INTRODUCTION AT SBE

Thursday and Friday were dedicated to introducing the exchange students to their faculty.

9 AM – At Maastricht School of Business and Economics, all the exchange students were greeted with coffee and stroopwafels before heading into the main lecture hall to find a Maastricht University bag filled with a few goodies and important information.

Two hours in the lecture hall begun with a welcome speech by the Mayor of Maastricht. This speech alone created such a positive and warm impression on Maastricht, which was enhanced by the speeches of the SBE faculty members. Time was filled with humourous and knowledgable speeches about academic matters, Police in Maastricht, ESN activities, how to deal with Dutch and what will happen if you’re placed in a group with a Dutch and German. Overall, the speeches made me feel comfortable with living and studying in Maastricht.

With groups of approximately 15 exchange students, we were paired with a regular student as our mentor for the afternoon. We were given the opportunity to look at sporting options during our semester abroad before exploring important aspects of the city and campus. The sporting options are incredible. Anyone who loves sport… This place is for you. Simply check out ‘UM Sport’ for yourself.

Wow…. Lunch was devine! We were given a delicious brown or white baguette with numerous filling options, a chocolate bar, bottle of water and a juicy green apple. Beats any packed lunch I have ever received!

Day two of introduction:

Thankfully a sleep-in was given to all the students who attended the Neon Party hosted by ESN on Thursday night. The day began at 11 AM with a two-hour session on Problem Based Learning – the teaching style used in SBE.

It’s going to be an interesting and challenging experience to become familiar with such a different teaching style. All together for my first teaching period, I only have three lectures between two courses… To replace that, I have eight hours of week of tutorials, which is divided into four sessions of two hours. They focus much more on one’s personal learning journey by placing all the responsibility on each student to prepare and present throughout tutorials. Looks like I am going to be studying a LOT.

Wow. How could any exchange student not feel special when SBE hosted a party on campus with free drinks and food for the afternoon? The staff at SBE have made each individual feel welcome, comfortable and at ease with their extreme organisation and generosity throughout our arrival.

My Friday night began with a delicious dinner of pasta cooked by my Italian flat mate. How cool is that? It tasted incredible! Despite our slight difficulty with communication, the night was filled with hilarious laughter. A mixture of people from three floors celebrated dinner with drinks before we ventured to the Vrijthof to begin the Pub Crawl. ESN hosted an organised Pub Crawl where all the students were split into different groups. At each of the eight bars around the city, we were given a beer or shot. The city was flowing with people throughout the night, even around midnight when snow started to fall!

ESN is also hosting a semester kick-off party tonight and a Dutch buffet dinner tomorrow. I am still so shocked and amazed at how organised and welcoming they are here. Altogether, the Introduction Days could not have been better. We have been welcomed into Maastricht and SBE with respect and excitement.

My weekend will be spent cycling and walking around Maastricht! I absolutely adore everything about this place!

Where my group had a hot chocolate! In the book shop that was once a Church.
Where my group had a hot chocolate! In the book shop that was once a Church.
Vrijthof... Stunning
Vrijthof… Stunning
Blue Sky
Blue Sky
Blue Sky
Blue Sky
Vrijthof
Vrijthof
Italian pasta for dinner
Italian pasta for dinner
Exploring the city
Exploring the city
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ARRIVAL TO MAASTRICHT

Today was different. I had no experience on what to do, how to plan or what decisions to make. Today, everything that I experienced was brand new.

6 AM – Wake Up

9:35 AM – Depart Dublin

11:50 AM – Arrive in Amsterdam

1:00 PM – Catch Train

1:35 PM – Switch Train

3:35 PM – Arrive in Maastricht

80 days. Since late October, I have been planning, organising and researching every possible detail about Maastricht. Now, I’m here! Relaxing at my wooden desk in my white and bright bedroom.

Arriving in Maastricht felt incredible. The Exchange Student Network, ESN, was happily waiting at the station to take me to the main Guesthouse to pick up my key, map and linen. They provided the free service from 9 AM – 6 PM, which made exchange student’s lives much easier. From the Guesthouse, a staff member drove me to Volksplein 70 – my new home.

I’m living on the top floor with an incredible view over the city. My room is modern, fresh and large with everything I need – bed, desk, wardrobe, shelves, chair, heater, bedside table, lamps, mirror, and even a sink.

After an hour and a half of unpacking, Siobhan and I headed to Vrijthof – the main city square located around an enormous Church and surrounded by adorable restaurants and café’s. Ravioli was for dinner – the only meal I could understand on the menu.

NOTE: Everything is in Dutch. Numerous times back in New Zealand, I was told not to worry about learning Dutch because everything is in English. This couldn’t have been further from the truth.

I woke up with a hungry stomach on Tuesday morning. Luckily, a small supermarket, Aldi, is only 100 meters away! A 30-minute shop resulted in 6 apples and a punnet of grapes. Later in the afternoon, I ventured to Albert Hein – a larger supermarket. Quinoa, muesli, milk, green tea, croissant, ravioli, crackers, cheese, maybe a chocolate bar, and a freshly squeezed orange juice… I even got to make it myself. It’s going to take some time to become familiar with the different foods and not understanding the labels.

My second day was spent walking in whatever direction felt necessary. I found the Maas River, the beautiful town library, HEMA (to purchase towels, a mug, etc.), numerous bakeries, the University, and a dozen adorable stores throughout the cobbled-stoned streets. It felt amazing to begin to feel comfortable with my surroundings. This town is beautiful and I feel so happy to be here.

To conclude my night, ESN hosted a free walking tour around the city and a 10 Euro dinner at Kiwi – a local restaurant. I highly recommend this! It was amazing to learn about the history of Maastricht and see some extremely beautiful sights, such as the Old City Wall built in 1229 and guns from the 17th Century. Also, both events are great places to make new friends.

Today, I woke up with one goal for the day: BUY A BIKE! Everyone rides bikes; they are everywhere.

After an unsuccessful morning walk, I returned to Volksplein 70 to find my neighbour, who was here last semester, trying to sell his. With great enthusiasm and excitement, I bought his bike straight away. Perfect!

Cycling around the town feels like a dream. Maastricht was created in 50 BC; although not many of the remains are here today. Maastricht is the oldest city in The Netherlands, making me feel like I’ve been put through a time machine.

Tomorrow brings the beginning of Introduction! Two days to become familiar with SBE before classes begin.

TIPS FOR ARRIVAL:

If coming from New Zealand, Australia or somewhere significantly far away – give yourself a week to recover. I spent eight days in Dublin and I now feel ready, relaxed and recovered. Jet Lag is a pain. It took my body 5 nights to understand that my nighttime was now my daytime and vice-versa. If you’re coming from somewhere not so far away, arrive at the beginning of the week. It gives you a fresh start and a couple of days to settle before introduction begins.

If you’re staying in a Guesthouse, remember to get a linen package from the main Guesthouse when you pick up your key. It will save you time and money. A shop in the Vrijthof called ‘HEMA’ has great towels and everything you need.

Facebook search ‘ESN’ – they have a free pick up service all day from Monday – Wednesday at the train station. It refreshing arriving to a friendly face and not needing to worry about transport.

ESN also provide free city tours, cheap dinners and parties each night during introduction and weekly during the semester.

Research where the supermarkets are. Aldi is the cheapest; however, Albert Hein has literally everything. Even a machine to make your own freshly squeezed orange juice. Remember you need to bring your own bag. (A backpack is best). It feels extremely overwhelming going supermarket shopping for the first time – it took me 45 minutes to purchase 20 Euro of food.

Buy a bike. You will understand after your first day. (Remember gloves)

If you are coming the Spring Semester, it’s COLD. I’m wearing at least two icebreaker thermals, a coat or jumper, and always icebreaker or woollen socks.

The Maas River
The Maas River
View from my room
View from my room
The town library
The town library
My bike!
My bike!

DUBLIN

Auckland – Brisbane – Dubai – Dublin

30 hours is an uncomfortably long time to be squished in seat. Relief, excitement and wonder jolted through my body as the plane descended into Dublin.

Before heading to Maastricht, I spent the week exploring the beautiful Irish Capital – Dublin. I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to travel with my incredible friend of 11 years, Siobhan, who is also attending Maastricht School of Business and Economics. Siobhan’s extremely large, kind and generous extended family is based in Dublin, so living with them made me feel like I have experienced Dublin like a local.

DAY ONE: 11:20 AM – Landed in Dublin. The afternoon was spent walking around the local park – Farmleigh. This incredible park was once the residence of the Guinness Family. I was amazed. By 6pm, we were fast asleep.

DAY TWO: Kildare Village: A designer outlet village. I bought a beautiful French Coat. Very much needed in this weather!

DAY THREE: Dublin City Centre. 15 minutes on the top floor of a double-decker bus took us outside the gates of Trinity College. Walking through the entrance towards the Bell Tower felt like a dream. The Book of Kells and the Long Library Room were a highlight. I was truly amazed and fascinated by all the history and beautiful architecture. After a look through Grafton Street and lunch at Wagamama, we headed to Dublin Castle. Being winter, we had it to ourselves. I loved it. The day concluded with a walk to Merrion Square to have a look at the famous coloured doors.

DAY FOUR: Student Horse Races. Two thermals, wool jumper, coat, gloves, wool socks, wool stockings, boots… It was freezing. However, my first time at the races was interesting and fun.

DAY FIVE: New Grange. An Irish Tomb built 3200 BC; 800 years before the Egyptian Pyramids. It was incredibly fascinating and special to be able to experience the history.

DAY SIX: Reading, writing, organizing, relaxing and talking. Today was the day we decided to catch up. Still struggling to get over jet lag, this day was much appreciated. At 5pm, we took the bus into the city for an Italian dinner followed by a few drinks at an Irish Pub playing live music.

DAY SEVEN: For dinner we went to a local favourite. Pork Belly was my main and dark chocolate ice cream for dessert – YUM. The day was spent relaxing with a few too many hot chocolates.

DAY EIGHT: How to make 27 KG turn into 20 KG. Folding everything inside my suitcase into perfect piles to maximize space. I may also look a little chubby tomorrow…

Altogether, Dublin was “good craic” and very “grand” as they would say. Experiencing Dublin has been interesting and beautiful. All the connecting and identical houses caught my eye, as well as everything looking over 100 years old.

I would 100% recommend dedicating at least 4 – 7 days catching up on jet lag when travelling to the other side of the world. Now, I feel refreshed and ready for the big journey to Maastricht!

Trinity College
Trinity College
New Grange
New Grange

Goodbye Maastricht ):

Hello guys! I’m really sorry for being late on my post again! Exams ended 2 weeks ago, and I’ve been busy traveling ever since! Currently writing this from Cinque Terre in Italy.

Exams
So… Period 2 zoomed by in a flash. I had global business & strategic marketing, both modules which i am terribly afraid that I may not be able to pass (Praying really really hard!). My exams ended on the last day (19th!) and by then… Most people were already gone as their exams ended wayyyyy earlier. Met up with some of my friends whom i’ve made in my global business class for some drinks at night after my exams and we said our goodbyes ))’: Dont know when we will meet again, but I will really cherish the friendships created here (((:

Christmas
Christmas is amazing in Europe is soooo different from that of Singapore’s! The christmas atmostphere everywhere is amazing, and maastricht has an annual christmas market set up at Vrithof Square! I was quite amazed that they actually managed to squeeze an entire christmas market (ice skating rink, stalls, ferris wheel etc..) in that small area, but it looks super gorgeous!!

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There are many other christmas markets around, such as in Aachen (Germany), which is only a 1 hour bus ride away. (Its pretty cheap too, a return ticket costs about 8euros?) The christmas market there is a lot bigger and pretty cool! (: Worth checking it out if you wanna take a simple day trip out!

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Goodbye Maastricht ):
I’ll be saying goodbye to Maastricht and Europe in approximately 5 days… This exchange has been nothing but amazing, and it’s really a bittersweet feeling leaving this place. On one hand, I am extremely excited to be back in Singapore (back to some warmth, and to be reunited with my family & friends!) and yet on the other hand… I have enjoyed my stay in Maastricht and I will definitely miss this small cosy town very much! Many people have asked me, “why maastricht??”, since the workload in Maastricht Uni is considered to be pretty heavy.. To be honest, I have no idea why I chose to come here. Maybe it’s the pretty photos I’ve found on google, or the fact that its super central (right next to belgium and germany), or even the SBE system. No matter what, I am definitely glad that I chose to spend 5 months of my time here in this town of lovely and friendly people (: Maastricht may be small, not too bustling, nothing too happening, but I have left a part of my heart here and this place will always be remembered.

I’m extremely excited for the people who will be coming to Maastricht on exchange next sem!! (: You guys must be busy packing your bags right now. Have you gotten a bike??? It should cost somewhere around 40-70 euros! So don’t pay more than 100 euros for the bike, or else it’ll be difficult to sell it off in the future (: Feel free to contact me should you have any questions!!! (: Enjoy your stay in Maastricht, and dont forget to pause once in a while to admire the beauty Maastricht has to offer. It’s really a very very gorgeous place (‘:

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Signing off for the last time,

Jo Lin
(SINGAPORE!)