FLYING HIGH TO MAASTRICHT: Dumbfounding -Thandekile

This post is written by Thandekile Madikane but because of the technical problems, I upload behalf of.

Hello again to you all..

I will be taking you on a journey  through some of my experiences  and certainly some of the culture shocks i have discovered along the way. I am well aware of the fact that as individuals, we are all bound to see and view certian experiences in different ways depending on which side of lifes window we chose to gaze at the world from.

Follow me through some of my most shocking and breataking steps through this startling introduction to the “other side”…

1) AM I BROKE ALREADY: OR TAMBO AIRPORT SOUTH AFRICA

AM I BROKE ALREADY: OR TAMBO AIRPORT SOUTH AFRICA

Pre-departure was both exhilarating anduncertain as leaving my country was becoming a reality. So I had to man up and take the bull by the horns,  there are many bulls where I’m from,  from experience I must warn you, that this act is never a good idea. So after dragging my entire family and continent to bid me farewell , I had to do the most sensible thing and exchange my South African Rands to Euros . Needless to say, after exchanging exactly 6 (R 1 200) notes I was handed a measly 3 (90 Euros) –how awful.  After a brief scolding from my better half, I hesitantly accepted the converted currency whilst wondering how stingy my destination could be for depriving my wallet of a decent perceived thickness.

2)  FAST FOOD: FLYING SAUCER & LEMONS?

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After an eleven hour flight to Amsterdam and a 3 hour train ride to Maastricht, we could finally have something to eat. The most obvious choice was at the first ‘good-looking-mouth- watering’ place we could find.  Well unfortunately I still don’t know what the round-looking, meat and extras filled bread is called, quite odd really. What I found even odder is that Fanta Orange in Maastricht (I’d imagine all of Netherlands, I suppose) actually tastes like lemons than orange really. Now this might sound ignorant of me, in South Africa the opposite holds, the colour of the drink is orange and yes you guessed right, it tastes like fizzy orange drink.

3) Transportation and mobility: DAISY BELL!

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I have come to be appreciative of the transportation system in Maastricht, I am impressed by it so far. More so by the bicycles that are an everyday means of transportation for residents here. Firstly, as a student I envisage that no one really looks down on you for not having a car and riding a bicycle in this town, unlike back home; am even sure that  many of these bicycles could tell of numerous romantic stories and love fairy tales past bye. On that note, am sure that the old folk song about Daisy holds true in Maastricht. For all who might have forgotten the lyrics to this Harry Dacre classic, they go somewhat this way “lalalalalalalalala……….It won’t be a stylish marriage,I can’t afford a carriage,But you’d look sweet upon the seat Of a bicycle built for two”. So fellas if you want to ease up on the gas and impress a lady at the same time, Maastricht is the city to do just that.

4) Food  and Drink

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amstel

heineken

I’d adviseyouto learn and get some grasp of the Dutch language, it has been difficult at times understanding what is written on food labels. I will admit however that my knowledge of Afrikaans has aided in this regard, but I still find difficulty in understanding instructions on the packages. It certainly wasn’t hard knowing what beer one would drink right?-you can imagine the shock of discovering that two of my favourite beers were completely different here 1) Amstel was in red coloured cans and 2) Heineken was in brown bottles……..what a shocker. In South Africa these are in green bottles, so please bear with me ok, very shocked indeed!

5) WEATHER &WHAT AGAIN?

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I hope I don’t offend sensitive readers for what I am about to write next. Firstly I apologise for the two photographs, but they express how I feel at times. They express my feeling towards the weather in this town as well as my confusion at the sanitation system here. It’s simple really, back home its summer and here we’re entering winter (makes me want to do whatever the short guys are doing – *hides*). What I find baffling as well is why the toilet bowl hole (for lack of better word) would not be positioned in the middle as is back home, this I really found puzzling– it provides difficulty for certain activities to be accomplished, and certain missiles to be optimally positioned- if you have the answer certainly clarify.

Thandekile Madikane

Glühwein

It’s snowing outside (for real this time) and that reminded me that I had to thank my German friends who took me to the market to try this wonderful creation, Glühwein. Hot, tasty, and absolutely NOT disgusting as I expected. And there was even a bit of snow while we were drinking this almost dangerous beverage (it’s wine, yet, we don’t really taste the alcohol)! Next step: to drink it as much as them. Man, those people can drink!

Do you believe in Sinterklaas??

Dear followers, today I will tell you such a scoop. You cannot even imagine how astonished I was after I heard these news. Look carefully at the pictures below. What do they have in common?

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san-nicola-di-bari

I will give you the solution, but in an orderly fashion.

It was mid-November when I started to puzzle over the early Christmas preparation going on here in Maastricht. My mum came to visit me on November 17th and while I was showing her the Market Square, suddenly four bands crowded the area. The square was also full of children and boys with black-painted faces and funny red costumes. We simply had no clue of what was going on, so I asked a police officer… He was replying to me when we were literally bombed by candies! Those dressed-up people were throwing candies all around! I was so distracted by this that I could not understand completely the officer’s answer.

Band playing in Market Square

I got something like  “Today Santa Claus arrives in the Netherlands and children are waiting for him. Even if the main celebration is in two weeks, we also have a small ritual today”. I thought I was given a clear explanation but… wasn’t Santa Claus supposed to come on December 25th , more than 30 days later?

I was even more confused and decided to show mum some cool shops in the city centre. Most of patisseries were selling chocolates reproducing Santa Claus with the hat of a bishop … something strange was happening.

Almost two weeks later I found the answer. My mother is still waiting for this post to understand a bit more about that day.

Dutch people celebrate Sinterklaas on 5th December. AND Santa Claus on 25th December… It Sinterklaas who arrived in the Netherlands on 17th November, AND NOT Santa Claus! Precisely, he arrived from Spain on a steamboat full of candies and presents. His helpers, Zwarte Pieten (Black Petes),  had dirty faces as they came down smoky chimneys to deliver gifts to children.

I got these precious info from a Dutch boy I met on the train this Saturday night (I could have googled Sinterklaas, I know, but a local source is much more reliable). I should also mention how proud he was of this tradition, and how angry he was with the multinational company that “copied a Dutch ceremony and transformed it into an icon to sell more beverages”!

So, here’s the link between the first and the second picture. How about the last one?

I didn’t tell you that Saint Nicholas was a bishop in Turkey during the 3rd century. Seven hundred years later his body was secretly translated to the city of Bari,  in the south of Italy, that became part of the Spanish Kingdom. And this is why Sinterklaas comes “from Spain”!!

I could say that Santa Claus is somehow from Italy, which is absolutely incredible to me. Actually San Nicola is the patron city of Bari nowadays and huge celebrations are made on December 6th, when he died, and on May 9th, when his body was brought to Bari. This explains the third picture above.

So, who still believes in the Finnish Santa Claus, surrounded by snow, flying in the sky with a sledge??

I hope I didn’t bore you to death with this story, it was very fascinating to me.

I would love to tell you about my whole November here, but it would take more than an entire month. Life in Maastricht is so intense and full of opportunities! I decided to spend the last weekend in Amsterdam and during these days I’ve been to some UM Career Service events. On Friday I will join a company presentation in Der Haag with other members of SigmaInvestments club, one of the SBE associations. Obviously, I am also looking forward the Final ESN Party on Friday night and let you know about it!

Cheers,

Claudio

Traveling Outside of Maastricht

Greetings all!

I thought I’d dedicate this post to describing all the places I visited during the month of November. Hopefully it gives you an idea of the places you can visit while on exchange in Maastricht.

Brussels. Brussels is one of the larger cities you can visit with a cheap train ticket from Maastricht. I arrived on a Friday afternoon and stayed at the Van Gogh hostel. On Friday night my friend and I checked out the Delerium beer cafe, where the whole neighborhood is crammed with restaurants, bars, and cafes. We ended up at a bar called Rooster’s, where the locals were extremely friendly to us and helped us plan our itinerary for the next day.

atomium
The Atomium, Brussels

On Saturday, after a late start, we made our way to the Atomium, which is a scaled representation of an iron molecule that was constructed for the 1958 World Fair and never removed. The massive structure towers into the sky, and you can see it from miles away. We walked around the Atomium and into the park where the structure sits, and we enjoyed the crisp weather and changing colors of autumn. Afterward, we headed back downtown toward the Grand Place and the other iconic buildings of Brussels. We caught a museum exhibit, found a waffle cart, and then stumbled upon the Palais de Justice, a massive architectural icon that now appears uninhabited and neglected. After spending a late Saturday night at the bars near the Bourse, we were exhausted and ready to depart on Sunday afternoon.

Down at the Bourse, Brussels
Down at the Bourse, Brussels
Palais du Justice, Brussels
Palais du Justice, Brussels

 

CologneI planned my visit to Cologne for the autumn Carnival, which is a massive, citywide celebration that announces the beginning of the Christmas season. I was told that the autumn Carnival isn’t as crazy as the spring Carnival, which makes me wonder how anyone could survive a party crazier than the one I attended this autumn. People assemble in various parts of the city and start their Carnival with strong cocktails and beer at about 8am. They spend all morning and all day drinking, celebrating, and meeting whoever’s paths they cross. It was an incredibly entertaining event. If you have the opportunity to attend, I thoroughly recommend it, but make sure you have a nice, safe place to crash (and don’t forget a costume) :).

Kölner Dom, Cologne
Kölner Dom, Cologne

Sicily. My cousin and I needed a break from the chill of autumn, so we set our sights on Sicily for a week-long extravaganza. We flew into Lamezia, rented a car, and drove to an amazing city called Tropea. It was nearly impossible to navigate any of the cities with the maps we had, but many of the locals were helpful with giving some directions. The first hotel we stayed at in Tropea upgraded our room to their nicest suite (we still aren’t sure why). We spend the first afternoon strolling the beach and enjoying the sunshine. It was a little difficult to find food/drink because we were visiting during the off-season, but we ended up getting some great pizza.

Tropea, Italy
Tropea, Italy

The next day, we headed south toward Messina to catch the ferry to Sicily. Once across, we headed directly for Palermo. It was nighttime once we got to Palermo, which wasn’t the best circumstances for arriving in a busy, hectic city. By the time we finally found our hotel and checked in, it was half-past 9. We enjoyed a late dinner and made friends with a couple bartenders at a nearby beer garden.

Palermo was, in the end, a bit of a dud for us, so we were happy to be headed toward Taormina the next morning. We drove across the island, through some scenic hills/mountains, and past Catania. Upon arriving in Taormina, we were elated to have chosen a two-night stay. The city was deserted because it was the off-season, but the beaches were gorgeous. There was also a nice tourist area with shops, etc., located near a historic Greek theater. After Taormina, we headed back to Lamezia and flew north into the cold weather once again.

I am proud to say that the car we rented was returned with no damage.

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Taormina, Sicily

Berlin. My favorite of the cities I visited was, by far, Berlin. It was a young, artistic, and grungy vibe everywhere I went, which gave the city a comfortable feel. The first night I was there I enjoyed the best falafel of my life (in fact, all the food I had in Berlin was excellent –except for currywurst). My friend and I spent a mellow evening walking the streets and checking out a little of the nightlife. On the following day, we put together a Thanksgiving dinner for 8 adults + kids, which made us a little stir-crazy and excited to go into the city again that night. On my third day in Berlin, I had the opportunity to see more of the city and catch some sights. We headed over to the Berlin Wall, and wandered the city from there. My friend showed me some of her favorite graffiti art, and we ended the day with gluehwein.

Berlin
Berlin

 

Graffiti Art, Berlin
Graffiti Art, Berlin

 

Best, K

Studying in SBE. Take a closer look.

Hello! This is Ju.

Maastricht is now lighted with Christmas spirit. The main square, Vrijtof, is now changed into a beautiful christmas market. However things has been really crazy for me. Past couple of weeks, my team projects,tutorials and assignments were overwhelming. I couldn’t sleep well for days, was stressed out. It’s fine now, although I still have some assignments and one exam to kill. This warm christmas atmosphere is healing my body and soul 🙂

Today I would like to talk about studying in Maastricht University-SBE.

What’s my time schedule look like?

This period, I go to school twice a week. Tuesday and Friday. I have two tutorials each day(seldom lecture..) which lasts 2 hours each. Twice a week. Sounds not so bad right? Well, the truth is you’ll have no time because you have so much things to do.(Especially if I would like to travel for the weekends!

How do I prepare for tutorial?

Tutorial is a very core of PBL.There are about 10-15 students in one tutorial group. For Each tutorial you have to read assigned materials. For instance, I have to read one chapter of “Scale and Scope/Alfred D. Chandler” for tutorial of International Business History. For Marketing course, I have to read three harvard business review articles. Reading such a lot of materials is not easy, makes me stressed out.

However once you prepare, it makes you get involved in tutorial session. If you don’t read,then,you will feel confused and lose the interest of the day’s lesson. So read, think and bring questions if you have. Thats the basic rule of  tutorial.

Presentations, Presentations…..

This period I have a lot of presentations regarding the assigned material. For instance in International Business History, each group presents about today’s topic and suggests some discussion points. It is interesting to prepare for this kind of presentation because it really helps you digest the topic of the day and see the big picture of the course.

There are another kinds of presentations too. For Strategic marketing, we do talk about the articles but presentations are always about sloving marketing case. It demands much more effort than just reading. We have to come up with solutions and be specific enough to even suggest some NPV, appropriate price… etc.

For Schooling and Learning in Organizations, the presentation was more like a ‘wrap-up’. Every team presented on the same day, in front of the tutors and his/her collegues who study this topic. We suggested possible ‘research proposal’. I think this course is really helpful to those who are interested in doing master in this field, or even bachelors who are to write thesis.

Doing a lot of presentations is not a thing that everybody loves.(Especially If I have to do it in English..) I sometimes freak out and am very nervous, pause to find words in English. However, its now a big part of my school life here in SBE. Actually it is inspiring to see those regular students who perfectly grasp the topic and gives precise presentation.

Exam?!

Not every course has exam. However, most of SBE courses have exams. Venue for exam is MECC; across the river. It is like a huge hall. Many students (including students from other faculty) take exam at the same time. You might want to be punctual on exam day. They close the door when the exam starts. (My friend overslept and didnt make it for the exam.. it happens!)

Exam could be multiple choice questions, essay, short answer… etc. I heard that they have very elborate system that sometimes when you GUESS some answers,  it is notbe fully reflected to higher your score. Well. nothing we could do about it. Let’s be prepared!

Overall…

It is very demanding I would say. If you are taking two courses in the period, it will be not easy for you to squeez your time to enjoy Europe. However, I think it is worthwhile. As a 2nd year bachelor student, it is inspiring to see all those regular students from international backgrounds having healthy discussions and finally, fulfill each day’s learning goal when tutors are not leading but guiding them time to time. It is not about being fluent in English. It is about how much you understand (or try to understand) the topics and argue what you have understood. I think it is much better than just taking lecture all the time although not easy. For those who thinks that ‘challenge is worth confronting’, SBE will be a perfect school for you. So far I can’t say that I’m not stressed 😉 but I’m glad that I’m taking course here in SBE 😀

Here are the some brief comments about the courses that I’ve been taking.

Any questions welcome!

1. Schooling and Learning in Organizations(period 1)

Relatively easy(Human resources related) Tutor is very helpful and fun. Easy going but also interesting subject. More academic than applied with real business. Not very demanding. Highly recommended for exchange students.

2. International Business History(period2)

Very hard reading material. Not easy but doable. Very interesting subject.  Less exchange students. So far enjoying the course.

3. Strategic Marketing (period2)

Demanding. Very hard for me to handle the group projects and case write-ups with also a lot of readings. Not easy for those who only has taken marketing 101(Since it really asks you to combine financial knowledge with marketing). Surely is useful subject who wants to be a future marketer. 

4.Creativity&Concept Development(period3)

will take this course this january!

Best regards,

Ju K.