. With an airport of its own as well as easy accessibility to airports in Brussels, Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Cologne, Dusseldorf, etc. having my exchange at Maastricht would allow me to hop across Europe easily.

So how is school in Maastricht like? Well, I would say that the PBL system is a change from what I am accustomed to in Singapore. It relies much more on student preparation and interaction during tutorials which honestly speaking, takes some time to get used to.

Enough about school, let’s talk about Carnival! I had no clue what Carnival was about before I came here. But just one day on the streets of Maastricht and you’ll come to be amazed at what the Dutch do during Carnival! The bands playing THAT song (I may not understand the words or know the title of the song, but the tune sure is infectious!), the people all decked out in costumes (even the elderly!) and some even acting out the role of who they are dressed as! Here are some pictures of what I saw:

One of the many co-ordinated groups of people..

People dressed up as cleaning ladies and actually cleaning!!

One of the many bands playing that night. All they had to do way start playing and people from all over would follow!

Till next time! Tot ziens!

(PS: In case you were wondering what’s the “Lah” in the title is all about, its simply Singaporean English aka Singlish, which is actually a mixture of several languages and dialects spoken in Singapore. And in this case, it acts somewhat like a punctuation.)

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The saga begins…

Hello guys! I’m an exchange student from Montreal, Canada, doing my spring semester abroad, here at Maastricht University, School of Business and Economics. Along the semester, I’ll share some of my experiences with you. But first things first.  Since I got here, I was asked at least 10 times why I chose Maastricht to do my exchange semester. So let me tell you why.

I had the opportunity to go pretty much anywhere in the world, but the European lifestyle had always intrigued me. But why the Netherlands you may ask.  And why Maastricht? I have travelled a lot around the world, and I have always enjoyed visiting smaller cities. However, you should still know Maastricht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands. Being a history geek, I am a little bias. For me, that was paradise. I was looking for a smaller city where I could easily get around, with a residence house close to the university, and a university close to the historical town center. I was also looking for a city filled with old buildings. It might sound funny, but old buildings are harder to find in North America. And finally, I knew I would use some of my weekends to travel around a little and discover other places.

Maybe you didn’t know Maastricht even existed before you heard about the university. Or maybe, like me, you only knew Maastricht as the city where the European Union treaty was made. Have you checked Maastricht on a map? It’s a perfect location. If you’re a travel maniac, you will love this place. Antwerp, Bruges, Brussel, Ghent, Cologne, Utrecht, Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Paris, and Strasbourg are just some suggestions.

Now the other question is, why would you choose to live in a small city? But I would say, why wouldn’t I? Some people might think you could get bored living in a small city like Maastricht, but trust me, you really don’t. I’ve been here for almost 3 weeks now and I’ve never been so busy in my life. First, lets not forget you’re primarily here for school, so this will obviously take some time. Secondly, even if your only doing two courses at the same time here, you still have some work to do by yourself outside class (but more about the school  in an another post). But most of all, keep in mind there will be parties every week, and you’ll be meeting so many exchange students around here you will always have something to do. Maastricht is a lovely city to hang out in itself, and of course, as I mentioned earlier, you can always travel around during your long breaks, or even your weekends if you want too.

When I came here, I wanted to live like a “typical Dutch” (hahaha) and to use a bike to move around in the city. Maastricht is perfect for this. I feel really safe riding around with my bike or going to school from the guesthouse with it. The city has many pedestrian zones so I’d say it’s also really friendly to walk in. Everything is at walking distance (or biking distance), so I really feel I could not have picked a more charming European city than this one.

Viva Hollandia!!  Viva Maastricht!

Mathieu 🙂