Michael on Tour

Hey! So month two in Maastricht was filled with lots of travel and very little sleep!

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Hungarian Parliament Building

We had a week off for Carnival – which is a festival where everyone dresses up in whacky costumes and heads down to the main square where there is a parade amongst other events. I travelled to Budapest for 4 days during the time off. It was a place I never thought about travelling to but I’m really glad I went. It is a beautiful city and gave me a chance to see a part of Eastern Europe – somewhere I’d never been before.

It was only till I booked my flights that I actually found out that Buda and Pest are two separate places either side of the River Danube (duuhhh). So I was feeling a little bit like an ignorant tourist by the time arrived, but thankfully I was able to learn loads about the history of Hungary and the city when we went on a couple of walking tours on the first day. It was really interesting to hear about their history with communism and the efforts towards true democracy in the country. Also, did you know that Hungarians invented the likes of the electric motor, nuclear reactor, digital computer and of course not to forget the Rubik’s Cube.

The next day I traveled to a small town outside of the city called Szentendre. It only takes around 30minutes on the train to get there and it was a really nice change to the hustle and bustle of the city.

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Amazing view over the River Danube and the city

The weather was perfect and we enjoyed lunch by the river and ice-cream (highlight of my trip) I would definitely recommend the town if you are ever in Budapest. It only cost about 3 Euros to get there and back so it was really cheap and it gives you a chance to see another side of Hungary.

The following day I was treated to some stunning views over Budapest after walking up to the top of Gellert Hill, which overlooks both sides of the city and the River Danube. It was a really clear day and the breathtaking views were probably the best I’ve ever seen.

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St. Michael’s Church in Vienna

I then went on a day trip to Vienna on my last day. It took around 2 and a half hours on the train so we decided to explore the city rather than spending time in the museums and galleries which were also quite expensive. If I had to describe the city up in one word I would say “grand.”

I can’t recall seeing one ugly building, every one of them seemed beautifully made and I frequently had to remind myself to watch where I was going as I was too busy admiring the buildings. We also stopped in one of the Vienna cafes and I enjoyed Apple Strudel and some coffee which rounded off a really nice trip.

I was also lucky enough to go to Paris last weekend on a trip organised by the ESN Group here at Maastricht. We left at about 4.30am on the Saturday for a 5-6hour bus journey so once again I was a bit sleepy by the time we were walking through the Palace of Versailles. After Versailles, we headed to Sacre Coeur – where there were wonderful views over Paris as the sun set. At night we saw Le Tour Eiffel and went on a boat trip/party along the River Seine, so by the end of the night/morning I was suitably tired, which seems to be a common theme as you probably have noticed.

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The view from Sacre Coeur

The weather on the Sunday was perfect; around 20degrees and not a cloud in sight (I even got a little burnt). We started the day by having a quick look around Le Louvre and I saw Mona Lisa. I actually thought that the picture opposite was more impressive (am I allowed to say that??). We then spent time relaxing in the gardens outside before heading to Le Tour Eiffel again to enjoy a baguette under the Tower!

ImageWe mostly walked and used the metro to get around Paris and it was quite easy to get the hang of. The public transport was also free all weekend due to pollution which was lucky. After lunch we passed more sights on our way to see Notre Dame, before enjoying dinner in the ‘Latin district’ of Paris which had a really good atmosphere and buzz about the place. I had a savoury crepe and then followed that up with a nutella and banana crepe which was so good (I think they are much better than waffles, don’t tell the Dutch!)

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Michael ft. Eiffel Tower

We left that night for Maastricht and arrived back at about 4am so I was absolutely ‘knackered’ the next day, and the whole week to be honest! I can’t believe I have exams in just two weeks; I am used to having exams in May so to have exams in the middle of the second semester is a bit of a shock to the system, so there will be no travelling in the next couple of weeks 😦

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“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber

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Please feel free to ask me any questions or comment below, and check out my website if you like!

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Travel, Study and Not Enough Sleep

Hi guys, well it’s been a rather hectic few weeks and time is flying. I can’t believe I’ve been here for just under two months! I’ve done so much since my last post it’s hard to know where to begin, so I’ll start with my first trip which was the ESN Discover Holland weekend.

Discover Holland Group Photo
Discover Holland Group Photo

We started by meeting at 7:30am to get on the bus , then we travelled around to see the key sights of The Netherlands including: Utrecht, Rotterdam, Vollendam and the windmills at Kinderdijk. The highlight for me would be a draw between seeing the famous Dutch windmills and taking a group photo (all 52 of us) all wearing traditional Dutch clothes. After a tiring but fabulous weekend it was back to work, with my weekly readings and my first of many presentations to prepare.  The semesters here are very fast-paced; within very little time you’ll have assignments piling up, with something due almost every week. But thankfully we were given a week off for Carnival (where everyone takes to the streets dressed in silly costumes).Unfortunately I didn’t get to see any of the famous Maastricht carnival, as I spent the entire week in Italy. I know travelling is really tempting, but if you find yourself here in spring semester I strongly recommend you stay in Maastricht for at least one day of the carnival. Despite having missed carnival, I still had a great time in Italy which was my first trip organised independently of the university. Four of us travelled to Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan. My personal favourite was Florence -if you get the chance I strongly recommend

St Peters Square, The Vatican
St Peters Square, The Vatican

going to Florence, is an absolutely beautiful city, with so much to see including art from the great Italian masters, the stunning dome and gorgeous architecture.  Despite not being famous for it’s Gelato, like Rome,  there are actually some really great gelato places in Florence. I must say I ate an awful lot of Gelato in my week in Italy, but the banana split flavour I had in Florence was the best. When I got back from Italy, once again, I had a presentation to prepare as well as a report to write. There was no time to recover from the trip, I just had to get straight back into it. Despite the increasing pressure of assessment deadlines, I still made time to go on yet another ESN trip, this time to Paris, after a five hour bus trip (starting at 4am) we arrived in Paris where half the group went to Disneyland and the other going to Versailles Palace. I was in the latter group, and the palace was very grand and beautiful. Over the course of the weekend we saw all the keys sights of Paris. My personal favourite was the Musee d’Orsay as

Paris :)
Paris 🙂

I am a huge fan of Monet’s art. We arrived back on Monday morning at 4am, tired but thoroughly satisfied. Once again I had a presentation during the week after Paris, so there was little time for rest.  If there is one piece of advice that I can offer you it is this: although travelling is great, don’t forget to leave time for yourself just to relax or you’ll risk burning yourself out. I learnt this hard way and am looking forward to a weekend not doing anything. So remember this is your big adventure, travel and see the world, but don’t try and do everything at once Take time to relax and unwind and you’ll find that you’ll enjoy it a whole lot more!

Travelling around Europe :D

Basically since Maastricht is so near the borders of Netherlands, you can go France, Belgium and Germany from here. And so, I would just like to share where I have been to the past month and perhaps also share where I will be going soon.

Studying in Maastricht (PBL and Presentations)

I only have two modules this semester: Dealing with Diversity and Strategy. Given that diversity is a skill training module where you talk more to learn more instead of doing readings, I do not have a heavy workload in Maastricht this period. PBL system was not as scary as it seemed as first. In Singapore, we do that too but maybe with slightly more people. Here, the PBL works with roughly 15 people in a classroom. Each lesson at least in Strategy, there would be someone assigned as “discussion leader” who basically facilitates discussion among the class. By right, the discussion leader should not only read the discussion questions but also lead the discussion and summarise at the end of each question what the class has discussed. It was not that hard and the professor seemed really nice as well. I always thought that PBL means FIGHT TO SPEAK OR YOU HAVE NO CHANCE TO SPEAK OR EVERYONE ELSE WOULD HAVE TAKEN YOUR POINT AWAY. But apparently, I was wrong. My class is more of the quiet type, so speaking up is not that hard. However, recently the professor mentioned that we were too quiet and that we needed to contribute more in class.

I also just had my first individual presentation here yesterday. I was really shocked to learn that we have 20 minutes to present individually because in Singapore, you rarely get the opportunity to speak for 20 mins or each week, only maybe 3 people can present when the class is so huge. I was nervous at first because I was afraid I did not have enough to say to fill up the 20 minutes time slot. It turned out that I was more than glad that it was 20 minutes because that meant that I did not have to rush through my presentation. The presentation went fine and both the professor and the class had positive comments about my creativity in explaining something so abstract. But just a note that I tend to articulate quite fast (yea, this is me in Singapore as well. Not a Singaporean trait so no stereotypes here. Its just me). I actually asked my German group mate after my presentation if I spoke too fast but she said no. I was so relieved that she said she could understand what I was talking about.

Rotterdam/ Delft/ Eindhoven

Bought the daagkart and went for a day trip to all these places. Unfortunately, because I went Rotterdam on a Sunday, the market was closed D: Delft was really a pretty small town but nice scenery so would definitely recommend Delft to any photographers out there but would not recommend this place if you are those sort who looks for food instead. Stopped over at Eindhoven for dinner and ate some really awesome Asian food (I know its ridiculous to come Europe to eat Asian food in less than a month but our reasoning was that we wanted to taste how Europeans perceive Asian food to be like). Eindhoven had PRIMARK but because we only reached there at 7pm and PRIMARK closes at 6:30 on SUndays I think, we missed it.

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Paris/ Versailles/ Rennes (France)

I went Paris first on Valentines Day and back again during Carnival Week. The weather was way better during Carnival Week. Sunshine everyday in Paris and Rennes throughout the entire week. We took Megabus from Brussels to Paris and Rennes is 2 hours TGV ride from Paris (if you are taking the TGV, a word of advice: please book early or you are going to end up paying almost 100 euro for a round trip from Paris to anywhere else). The reason why we went Rennes when it is probably somewhere no one has ever heard of was because I googled must visit places in France and St Mont Michel appeared as third. And Rennes has France’s second largest food market every Saturday too!! Just a pity we could not bag any seafood home D: I bought jam though! Google it too before you plan your France trip. And to get to St Mont Michel, you have to take a bus (2o euro for round trip student price) from Rennes. Another advice here is to always try to see if there are discounts or free entry for EU citizens as you can always show them your residence permit. Besides that, I realise that many things here in Europe, you can get student discounts and all sorts of discounts if you are handicapped or accompanying a handicapped or unemployed. This is so different from Singapore where there is only discounts for the elderly, children or students and that’s about it. ImageImageImageImageImage

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