PBL – a love-hate-relationship

Hello my lovely followers,

 

I just finished my first exam week – a week full of fear, excitement, long nights in the library and a loooooot of coffee. I can’t believe that I have already mastered the first period successfully and period 2 is already starting. Everything happens so fast during your exchange and a lot of unexpected things happen…

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The Library

 

In this blog entry I will try to introduce you to the famous Problem-Based-Learning-System of Maastricht University. When I came here, I didn’t had any clue what the University, with this unique system, expects from me as a student and what I can expect from the University at the same time. If you are used to large lecture halls, where participation and even attendance don’t play a major part, the PBL will offer you a complete new experience of getting taught. But believe me, you will enjoy it after a short time of getting used to all the new procedures.

This special educational model has been at the core of Maastricht University ever since it was founded. PBL is more than just acquiring knowledge; it’s about exchanging knowledge in a challenging and effective way. Maastricht University makes the difference. There are some main characteristics like student-centered learning, small tutorial groups, teachers act as facilitators (called tutors) and a problem acts as a main basis for the stimulus for learning.

 

In other words, you will (most of the time) have, in a normal week, one lecture, where you are sitting in a big lecture hall (like you are probably used to at your home university) and get a first overview of the chapters for this week. Afterwards you are supposed to go through the material a second time at home during your self-study and prepare for the tutorials.

 

Then you will have one or sometimes two tutorials during the week. The tutorials are the heart of the total PBL-System. Here, you have classes with a dozen of people in a small room, which you can compare with a typical High-School class. However, participation is not only welcome, but also required for successfully finishing the course. When you have your first time in a new tutorial group, make some fun out of it and play for yourself the game: Who is the tutor?

 

Usually, the tutor is just a few years older than you (sometimes also younger) and looks like a normal student and sits by the round-tables like everyone else. The only hint: he is probably the only person who has a folder or some printed literature with him. As mentioned above, he acts as a guide and not as a teacher. He is present to assist, correct and guide the discussion in the right direction, if he feels it is needed. The rest is up to you!

 

During these tutorials, you have to participate to show, that you have read the literature and understood the most important stuff. But guys, please, don’t worry about that. The whole PBL-System isn’t as hard as it may sound now. Once you read your material, it is just a question of will. Just don’t be shy to share your thoughts with your classmates. You should always keep in mind that there are no bad answers, since the whole purpose of this discussion is “learning by doing/discussing”.

 

And when it comes to the exam, I swear, you will be very happy that you attended the tutorials before and discussed all that stuff in detail. You can remember all the difficult parts of the literature more easily when you try to think about the lively discussions on those topics…

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Exam Hall

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If there are any questions about the PBL still left, don’t hesitate and ask! I hope I can answer it!

Next time I will write about all the beautiful cities you are able to visit from Maastricht!

 

Wish you all the best, Marie

 

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The PBL System… from a Canadian’s point of view

Aren’t we all thrilled that block 1 exams are finally over?! While some of my UCM and Law roommates were enjoying travel throughout Stockholm, as a business student I remained dedicated to the library until last Friday. I was certainly envious that other faculties offered a break period in between block 1’s final exams and the beginning of block 2 courses, but nonetheless, additional study time is always useful. I wrote the Management of Organizations exam last Thursday, which went well, and Operations Management on Friday, which I found difficult:

Let’s hope this is not how I feel when I receive my Operations results…

Before I discuss my thoughts on the PBL system here at Maastricht University, let me introduce myself. My name is Emma Harris, and I’m a 21 year old business and psychology student from The University of Western Ontario, located in London (Ontario!), which is about 2 hours from Toronto. Although born there, my family moved to a smaller city about 30 minutes west when I was around 3 years old; bigger family = more space. I have a younger brother (19) and a younger sister (17), and am also a proud owner of two Labrador Retrievers. Before moving away from home for university, I was an avid horseback rider, and spent the majority of my free time competing in national showjumping competitions with my horses. Other than riding, I love to run, read, write, and travel!

As a business student, I am hoping to embark on a career in micro-finance. I am passionate about issues affecting women in business, as well as recent advancements in the process of democratizing education. One day, I hope to be able to enter a field of work that grants disadvantaged women access to “free” education, allowing them to pursue their educational and/or career interests via micro loans. In fact, in May 2012 I received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live in Nicaragua and learn about their micro-finance economy. At this time, I started a personal blogging project, Culturecopia, to document my travels in Nicaragua and my upcoming exchange (www.culturecopia.wordpress.com).

As a blogger representing the SBE  exchange students, I am looking forward to discussing topics that may be of interest to you. I welcome any type of feedback, whether or not you agree with my views and/or opinions!

The topic of today’s post is the PBL system in effect here at Maastricht University. Based on what I’ve heard from my peers, students either love it… or hate it. I think a lot of factors play into which category you fall into:

  1. Your personality – If you are a natural extrovert and truthfully enjoy offering your opinion (no matter how insane it seems to others), then speaking in front a group of people comes naturally, and can even be enjoyable. Introverts, who are typically a bit quieter and more reserved by nature, can find the pressure to speak up in class to be uncomfortable.
  2. Your native language – Classes here are in English. Speaking up can be more difficult for students who speak a different language at home. Although, considering 70% of the SBE consists of German students, most people here speak English good :P… I mean, well.
  3. Your educational background – Some students come from a system where interaction was the norm, whereas others come from a total lecture-based background.

 

These are only 3 factors of a list that can probably contain many more, but you get the idea. Speaking on my own behalf, I personally enjoyed the PBL system, but I come from a system that encouraged me to speak up, am a native English speaker, and love to give my opinion when anyone is willing to listen.

On a related note, how did you feel about only dedicating your time to two courses at once? If this is how your university runs their system back home, then you’re indifferent – coming from a system that forces five simultaneous courses upon you, this was a change I embraced. I loved the content in my Management class, but did not share the same feelings toward my Operations class (although I made some great friends!). The PBL system offered me the best of both worlds, because I was able to focus a lot of my effort and attention on Management, and although I had to do so for Operations as well, I finished the entire course in 8 weeks! Since you are only asked to focus on two courses at once, I think that the rapid pace is fitting. And, if you don’t like a particular course (ahem… Operations), you’re done in 8 weeks! That course would have been dragged on for four months back home. Since we are asked to deal with five courses at once, the content is covered at a slower pace. This system is beneficial in some respects, but if you’re not into your course, you better prepare for a loooong four months! I also found that the final exam period is much less stressful and much more manageable when you are only dealing with 2 courses.

The rapid pace of course turnover also keeps us more engaged, I think. Today we start our block 2 courses, which allows us to dive into brand new content and learn with (mostly?) new students. This dynamic learning atmosphere promotes attention and interest, at least at the beginning! And if that attention levels off… well, there’s only a few more weeks to go!

As a year-long exchange student, I am looking forward to finishing my last year of my Bachelor here with the PBL system at Maastricht.

What do you think?

Feel free to check out my personal blog (www.culturecopia.wordpress.com) for more personal content detailing my exchange experience! 🙂 I typically post 3-4 times per week, and love hearing your comments!

-Emma

Maastricht: Oh my Gosh

Of all the things that I’ve had to worry about while pursuing this dream of attending Maastricht School of Business and Economics (SBE), the one that almost stopped me cold was… Fear………. Many of you might be wondering why fear, well this is for several reasons that I am about to reveal. However, let me begin by taking this opportunity to introduce myself, my name is Thandekile Madikane and am a student from South Africa, studying at the Wits Graduate School of Business. I am from a province named Eastern Cape in South Africa that is somehow underdeveloped, and the reason I mention this is to provide context for the use of a strong word such as “fear”. Never having travelled abroad, let alone venturing into unknown territory for an extended period (as I am about to do at Maastricht) this indeed ignites the fear I am referring to. For the reasons mentioned above, fear is but an appropriate adjective to describe the current state of affairs. I would like to think that I represent a vast majority of the African population who have never stepped out of their respective comfort zone of their home ground, and in many instances, most may live out all their lives within their respective country borders. The fear pre-arrival Maastricht is exacerbated by anxiety of a foreign country; fear of a different environment; of the culture and the hospitability of the people in Maastricht; of not knowing how I will match up with other students from the rest of the continent…………in a nutshell fear has become a friend of mine! In a recent article, daredevil Felix Baumgartner stated the following before his famous jump, “fear is what prevents me from stepping too far over the line. On a mission like this, you need to be mentally fit and have total control over what you do, and I’m preparing very thoroughly”. This I believe to be true when reflecting on how I have approached the trip to Maastricht. It’s very simple really; prepare, prepare, and do more preparation. By this I mean one has to research about Maastricht and to equip themselves with all the knowledge about some of the popular hangouts, read the blogs, watch a few YouTube (yes YouTube is the future!) videos and get a general sense of the environment. This really helps one to approach the trip to Maastricht with a little more enthusiasm and to appreciate the value it will bring towards one’s self actualisation. I do however need to give recognition to the men and women involved in an exchange programme such as this one. I have had the pleasure of interacting with a few of these exceptional individuals (Wendy, Colette, Magda, to name but a few). This wonderful team of coordinators from the SKILLS PROGRAMME have made life that much easier and lessened the anxiety(and yes the fear) I have been experiencing. To anyone else who might be experiencing anxiety and fear, I would like to tell you that this is normal. To everyone else who is travelling outside their country for the first time I want to say “welcome to the club”. Thank you all, I hope this will be useful. Till next time, I leave you all with 2 of my favourite quotes: “We cannot escape fear. We can only transform it into a companion that accompanies us on all our exciting adventures”….. Susan Jeffers “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover…….Mark Twain

Hello, I study in.. Maaaaaastricht!

Hi Everybody! I’m Ju. I’m from Korea University in Seoul, South Korea. I’ve arrived here in Maastricht late August in 2012 as an exchange. So far, my life here as an exchange has been incredible. First time coming here in Europe, everything is full of wonder and it is giving me opportunity to broaden my point of view. I would like to share my thoughts and my sweet moments here in SBE, Maastricht University. J Hope you enjoy reading my posts!

Why SBE, Maastricht University

When I was first going through the list of schools that I could apply to, Maastricht University was not really eye-catching one. The only thing that I knew about it was ‘Maastricht treaty’. Not even Maastricht. Holland itself was an unfamiliar country to me. However, I met this student Minah form my uni, who were going to Maastricht University in spring semester. She told me everything about it, and I thought this is it. This school was perfect match for me. (And I’m super glad that I chose this school, thx Minah! ) There are 3 main reasons that why I chose this school.

1. I will have less difficulty with language here in Maastricht!

So true, Say, if you are in France, it would be kind of hard to live without learning French. However, everybody here speaks good English here in Maastricht. When you go to shop, you will be surprised that even cashiers speak fairly good English. I find people here in Maastricht generally nice to people from abroad.

2. Great Location to travel around!

Yes. This city is in the middle of France, Germany, Belgium.(I sometimes take bike ride, and in 15min, I’m in Belgium!) Lovely attractions like Koln, Lille, Liege, Luxembourg…is just few hours away. So far I’ve visited Brussel, Brugge, Liege, Barcelona, Luzern, Interlaken, and 6 cities in Holland(with ESN trip) and planning to visit Paris, Berlin right after taking exam of period 1. I will put another post about traveling Europe.

3. PBL, challenging but worth giving a try!

Some people say that exchange semester is all about just having fun, saying it is like a holiday for students. However, I wanted my life here to be fruitful not only in terms of having fun, but also in terms of my studying. I heard that UM has this fearful, stressful, intense way of learning, PBL.(Problem Based Learning). It is surely challenging, but you grow up by challenge right? So far, I hate it and at the same time I love it! (I will put another post about PBL system and studying in SBE soon!)

Getting Ready for Maastricht Life!

1. Visa (Residence Permit)

Ahhh. This is the part I would like to make some comments about. I first had to show that I had sufficient amount of money in my account. Then I paid 600 euro to get my residence permit. (Soooooo expensive!) I had a meeting after arriving here, to complete my application for residence permit. However, I haven’t got the residence permit! It is kind of irritating that the process takes for ages. When you guys come here in Maastricht, especially those you come outside of Europe, be patient about your residence permit!

2. Train Ticket

Lots of exchange students outside of Europe buy Eurail ticket if they want to travel around during the semester. (It’s a voucher-like train ticket!) The price of train tickets here are really expensive. (Sometimes just booking plane is cheaper!) So make sure you have right train ticket if you want to travel a lot! (I bought Eurail 4 country Flexi Select Passs- Benelux, Germany, France and Switzerland)

3. Choosing where to stay

Ahh. Note this. It is IMPORTANT, choosing where to stay! It really makes difference of your life here in Maastricht! Currently I’m staying in C-building, main guesthouse. A lot of exchange students live here, especially students in SBE. I have my own room, share kitchen with people in my corridor (about 8 people), share shower and toilet. I love being in C-building. There are a lot of gatherings in this building, international dinner night and we have common room. (I threw my b-day dinner party and wine party here!) Hmm. but if you don’t like sharing kitchen with so many people(and the hygiene of the kitchen is often bad… frustrating to cook sometimes..) , if you are more like individual person and think it is too expensive live in main guesthouse, you could find a flat or look for other guesthouse. For example, there is a guesthouse called Reinartsingle. There, you share kitchen, toilet, shower with only one housemate and you have your own room.(But bit far away from city center) It would have been nice for someone like me who likes to cook. Anyway I’m having beautiful time here in my building so no regret! If you are looking for flat, start looking up as soon as you decide to come to Maastricht University. Here is a useful links you could use when looking for flats. They are usually cheaper than living in guesthouse. Rooms/ Kamer/ Zimmer in Maastricht (facebook page) http://www.facebook.com/StudentFlatMaastricht#!/groups/116816401678059/

Now here, living my life in Maastricht

Beutiful scenary in Maastricht and the SBE building!

M.A.A.S. – My Amazingly Amusing Semester

There are so many things to say, I’m so confused right now … but let me welcome you to my life in Maastricht which, as you can guess, is busy, fun, unexpected and much more! I’d rather write according to a typical italian order, which is pure randomness, instead of a boring chronological pattern, such as “I came at the end of August, found accomodation, went to school” and still hoping to give some nice tips without leaving you competely lost.

After almost two months in this enjoyable city I feel both at home (good) and in a place where I always wanted to be (even better). Why this? Mostly because my pre-arrival concerns turned out to be completely wrong and groundless! I will list part of them and answer as I would do with you, dobious students from the world.

  • How shall I get there? Where should I go?

Okay, this is a very inctroductive worry… come on, you’re right in the middle of Europe. Tiny Maastricht-Aachen airport is only 20 minutes by bus from the city and is so small that you seriously cannot lose your luggage. Note: do buy the ticket and wait for the bus— don’t try the italian style travelling by taxi as it is gonna be seven times more expensive.

Next step: let yourself be introduced into the fabulous world of the Guesthouse, that is, let those nice guys pick you up at the station, take you back to Brouwersweg 100, where you’ll sign the contract and be seen home.

  • Where is my home (that is, how do you choose the accomodation?)

Again, don’t try my italian way, trust when people say that the best Guesthouse offers are scarce. Apply as soon as possible for:

1.Volksplein, close to city centre, not crowded, with few people sharing space.

2.C or P buildings, if you want a really international exchange experience.

3. Accomodations near the station, only a bit further away and with a oven.
You know what? When I applied, only Talienruwe was available, but it’s the perfect place for me.

Said to be “very far away” from the city, which means 12 minutes by bike, it’s 3 minutes to the Belgium border, 2 to the closest mall and 1 to the swimming pool (everything by bike, of course). Hundreds of exchange students with single rooms in two people units. Wonderful!

Once you have your room, you can look for a bike. When I paid less than 1 EURO per day for my Guesthouse-rented bike, everyone was making fun of me because they had cheaper ones. Today, my friends are very enviuos of my robust, full insured and way faster bike. See http://www.maastrichthousing.com/Rent_a_bike.html

  • Should I really attend class? How hard is it?

You’ll want to attend class. Interaction, groupworks and presentations make you feel alive: you’re not a bored mummy copying formulas written by an old man you’ll never talk to. Opinions are shared, thoughts matter, people get to know each other by studying, listening and maybe even arguing together. It sounds great but, believe me, it’s even better.

And you’re not a stranger coming from abroad. I’ve never been in such an international environment.

Only a few nationalities of people I’ve met

Answer to the second question: courses really require attention and constancy…yes, even on the weekends. But when revising for exams, you’ll remember paragraphs, papers and concepts because you have been there, actively discussing and partecipating to conversations! It’sa concrete, long-term memory approach.

  • Will I have any free time?

Yes, definitely. On my first Sunday I had a great cycle around Maastricht, on other occasions I’ve been to Der Haag and Antwerpen (pictures below), and I am visiting Amsterdam and Leiden next week.

Der Haag-view from the MAS 10th floor
Antwerpen- Gros Mrkt
Maastricht White Bridge
Maastricht fountain next to the castle
Maastricht- next to SBE

To the economists, I’ve been on a exclusive trip to the ECB: 30 students, a simulation of a Governing Council meeting in the room where “Decisions are taken”, lunch and lectures by economics advisors, 36th floor of Eurotower, Frankfurt am Main.

Lots of people travel around, but life here is really exciting. It does takes a while to learn how to manage your time properly with parties, trips, seminars and lecture series, language courses, student associations, sports, etc. Leading up to Christmas I’d like to follow some seminars, become a member of a student investment club…and still keep partying and swimming!

Apparently small, quiet, green and clean, but big and rich inside: this is why I feel so good in Maastricht.

Examples of what I’m writing about:

Introduction week by ESN. http://esn-maastricht.nl/article/aftermovie-introduction-week-fall-2012

Low fare, high fun trips around Europe. http://www.way2go-maastricht.com/

Seminars, lectures, movies. http://www.sg.unimaas.nl/

Sorry to quit but I’m starving (I’m from Italy, food section will follow) and… exams are waiting for me. I honestly hope to give you a brief idea of why and how this place makes student life exciting, free, calm if you wish, crowded as hell if you prefer.. amazingly amusing!

Claudio

My first weeks in Maastricht…

Greetings all!!

Here I am writing about my first few weeks in Maastricht, hopefully to reveal what an exciting journey it is to be here. FYI, my name is Kevin and I am a graduate student from Brandeis University in Boston, USA. I chose to study at Maastricht University because of their economics faculty and the large number of international students who choose to study here every year; so far, neither has been a disappointment!

Where to start? Accommodations? Guesthouse UM offers a variety of rooms through their new website, http://www.maastrichthousing.com/. Yes, the membership fee to use the website is unavoidable. The Guesthouse is by far the most convenient option for those who plan to stay for just one semester. Pay attention to where your accommodations are located, as many SBE students find Brouwersweg 100 to be the most convenient. The trade-off with Guesthouse UM is the price; while it is convenient, it requires a higher rent/month than other options… I’m rooming at Brouwersweg 100 in a double with a guy from Taiwan, and my living situation is everything I would expect from a dormitory.

 

Just your friendly, neighborly reminder to keep tidy :/

 

Surviving? If you’re from a Western culture, then the transition should be easy. You can expect most people to speak English, but it’s also nice to politely ask if they are willing to do so. In hindsight, I should have spent a little time learning simple phrases. Food and drink are readily available, and I have had no problem finding the things that I am used to. ATMs are plentiful and seem safe. People are friendly, and there are many locals who are here to help if you have any questions (University staff, Guesthouse staff, passersby). Also, the University set each of us with a mentor who helped us find our way around. **Caveat: Don’t expect stores or the faculty buildings to be open on Sundays.

 

My lovely breakfast

 

Getting Around? People here, young and old, are bikers. You can buy a bike from street vendors (likely to be someone else’s stolen bike), or you can rent one from the Guesthouse on a monthly basis. I rented mine and bought an extra lock. There is a local bus system, but I’ve never tried it. Maastricht also has a train station, which is across the Maas river from SBE and the main Guesthouse location. Trains run to the station during most hours, and taxis are available from there. The city is also very walkable because the geography is so flat.

 

 

Going out? On my second day here SBE hosted a welcome drink at the faculty building. This was a good chance to get to know some new people and relax with a beer. The Erasmus Student Network has a large presence at Maastricht University, and they host many parties (at least once per week, I think). The ESN has a Facebook page, and I think they also have a website. If you follow their events, then you wont have a problem finding things to do. There are also many bars and pubs all over the city, and all of the places I’ve been to were very welcoming. If you live in the Guesthouse, especially at the Brouwersweg building, there are always people coming and going, and it is easy to meet new people.

What have I been up to? I’ve been spending most of my time focused on school (grad student :P) and getting comfortable here. I go out two or three times per week for dinner and drinks, and I’ve gone to some of the ESN parties and other house parties. I haven’t done any travelling yet (which is very bizarre, considering that everyone I know has traveled several times). I know some people in different places around Europe, and I will travel with them next quarter when my class schedule lends more days off. I bike to the gym (kind of a small gym, but it works), and I go grocery shopping a few times a week.

Maastricht is a college town, and you really can find anything you’re looking for!!

Best, K.

 

Riding from the gym on a rainy morning 🙂

MAASTRICHT – EUROPE’S SMALLEST METROPOLIS

Hello guys!

I am a student from Austria and I am currently spending my winter semester 2012 abroad here in the charming European city Maastricht. During the next months, I am going to write about my experiences which I gained during my stay here and I would love to read some comments on my posts from you and maybe you share some suggestions for further topics you want to read :-).

Why Maastricht?

I guess, a lot of you have never heard of Maastricht before. Actually, it is the oldest town in the Netherlands and has a lot for you to offer! Maastricht is known for its picturesque squares, charming streets, and historical buildings. I really enjoy walking on the cobble stoned streets, passing fantastic shops (and also going inside ;-)) and watching all the small houses which could be considered attractions in their own right. Probably it is also the only city in Europe, where you face three cultures in one small city. Due to the location of Maastricht next to the borders of Belgium and Germany, you will experience a large influence of all the three cultures and lifestyles. What is more, due to its perfect location, it is probably the best place for travelling around Europe. Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Den Haag, Antwerp, Bruges, Brussels, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Utrecht, Luxembourg, Paris, Strasbourg and even London are all just a stone throw away. And don’t forget, travelling by train is really cheap in the Netherlands and especially in Belgium :-). Nevertheless, you do not necessarily have to travel to enjoy your exchange here. I swear you will never ever get bored here. Every day there is a party going on somewhere and you will meet a lot (!) of exchange students during your stay here and you are able to build good lifelong friendships around the globe. In the end, Maastricht is the best place to be!

 

 

But first, before you start to make your travel plans: go and fix your ride for the next months immediately after your arriving! In Maastricht you can reach nearly everything by walk, but if you really want to feel and live like a typical Dutch –> then go with the flow and get a bike!

When I came here I soon realized that THE BATTLE FOR BIKES HAS ALREADY STARTED AND I WAS RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE! You can’t compare the searching for a used bike at the beginning of the semester with a normal convenient shopping trip. They are sold out in every single store you can imagine… So you have to FIGHT! Luckily, at the end, everybody is able to get one ;-). But afterwards, sooner or later the next problem occurs…

… imagine you are in a hurry to not come late to your tutorial. You rush on your bike to University and thank God, the nice man at the entrance of the University area shows you the way to the only bicycle stand where some free spaces are left (yes guys, that man really exists!). Luckily, you arrive in time at your tutorial and after 2 hours in the University you go outside and….

 

… you haven’t got any idea where you left your bike!

Haha, that was maybe the worst experience since I came here. After an exhausting 20 minutes search I finally found my lovely ride. So here is my tip for you: Pimp your ride in a way so that you will immediately find it, even if you do not know exactly where you left it (e.g. decorate it with flowers or paint it in a really fancy colour ;-)).

Next time, I am going to share my first experiences that I gained at the School of Business and Economics and the famous PBL-System with you. I hope you enjoyed reading!

Wish you all the best!

 

Marie