That Asian experiences Spring.

Period 4 is gone. Now it’s the new time for new classes and new knowledge in Period 5. Changes in the time. One hour forward, change the time for your watches!-for future spring students- [as for an Asian, changing the time for spring and changing back in future, it’s weird!Cause we never do that.] We lose one hour now, and will gain them later in the future.

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Spring in Maastricht, with sun shinning for a few days, and sometimes it just shy away. The day is getting longer, this really mess up my dinner time. Because who looks at their watches always to see what time is it? Usually, we look at the sky to predict the time. That is what I usually do, you might be different. Anyways. It’s spring time, flowers are blooming and if you’re here for spring time, at least!! AT LEAST! Visit Keukenhof Garden in Lisse.

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Go there to see more for yourself. Buy the tickets online. They usually have extra stuffs free. Like for my case in 2013, there were free 1hour canal cruise. So, why not take the better deal! Check out their official website.
Transportation to Keukenhof, take the train. It’s always the best transport in the Netherland. Fast, reliable and lots of trains. Even if you miss the first 10 minutes train, usually after 10 minutes, another train will come get you.

If you’re reading this, this is the best tip you would ever find, I hope! Try this website, (although everything it is dutch, but translating everything will make you feel good!)
Cheap tickets with Korting-(Discount)!

http://www.spoordeelwinkel.nl/

For this, you need a Netherlands bank account -to buy those tickets. That typical asian who likes to be thrifty.

CHecklist for the springers exchanging to Maastricht:

sunglasses
sunblock
hat
slippers
light cloths

Get them from the shops here in Maastricht. V&D, Hema, C&A and lots more….
It’s not that expensive!- REASONABLE! I read the previous bloggers and he/she said it was expensive to shop in Maastricht. This affected me to bring whatever I could from my truly Asia country, Malaysia. If I knew, I would come here almost empty handed. When you’re here, let me know if you think it’s expensive or not.

Ciao! (just got back from Italy-and I’m not over it yet) Ciao!!

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Stukafest Maastricht 2013

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Where anything is allowed besides stinky socks.

Stukafest takes place across the Netherlands and hit Maastricht on Feb. 28. The festival is run by students for students, and provides an affordable way for us ramen-noodle-eating, penny pinching students to experience some incredible music. Instead of attending concerts in normal venues, students around Maastricht opened up their living rooms for artists to perform. Tickets had to be purchased in advance since show sizes were limited to about 20 people.

I opted to get tickets for all three shows for the festival, and spent a grand total of 11 euros on three concerts. WAHOO! Check out the full line-up for the event on the Stukafest website. I chose to see the following shows:

EM

As this was our first stop on our concert hopping adventure, I had no idea what to expect. We biked up to the front door down a somewhat dodgy alley and saw a small Stukafest sticker on the front of a tarnished green door – we were in the right spot.

We knocked, had our tickets checked, and were silently welcomed into a dark hallway. We passed through one more door and were then greeted with a bright room full of about 15 people. People were sprawled across couches, on the floor, leaning against the windowsill. The atmosphere was friendly and communal – I saw drinks and chocolates passing through the hands of people sitting on the floor. I joined a girl with dreadlocks on the floor and her friend sitting behind me on the couch told me to lean back against her legs for a more comfortable floor seat. Anything goes besides stinky socks.

After hanging out for a few minutes talking to the group around me and enjoying a chocolate egg, the boy sitting directly to my right got up and took the microphone and started to rap. This must be EM. I liked how he did not introduce himself – he just started rapping. It felt somewhat unnatural to start without an introduction, but the entire night felt unnatural, so in the scheme of the festival his unique start to the show made perfect sense.

Here’s EM:

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Barulheiros

Our next concert was held at the Madril Cultural Centre. Nine people live a communal lifestyle at the Mandril and always open their doors to events in the community. Their mission statement is “To provide a platform for the stimulation of cultural participation in Maastricht and beyond.” Here, we saw a group of 8 young guys called Barulheiros. Ages ranging from 18 to 22 these guys looked like a bunch of high school kids getting together for marching band practice – but they played and performed like professionals. Using all kinds of drums and other objects they worked together to create heart-pumping rhythms and got the entire audience to dance along. By the end of the show the rhythm of the drums had encapsulated the entire audience and I exited the doors still jumping around and shaking my head.

Here’s Barulheiros:

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Sillicone Haemorrhoids Unprod. ft RE:Coreco

Our final show was the smallest with only about 10 people squeezed into a small living room on the top floor of an apartment. This soundism band used recording equipment and household items to create trippy beats. It was a nice, relaxing end to night of concert hopping.

This band must be too obscure to have a band photo. Here is the only photo of them that Stukafest has:

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See the original post at THE ART OF ADVENTURE a travel blog by Reagan J. Payne

Eating Cheap as an Exchange Student

Dining out is eating away at my wallet.

Existing in a foreign country as an exchange student is a strange limbo between native and visitor. Everything feels foreign, yet everything around us is home for the next five months. So far I’ve been buying food with the mentality of a visitor – try it all! Now, after a horrified look into an empty wallet, I’m switching to treating food and drink spending as a native – and will hopefully start saving money!

Step 1 

Explore a few grocery stores, ask people who live here, and determine which stores are best for which products. For me, I’ve determined that Albert Heijn is my go-to affordable store for all things besides produce. Aldi’s is a farther walk from my apartment, but has the cheapest produce and is worth the extra effort.

While in line in Albert Heijn yesterday, I noticed all the locals holding identical blue cards. Curious, I ASKED. Most good saving discoveries come from simply asking, and sure enough, I learned all about the AH Reward program by asking a QUESTION to the cashier.

I’m now a proud AH Reward card holder!

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Step 2

Opt to cook over eating out. I’ve met most of my neighbors on my floor while (attempting) to cook in the comunal kitchen. There is a sense of community and connectedness when you prepare food as a group, then sit down and eat together. My soups might be watery and my vegetables burned, but I love cooking here for the people value and quality time spent in the kitchen together. I’m in week two and starting to figure out cheap recipes that I enjoy. Stay tuned for my Students Eat Cheap Recipes and please comment with your own staple meals. I’d love to learn new dishes!

Step 3 

Keep ingredients simple and start buying from the bottom. “Start buying from the bottom” is my way of saying that the more natural (and usually healthier!) the product, the cheaper it is.

I often use basil, but found the packaged basil too expensive. Instead, I opted with purchasing my own basil plant. It was two euros, and has provided both myself and other members of my floor with an endless amount of basil. This was about half the price of purchasing a much smaller quantity of basil, prepackaged.

Look for herb plants; NEVER buy pre-cut fruit. It will take you five minutes to slice up your fruit, and that five minutes will save you from a ridiculously expensive additional charge.

Avoid individually pre-packaged snacks. Again, extra charges. Buy a few ziplock baggies and pack snacks yourself – much more affordable!

Step 4 

Buy store brand and take a few seconds to scan for the cheapest option. There’s no need to spend extra money on a special brand of tomato sauce: we’re in college. One day we can buy Spaghetti Bolognase le Fancy, but for now we are college students eating off plastic plates. Love it, embrace it, and buy generic.

Step 5

Don’t be afraid to go native! I’d much rather make and eat a Dutch Bitterbal snack than a boring ol’ PB&J. Explore new local recipes, and even new food.

Here is where I allow some food splurging. The Dutch have incredible cheeses, so once a week I buy a new kind of cheese to try. Find food that is important to you, or important to the culture you’re in, and be OK spending a little bit of money on it. The cheese is a treat for me, and I’m having a gouda time trying all the different kinds!

Step 6 

Learn how to cook and find fun recipes to try. There are fantastic cooking recipes out there, start building a collection. I’ve been finding recipes through:

  • Dutch home magazines. I found a Dutch cookbook, but for seven euros I’m happy I didn’t buy it. In most cafes here, magazines are on tables, many often in English. Flip through, find a recipe, and cook your own Dutch avondeten!
  • Pinterest. Of course. I have two boards going for travel cooking. One board is dedicated to cold dishes, or dishes that will be easy to prepare while hosteling. The other board is where I store more adventurous recipes, but still all easy to prepare.
  • Whole Foods Recipe iPhone App – free!
  • AllRecipes iPhone App – free!
  • Recipes by Better Homes iPhone App – free!
  • Ask people in your hallway to show you their favorite meals and how to prepare them. I’m learning about new foods and new ways to prepare foods from other students from around the world. It really is a lot of fun! There’s plenty of wait time while cooking, so conversations really get rolling while cooking together. What might start off as an exchange of cooking tips often turns into an enlightening exchange of cultures.

When collecting recipes, be sure to first look at the ingredients list. Don’t cook a meal that includes multiple, pricey ingredients that you’ll never use again. Stick to the basics, and find recipes that cater to the ingredients you already own.

Step 7

Explore local stores and build relationships. I’ve made friends with the local baker, and always have her pick out which bread I should get. Last time I was in she gave me a rye bread that looked bland, until I tore a piece off and found it filled with fruit! At restaurants, see what dish is the server’s favorite. Typically, it won’t be what you were initially eying. Here’s my philosophy on ordering – you have to eat the rest of your life. Treat food you spend money on as an experience, and go for it! You know what a hamburger tastes like…but what is this Hutspot and Snert?! Try it.

Step 8 

Pack snacks. A handfull of nuts. An apple. Cheese, salami and crackers. Avoid little snack spending this way.

Step 9

Make coffee a treat, not a necessity…AAHHH!! I’ve been making myself a lot of tea, and pretending that it is filling the void of my daily coffee. I’ve decided to never order a coffee to go. Cappuccinos and all other coffee drinks here are simply TOO GOOD to not sit down, and savor. Frankly, also too expensive. I enjoy taking my seat at cafes somewhat behind the counter, because I love to watch the baristas at work. It is an art here, and after working as a barista for a year, I understand the training and skill it takes to create the perfect espresso beverage.

Some cafes host free tasting events, I’m looking forward to attending one while I’m here!

Step 10 

It is SO MUCH CHEAPER to cook for multiple people than to cook for one. Make friends with the people you live with, and figure out a schedule to share meals. One idea is to create an “International Dinner” where everyone brings one dish from their home nation. This is a cheaper alternative to eating because you just have to create one dish and then get a full dinner from sampling other people’s foods. Potluck dinners and creating a schedule for cooking for each other allows a stronger community and a cheaper alternative to eating alone.

See the original post at THE ART OF ADVENTURE a travel blog by Reagan J. Payne

iTravel better without my iPhone

Wallet, check!

Room key, check!

Burt’s Bees Chapstick (obsessed), check!

iPhone…iPhone…iPHONE?!?

Last week, my iPhone was stolen at The Alla. For those not familiar with Maastricht, The Alla is the club that opens after all the bars close for the night. It is always packed crowded, and plays hysterically outdated American pop music. I’ve heard of many stolen iPhone episodes at The Alla, but still stupidly kept my phone in my back pocket – it was really too easy a steal.

AT&T informed me that my phone ended up in Belgium and the thief used a generous amount of my international data:

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I was so mad. I had emailed, called, Facebooked, texted my phone and I know the thief received all my pleas to return my phone. They deleted some of my emails, liked my own profile photo and never once responded to my desperate cries for my iPhone back.

When I think of my iPhone’s journey across country borders with strangers, I imagine a group of mean thieves laughing at all my embarrassing iPhone photos, reading my text messages to my mom, refreshing the front page of my NYT app. That phone has my everything stored on it, and now it is floating around somewhere in Belgium.

For the past year, my iPhone has been glued to my left-hand. It is adorned with a Chi Omega case, a Christmas gift from my mother. Losing that phone feels like I lost an important piece of myself.

Without my iPhone, how am I supposed to avoid eye contact with strangers?! Or not look lonely when waiting in line for coffee by myself?! What if I take a wrong turn, and don’t have a blue dot to guide me back to my familiar route?! These questions kept me up at night – the first night I’ve spent without a phone in years.

How silly.

My iPhone had become nothing short of an addiction, and I cannot be happier to finally be rid of the technology that takes up so much of my time and attention. Two days after losing the phone, I was moping in the kitchen with friends when a Spanish boy walks into the room and, I’m being 100% serious, asks:

“Does anyone want my old phone? I’m moving out and don’t need it.”

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So here I am. With my new free Nokia phone with a cracked screen – it even has a sudoku game on it!

Life often works out.

Technology and Travel

There are some truly incredible technology resources that bring value to travel, but it is a trade-off. I spent an entire train ride to Amsterdam searching for fun things to see/do, and I found some great information! But, I didn’t take time to look out the window and enjoy the passing countryside. The hostel owner in Amsterdam was eager and ready to answer all my questions that I already had answers to from searching online.  Sitting downstairs in the hostel, I was looking at my iPhone to look important and busy – nobody talked to me.

With my new phone, I don’t sit places and read the news, I sit and look at people. I mean, right in the eyes. There are so many human connections waiting to happen. iPhones might connect us to the entire world on the internet, but it deprives us from connecting with the immediate world around us.

I don’t miss my iPhone or the convenience it brings. Maybe getting lost and simply existing in a new city is better than diligently following my blue dot from one destination to another. Asking locals for their recommendations instead of consulting the Trip Advisor app includes a smile and not just a refresh icon. I really don’t need to take a photo of my cappuccino and post it on Instagram…I just need to enjoy it.

Think different. Travel different. 

See the original post at THE ART OF ADVENTURE a travel blog by Reagan J. Payne

Introduction Week – Academic

Maastricht uses an innovative education model called Problem Based Learning. Here is what the university website has to say about PBL:

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This system was one of the main reasons I was drawn to study here in Maastricht. The university consists of 42% international students, and I think this diversity paired with a discussion based learning environment will lend itself to some fantastic conversations and fascinating learning. According to the Maastricht University School of Business and Economics Facebook Page, 227 exchange students from 69 different partner universities and 32 countries world-wide attended the Introduction Days and will be enrolled as full-time students this spring. Introduction day at the business school meant I was finally going to experience the PBL method and meet my diverse classmates! It was like a nerdy Christmas day!

Registration opened at 9am on the first day of Introduction. I was really impressed by the flow and organization of the entire two days starting from the moment I walked in. Each student received a personal envelope which included our Student ID card, official acceptance letter, maps, city information, a student handbook and a schedule for the day.

We then had a breakfast meet and greet to talk with other students in our program. This was hilarious social observing. I believe most of us came here to meet people from all over the world, yet during our first chance to talk to foreign classmates everyone tended to congregate with students from their homelands. I know I ended up talking with Americans and other students whom I had already met.

At 1oam we took our seats in a very nice lecture hall. The facilities here are impressive – a true blend of old Hogwarts type architecture with a new, modern feel inside. On each seat was one of these awesome orange bags:

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Taking this selfie bag shot on my computer was easily the strangest part of my day. The bag is great though, I had to show it! Also, the bright orange has been convenient for me. I still often get lost on my way to the business school, and it is a relief when I am able to follow another student with an orange bag and know they are heading to the same place I am!

The morning lectures started with a Welcome by Tom Van Veen, then progressed through this schedule:

Welcome Speech by Mayor Onno Hoes

  • Yes, as in the Mayor of Maastricht. He descended from the dark stairs in the back and walked up to the podium with charisma. He gave a fantastic speech about how our classmates are a great learning opportunity. He also referenced the Maastricht Treaty and how studying abroad can be an extension of the treaty’s purpose to have a pan-European community. He also touched on all the fun Maastricht has to offer, like Carnival!

School Matters by Ruth Reynders

  • The Dutch use a grading system of 1-10. You need to get a 5.5 to pass a class. Most students fall into the 6/7 category. It is impossible to receive a 10, and nearly impossible to receive a 9 or even an 8.5. Lucky for me, I just have to pass my classes and none of my grades here will effect my GPA! Though there was a collective gasp of horror at this grading system from other international students who aren’t as lucky to be taking classes pass/fail.

Police Maastricht by Paul Vermin

  • The usual safety warning

PBL the concept by Wim Gijselaers

  • Please visit the PBL Preparation website to learn more about the process
  • I think the concept is ideal for education and even efficiency in the workplace. It is similar to creating a giant think tank of ideas in a single classroom with an extremely diverse array of people with different backgrounds, education, political beliefs, upbringing ect. Group cohesion isn’t the goal. Contradicting ideas are supposed to drive conversation, and we work together as a team to come up with new ideas and help teach each other the material.
  • Clearly, Wim Gijselaers sold me! I’m a fan of PBL. Though, I am very fortunate to have English as my first language. I have so much respect for non-native speakers who take PBL classes. What a challenge to have to think on your feet, understand the material AND speak in front of a group in a foreign language. The level of English spoken at MU is impressive, and academic conversations are comparable to those in the States. I’m surrounded by very impressive students at MU!

ESN activities by ESN President

  • The ESN President gave a charismatic speech in a full suit (then later that night I saw him standing on the bar pouring tequila shots into people’s mouths). That dichotomy is the best snapshot to describe ESN. It is a very polar organization with part super professional, and part crazy party.

Dealing with the Dutch by Mark Vluggen

  • Ha! Dutch people making fun of themselves is my new favorite comedy genre.
  • This was hysterical, and accurate. He touched on a lot of what I’ve been feeling as an American here.
  • One idea he commented on was the German students. German students take school very seriously, while the Dutch tend to just put in the work required to pass. Of course these are bold generalizations, but the lecturer assured us to anticipate these characteristics.

After lecture, we met with our groups to get lunch. My group had about 15 people in it from all over the world. During lunch, I sat with Chinese students and talked to them about China. They were shocked that an American knew how to speak some Chinese and that I had visited China. Their surprise with this minimal Chinese culture awareness is bummer considering they were speaking perfect English to me. America has the reputation of being very nationalistic and citizens fairly ignorant about the rest of the world. While this might be the case, I think (hope) we are improving.

The number of American passports issued since 2000 has nearly doubled. Read this article from Forbes about American Passports for more information on American’s going abroad.

After lunch we visited some key buildings around campus, including the library and student services complex. Our tour guide explained that everyone dresses up to go to the library. This is strange to me, since I one time spent all night in the library in basically pajamas. He was right though, people did look great. I think this might be because as MU students we have so much reading to do, that we all spend a lot of time inside the library, so it is almost a social spot. I guess I can trade in my glasses for some mascara to go study!

The tour concluded our first Introduction Day. A group of us struggled together to find our way back to our dormitory. We’re all 20-something and yet felt like college freshman lost on campus on our way home. When I was actually a college freshman I used landmarks like the gym to navigate home. Here I use landmarks like a medieval cathedral.

Day two kicked off at 10am with the long anticipated…PBL session! We were given a small excerpt on Wikileaks, and then discussed. The “formal” format of a PBL lecture should follow these seven steps:

1. Word Definitions from the reading

2. Problem statements

3. Brainstorm

4. Analyse and criticize

5. Learning objectives

6. Study the required literature

7. Post discussion

Our teaching assistant said this format isn’t strictly followed, but provides more of a loose backbone to the discussion. I enjoyed the following two hours discussing Wikileaks. We hopped from the topics of whistleblowing in the workpace, to the role of government, freedom of information as a human right, the need for watchdogs and government responsibility, the dangers of too much information…conversation leaped into so many interesting directions! Each person came from a different cultural background so many different beliefs were represented and shared. This was just a “practice session” but I walked out feeling like I learned a lot. Can’t wait to experience a “real session”.

After the PBL session we headed to the school cafeteria where…

Club music was playing and we were given four drink tickets good for soda, juice, wine and beer! PS THIS IS 1:00 IN THE AFTERNOON INSIDE THE SCHOOL CAFETERIA! Hosts were walking around with plates of hors d’œuvres to students gathered around small cocktail tables. I found this all amusing, then totally lost it laughing when I saw a slideshow playing photos from the previous night at the pub crawl. Again, another flawless semi-bizarre but fantastic mix of fun and professionalism.

The introduction days at Maastricht University were nothing short of impressive, and I look forward to my time studying here!

Here are some photos of the business school:

Smaller lecture hall – a screen comes down for presentations. Also, desks don’t discriminate against left-handers! I love it!

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Entrance to business school

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Cafeteria seating

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*Photos from Maastricht University School of Business and Economics Facebook Page

See the original post at THE ART OF ADVENTURE a travel blog by Reagan J. Payne

Introduction Week – Social

Since my arrival at Maastricht University the word “Erasmus” has been floating around during daily life. Curious, I asked a friend what it meant, and learned yet another reason why I think many European countries are doing education right.

The Erasmus Programme stands for EuRopean Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students and also holds the namesake of Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus. In 1495 Erasmus was granted a stipend to study at the University of Paris. He later attended Universities in Leuven, England, Basel, Venice and traveled to many other European cities.

Created in 1987 by the European Commission, the Erasmus Programme aims to create an opportunity for EU students to also study throughout Europe as Desiderius Erasmus did hundreds of years ago. In addition to creating a network of participating schools, the Erasmus program also offers scholarships and grants to European students.

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This concept ROCKS. Education is so expensive in America, and many students are prohibited from studying abroad due to financial limitations. The Erasmus Programme opens up an experience of a lifetime to all EU students by providing financial assistance and an easy means to go abroad.

While I did not receive any money from the Erasmus Programme (being American and all) I am still benefiting from the programme. Erasmus is more than an academic institution, it also adds a huge social component.

My first week here was filled with ESN – Erasmus Student Network events. Here is a breakdown of what Introduction Week looked like in Maastricht:

Jan. 28-Jan, 30: ESN hosted City Tours to show new students around Maastricht. After the city tours, they took us to Kiwi for a free drink to socialize with other new students. Click here for the Facebook event to learn more.

  • It is possible that I did not attend the City Tour; but made it to Kiwi every night for the free drink….maybe. It was always a great way to start the night and make new friends! Basically the entire second floor was reserved for Erasmus students, and new faces were always coming and going. Lots of fun! This is Kiwi.Screen shot 2013-02-04 at 3.12.54 PM

Monday, Jan. 28 Welcome Drink at The Shamrock. Click here for the Facebook event to learn more.

  • The Shamrock is a small Irish pub in town, and is quickly becoming one of my favorite places to go. I was introduced to The Shamrock on my first night in town. Since then I’ve had fun trying new kinds of beers and running into loads of other students enjoying the small, relaxed atmosphere of The Shamrock.

Tuesday, Jan. 29 Beer Rallies – teams of 4 compete to chug their beer the fastest. Really. Click here for the Facebook event to learn more and here for photos.

  • I had the intentions of keeping this blog entirely alcohol free, but that simply is not going to work. Beer is essential to the culture here, and is treated much differently in the Netherlands than in the States. The drinking culture here is responsible, and focuses on the social aspects. I’m not sure where the US college culture became so warped with alcohol consumption, but we could learn a few lessons from Europeans.
  • My friend, Marta, from Barcelona and I paired up with the two biggest guys in the room we could find – we were going to take this competition very seriously!
  • Essentially the game works as a race. Two “judges” stand on each side of the table. They “cheers” their beers, then drink in unison. The first judge to put their beer down on the table starts the race,  so both ends of the teams have to pay attention. The first person chugs their beer, puts the cup on their head to prove it is empty, smashes it down on the table and the next person goes. The last person on the team of 4 to have their cup hit the table first, wins!395645_562874433724897_461397943_n

Wednesday, Jan. 30 Pubquiz. Click here for the Facebook event to learn more.

  • This night some of us opted to stay in and hang out. I’m sure it was a fun event!

Thursday, Jan. 31 Pub Crawl. Click here  for the Facebook event to learn more and here for photos.

(photo credit ESN Maastricht)

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  • Before the Pub Crawl my friend, Lukas, from Italy cooked some of us REAL Italian pasta. Check out my blog post about Italians in the Kitchen.
  • After our Italian dinner, we met about 250 or so students in the Vrijthof (the main city square) and broke out into groups. We joined group 3 and had a mix of 5 or so European countries represented in our Pub Crawl group.
  • The Pub Crawl went through seven bars around Maastricht…a great way to learn our way around the town and meet more people!

Friday, Feb. 1 CANTUS. Click here to read about Cantus. PS that wasn’t a friendly link share, that was a demand! I cantus believe I had never heard of Cantus before, you should know about it too!

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Seriously, go read about Cantus.

Saturday, Feb. 2 prESNow party. Click here for the Facebook event to learn more and here for photos.

Sunday, Feb. 3 Superbowl at the Shamrock, starting at 12:30am read my post about The Superbowl and Other Sports Abroad.

Monday, Feb. 4 Mexican Night. Click here for the Facebook event to learn more and here for photos.

Tuesday, Feb. 5 White Party click here for photos.

  • We had dinner with friends then went downtown to an apartment pre-party and looked silly walking around as a group in all white outside of the white party.

The night started like this….

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Then turned into something more like this…

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At the end of this crazy introduction week, I am ready to start classes and dive into academics. (Token education related closure for you, Mom and Dad.)

See the original post at THE ART OF ADVENTURE a travel blog by Reagan J. Payne