And so it comes to an end…

It is really starting to become summer here in Maastricht with the sun not setting until after 9pm and the temperature reaching 25 degrees or above. It is the perfect time for walking around at night and taking in all that Maastricht has to offer before we have to say goodbye.

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Sunset
Sunset

 

My exchange journey started in tears saying goodbye to all my friends and family in Perth and I definitely know it will end in tears saying goodbye to all the friends I have made here and the beautiful place I have called home for the last few months. Leaving home to live overseas was so hard at the beginning and the feeling of being alone when I first arrived was so overwhelming I didn’t know if I would be able to make it but within a week of being here all that had gone away and I started to make Maastricht my home.

I will miss so many things about exchange in Maastricht.

  • The frites after a night out at cliniq
  • Not being able to understand any of the conversations going on around me and being totally fine with this
  • Packing my bags every few weeks to explore a new country
  • Riding around this beautiful city
  • The dutch accent and language
  • The constant fun and new experiences that exchange offers
Maastricht
Maastricht

It sounds cliche but I know the friends I have made here will be for life. We all came here knowing nothing about each other so we were able to get to know who everyone is now, not who they have been in the past. They are all so unique and have all taught or shown me something. Michelle has taught me to be grateful for everything we have had the opportunity to experience. Nicol has shown me that everything is attainable if you want it bad enough. Sam has inspired me to be true to myself. Adrienne has motivated me to make the most of every moment and Bel has reminded me to stress less and just enjoy now. I am going to miss these girls so much but I can’t wait for our reunion somewhere in the world 😉

#shitshow
#shitshow #lovethesegirls

It is not only the people in Maastricht I have appreciated but I have realised how much my friends and family do for me at home. I have missed my Mum, Dad, siblings, friends and boyfriend and have noticed all the little things I rely on them for or that they do for me. I can not thank them all enough for the support that they have given me over this time and I really would not have been able to do this if it wasn’t for them believing that I could.

If you are ever considering going on exchange, JUST DO IT. You will never regret it and the experiences you have will be unforgettable! Leaving home will always be hard and arriving in a foreign city knowing no one is never going to be easy but that part only lasts a week. The next few months will be filled with learning about yourself, learning what you are capable of and what you can achieve, meeting people from all over the world who open your mind up and creating bonds that will last a lifetime. Maastricht I will miss you but thank you to everyone who made this experience so unforgettable ❤

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End or Beginning?

Time flies, May has already arrived. This also means that it’s about the end of my exchange in Maastricht University. In these very short few months, I have met a lot of friendly, helpful and funny Germen friends here (MU does have lots and lots of Germen!!):D The study here gives me unforgettable memory, for example, PBL, working with foreign group members, reading articles…..

Obviously, this is my first time to be an exchange student, the study mode is really not the same as a regular student. At home university, definitely, I spend more time on academic work. But now, exchange student does not bare the same responsibility. I think utilizing this short period of time to experience more is much more than only focusing on school work.

Truly saying, I have spent most of the time to go travel. Apart from the reason for leisure, travel is the best way to broaden our horizons, you walk around the streets in different countries, you can see what happen around, how local people live, sometimes, if lucky enough, you can see something that may be just held for once a year or even once for several years. Also, travel can let you talk with the local people, get to know more about their cultures!!

In this month, I visited the northern part of the Netherlands. It does look totally different from Maastricht. As we know, the Netherlands is famous for its low land, and in the Northern part, you can really feel how low it can:P Windmills, Tulip, Cheese Factory, Wood Shoes Factory, all the traditional features of the Netherlands can be found here!!! Also, one of the most impressive thing is that I have been to Volendam and tried super delicious paling fish:D:D:D:D

During this short time, I like everything in Maastricht! Although I feel a bit boring one week after arrival, I love it now. It is a small town, without any crowded scene (of course except carnival), it is comfortable and nice to live quietly here with the lovely locals. The only makes me quite unhappy is the cloudy and rainy weather…….apart from it, Maastricht is an awesome place to live forever:D
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20140202_144803 I gonna miss this the most delicious kebap I have tried in my life:(

Last but not least, after the exchange, I do gain a lot of, independence, travel experience, cooking skills, interpersonal skills, open-minded western cultures, etc…Hope this is not an end but a beginning of the remaining awesome part of my life.
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Reflections and Endings

It’s amazing that I am now writing my final blog of my semester abroad.

John Lennon Wall, Prague
John Lennon Wall, Prague

Time has moved so fast, it feels like only yesterday I was flying out from Brisbane airport, a nervous wreck, terrified of the prospect of spending six months on my own in a foreign country, wondering if I would be able to make friends, if anyone would speak English, if I’d get lost and if I’d even be capable of looking after myself. And now I’m sitting here writing a blog as someone very different to the girl, crying on the plane from Brisbane.

I find myself as an independent young woman, perfectly capable of fending for herself, able to travel to a new country on her own and having no fear in her heart as she navigates the streets with ease. This semester is so hard to summarise into a short blog post, it’s been a semester of firsts, first time on a plane on my own, first time living on my own, first time staying in a hostel etc. and a semester of surprises, I have surprised myself so many times I cannot count, I used to get lost in shopping centres and now I find myself easily navigating the streets of Amsterdam, Luxembourg and Prague, successfully finding out how to get from Maastricht to Dubrovnik, something’s I never thought I could do before.

I came here to find myself, to break through my shyness and anxiety, and even though I will never be the most confident person in the world, I have found myself able to do things I never imagined I could before. I no longer have any problem with making eye contact with my audience during a speech, I’ve started conversations with people I’ve never met before without wanting to run away and most importantly I now have so much more confidence in me and what I can actually do. I’ve also grown not just on a personal level but on a professional one as well, I can now produce a speech in no time at all, as I’ve done so many, and present it as if I’ve practiced it for weeks. I have also gotten really good at reading and summarizing chapters and articles, so that all my notes to study for the exam are prepared as I go, and most importantly I’ve learnt how to really work under pressure.

Luxembourg
Luxembourg

And although  it’s been a journey of terrible lows (homesickness) and crazy highs (Dubrovnik, god I love Dubrovnik), it is only now as  I reflect upon my journey that I see that all the stress and the lack of sleep have totally been worth it.  Also in my reflections I have realized that this trip has really made me appreciate all the things I have at home, like my fridge, my sofa, signs and labels in English, fly screens (seriously Europe install fly screens), cheddar cheese, and home cooked meals (I am literally dying for one of my Mum’s curry’s or Roast dinners or Dad’s cooked brunch on the BBQ). And most importantly I appreciate my family, like being able to complain to Mum when something annoys me, having Dad tease me about something stupid before making a terrible pun and watching my brother squirm as I give him an unwanted hug. Overall this trip has probably been the toughest six months of my life and the best, and although I will be sad to leave, I am so glad that I took the leap of faith and decided to come to this wonderful Maastricht. I think it fitting to end this, my final blog, with a quote:

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

Dr Seuss

Holland vs Netherlands

Recently, I had a tutorial where a Dutch classmate showed us a video of the difference between Holland vs Netherlands. I have always been very confused why when I tell people I am in Netherlands for exchange but nobody gets where I am but when I say Holland, everyone knows Amsterdam. So this is the reason why.

1) Netherlands was named as the Dutch Republic, the United States of Belgium and the Kingdom of Holland over many years in history.

2) Netherlands has actually 12 provinces

(North Holland which includes well known attractions like Keukenhof and Amsterdam)

(South Holland – The Hague)

Limburg. Utrecht

etc.

3) People living in North and South Holland are known as Hollanders while all citizens living in the Netherlands are called Dutch.

4) The Kingdom of Netherlands consists of Netherlands, Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten. However, these countries excluding Netherlands have their own currencies and own governments too. The reason why these countries so far away from Netherlands are part of the Kingdom of Netherlands was because in the past, the Dutch wanted to build up their empire.

Fun facts about Netherlands:

1) first country in the world to legalize gay marriages (since 2001) and legalized euthanasia.

2) Grows the tallest people in the world. Dutch people are on average 2 inches taller than the Americans. The average height in the Netherlands for adults is 6 foot 1 (1.85m). And that is why I cannot seem to find an adult bike that I can ride on.

3) For happiest people Netherland citizens are ranked #5 in the world after the Scandinavian countries.

4) Flowers are cheap here. Just 5 euros and you can get a large vase of flowers and this would probably cost 30 euros in Ireland.

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Amsterdam

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Had the most awesome pancakes at this place in Amsterdam. Good reviews online so we decided to try it out. Turns out it was so popular that you have to actually reserve before you can have a meal there.

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Magna Plaza in Amsterdam which used to be a post office converted into a shopping mall now.SAMSUNG CSC

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Finally tried raw herring. It is supposed to be rather fishy but I love it, partly because it tasted so much like sashimi and as a sashimi lover, the fishiness was nothing to me (:

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Almost everyone was wearing this amsterdam beanie in Amsterdam that day, I guess partly because it was raining and all windy and it was so cold.

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Red Light District which is lively after 830pm nowadays since the sun sets so late nowadays compared to winter. Quite an eye opener. However, we were not allowed to take photos in the Red Light District area.

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Keukenhof

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De Zaanse Schans

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Enjoying my cheese sandwich in the fields, such a wonderful experience.

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Netherlands’ famous klompens

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Haarlem

Went to London instead during Kings Day. Such a pity but still, I had fun in London where I can finally pick up the newspapers to read and where advertisements in the subways made more sense.

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Borough Market famous cheese sandwich. It wasnt just a normal cheese sandwich. It was so cripsy and so good that you would be left thinking how could any toasted cheese sandwich taste so good.

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Fresh Organic yogurt drink

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Tower Bridge

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The Yeoman Warden at London Tower. I love how animated and friendly he was throughout the free 1 hour tour inside the tower.

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And of course, what is a visit to London without looking at those thousand carats crowns the Kingdom has? SAMSUNG CSC

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And for the Asians out there or anyone visiting Asia soon, this is spicy tofu with minced meat dish at London’s Chinatown.SAMSUNG CSC

Four Seasons Restaurant Roasted Duck. Famous among Asians for the unforgettable roasted duck which I agreed wholeheartedly that it was unforgettable.

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Waited one hour for the guard changing ceremony. Not really spectacular but just a must see when you are in London.

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and Big Ben of course.

That time I blinked…

How is it May already?? Where did all that time go! I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun (and studying hard ;))

The last two months have been so amazing and everyday I am so grateful for this experience, all the things I have seen and been a part of and all the friends I have met along the way! Spring is such a beautiful and cheery time in Europe and I’m going to share with you five of the highlights:

1. Carnivale

How do I even begin to explain the craziness that is carnival. I have never seen grown ups care so much about their costumes nor have I seen so many colours and frills in one day. Carnival is a big holiday in the Netherlands, big enough to merit a week off from university (win). It involves lots of dressing up in any costume you see fit, lots of drinking, and lots of parades. Maastricht stopped for the three days of carnival and everyone in the city came together to celebrate in the main square. There was a big parade, canons and even some fireworks. My friends and I thought experiencing Carnivale in Maastricht wasn’t enough and went over to Cologne in Germany for a day to experience their carnival. It was just as crazy with the added bonus of chocolates, lollies and flowers being thrown from the floats at their parade. Carnivale was non stop for three days and was one of the best experiences I have had on exchange!

Jager bombs in Germany
Jager bombs in Germany
Parades in Maastricht
Parades in Maastricht
Parade in Cologne
Parade in Cologne

 

2. Travel

We have been lucky enough to have a few weeks off and some long weekends over the last 2 months which has meant lots of time to travel. It is weird how normal it has become to hear “Im going to Germany for lunch tomorrow” or “I can’t I’m in Paris that weekend”. One of my favourite travel experiences so far was to the Matterhorn in Switzerland. I travelled with 2 other Australians and it was our first time seeing mountains of that size and for 2 of us, our first time seeing snow! I could not stop saying “wow” and was in awe the whole time. I was also lucky enough to spend the break between period 4 and 5 travelling central europe stopping in Budapest, Bratislava, Prague, Krakow and Warsaw. I have also just returned from a trip to Portugal to soak up some of those sunny rays.

Braving the snow for a good photos in Switzerland!
Braving the snow for a good photo in Switzerland!
The girls in Prague!
The girls in Prague!
Seaside in Porto
Seaside in Porto
Porto, Portugal!
Porto, Portugal!

 

3. ESN

ESN stands for the Erasmus Student Network and they are responsible for helping international exchange students get comfortable and meet fellow exchange students. They organise parties weekly as well as other events including trips around Europe, lunches in Germany, soccer tournaments and social dinners. They do a great job at it and really help students make the most of their exchange. One of my favourite events they hold is cantus. It took me a while to understand what cantus was but basically it is drinking beer and singing songs with all of your friends. It is always a great night singing as loud as you can to Enrique Iglesias.

Here is a bit of a video of what its about:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mk98GQHfuPQ

Cantus!
Cantus!

 

4. Tulips

As I said before springtime really is beautiful in Europe and especially in the Netherlands when their iconic tulips begin to go. After dancing all night at a Justin Timberlake concert in Arhem I went to the tulip fields at the Keukenhof . It really is a beautiful place and worth a visit if you are up that way. There was so many different arrangements of tulips and flowers and big fields full of them. It is not just at the Keukenhof where you see beautiful flowers, every day in Maastricht I notice new flowers blooming and the streets becoming prettier.

The Keukenhof
The Keukenhof
Tulips!
Tulips!

5. Kingsday

Yet another crazy holiday in the Netherlands which includes lots of dressing up and lots of drinking. Kingsday is a national holiday here celebrating their new King. ESN organises a trip to Amsterdam for the weekend to celebrate in the capital city where several festivals and other festivities are held. During we Kingsnight we wandered the streets of Amsterdam and came across several outdoor parties and concerts along the canals as well as lots of boat parties on the canal. On Kingsday I attended the Kingsland festival which was amazing and we got to see some of the Netherlands finest DJs including Martin Garrix, Armin Van Buuren, W & W and Afrojack. There was a sea of orange (the national colour) over Amsterdam that weekend with many people sporting crowns. It was such an experience to be a part of and I would definitely recommend that if you are in the Netherlands over Kingsday weekend to head to Amsterdam or Eindhoven and join in the festivities!!

Armin Van Buuren at Kinglsand festival!
Armin Van Buuren at Kinglsand festival!
Martin Garrix at Kingsland!
Martin Garrix at Kingsland!

 

 

Obviously between all this fun there is lots of study and uni work but all in all I am loving exchange, even the uni part!

 

 

 

Travel Month

At the beginning of this month, I had experienced the first examination in MU! Due to the hard content, it did make me feel worry ~_~ But fortunately, I passed for both two courses! That was nice!:D

Well, after the examination, definitely a break is a must! I have traveled to Poland and Switzerland. They are totally different! Because of some reasons, we encountered a horrible experience in Krakow. Though it was a bad thing, we get to know more about Poland! People there have a poor English level, yet they are very nice, trying all the ways to help us. The most impressive thing is that we really used Google Translate to communicate face-by-face……Apart from this bad experience, the overall trip in Poland is good! Things in Poland are cheap, and I have eaten a lot of low-priced but high-quality food there!! The way they cook is barbecuing, which is my favorite!:D Besides, when most of us talked about Poland, we may mention the concentration camp. That was also the most important thing throughout my trip. I have joined a local tour to the camp, and our tour guide have told us many about that history. Because her stepfather stayed at the camp and finally survived, she had shared with us lots of hidden information. During the guided tour, I feel sad and unbelievable. How come the Nazi soldiers can use such a great area and construct all the houses. The most important thing is that they did this was for killing people!!!!!

After that, we went to Switzerland. Awesome, awesome!! The view in Switzerland is the best all over the world! I can just say awesome throughout the whole trip! I visited Montreux, Interlaken, and Brig. In Montreux, I walked along the lakeside of Geneva Lake, this was my first time to see such a huge lake. And the view from top is very nice! However, unluckily, we couldn’t see the blooming vineyard, which was my purpose for visiting the place. I felt disappointed about it:( Later, I moved on to Interlaken (a small town between two lakes). There are so many kinds of extreme sports you can take, but I didn’t join. Instead, I decided to walk along the riverside of the Lake of Brienz (haha, I like lakes and mountains very much:P). There are only local villagers and they are curious why an Asian person is here. 😛 Finally, compared to Krakow, Swiss obviously is a famous tourist country for Asian people. When I walked along the streets, I saw lots of Korean and Chinese, especially Interlaken. And I just realized it is a famous place for honeymoon…./_\ But overall, the trip is excellent. 😀

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