It’s really unfair how fast time seems to pass when you’re enjoying yourself; it feels like yesterday that I first arrived in Maastricht, and now, I’m on the verge of leaving. It’s been a great exchange experience, one that’s far exceeded my expectations and one that I will remember fondly forever. It’s very difficult to capture all that I learnt and felt in my time here, but I’ve done my best to do so on this blog. This post is my last, and, as I have already talked about settling in, the academic life at the SBE, and about some of my travels, I’ll simply sign off with some general reflections on my time here.
I was told many things by others who’d been on exchange here, from how the academic life at UM was not going to be easy, to Maastricht’s ideal location for travelling, to the many challenges I was likely to face when living on my own for a few months. However, on hindsight, there are a few things they didn’t mention or emphasise that I thought are worth knowing/considering before deciding to have your exchange programme here. I’ve picked a few of these and distilled them into three main points, which I leave you with.
- Maastricht is a beautiful city
While anyone who’s been living here for a while would probably respond to that statement with a “duh, obviously”, what I really mean is that it’s a lot more beautiful than given credit for. The spaces are neat and well-maintained; there are nice attractions for visits, and there’s a good blend the natural and the man-made. Some of the park areas are especially nice, and the low-key but energetic ambience at places like Vrijthof is really appealing. Perhaps this is a case of wearing rose-tinted glasses, but I find that Maastricht’s beauty grows on you the longer you live here (as opposed to initially finding a place beautiful and then gradually growing accustomed to it and taking it for granted, which happens with a lot of other places). Futhermore, it’s not just aesthetically pleasant in terms of the surroundings it provides, but is also peaceful, quiet, relatively safe and filled with nice people. What more do you want?
- There are a lot more opportunities than you think there are
If you live life superficially, then in the first few weeks here you’d probably think the only things to do outside of studies are to go for ISN parties, travel or to join a sports club. If these are exactly what you were looking for, then that’s great. Otherwise, I’d advise looking more closely at what the school and city have to offer – visit their websites and Facebook pages, ask around and talk to people, keep an eye out when moving around. Try different things that you’re even mildly interested in, especially those that you cannot get in your home country. There are for example, plenty of parties held by other organisations in Maastricht or nearby that you might really love, more unique clubs you might enjoy participating in, and also events/activities held by the municipality or external groups that you might never have seen before. For those interested in travelling, have a look at places nearby – there are often underrated areas that are overlooked by most tourists, but are well-worth a day trip to and are good to roam around and relax in. In short, there are plenty of things to see and do – explore your options thoroughly!
- Treasure and make the most of what you have
You probably won’t be able to travel to every single place in Europe as you would like to, keep up 100% with everything going on in class, have what you’d feel like eating for every meal, or get to better know everyone you’d like to. But that’s life in a microcosm, and is no cause for despair. While you should have a few basic goals in all aspects for your time here, don’t stress out over hitting everything on your checklist – just have a general attitude of actively trying to do and learn and grow as much as your resources and constraints allow you to, and of being honest and positive throughout this endeavour, while enjoying the experience as it unfolds. You might get a lot more than you expect in return!