The true value of PBL

Dear reader,

maybe you would feel that the timing is not really right , but nevertheless  I will start my last blog with an answer I should probably give in my first blog.

One of the top 3 most frequently asked questions for exchange students is: ‘So, why did you choose Maastricht?’ It’s right after ‘What do you study?’ and ‘Where do you come from?’ and the only nice people that spare you with it are your fellow exchange students (note: a few days after writing this an exchange student made me refuse this hypothesis). There comes the answer.

I didn’t. (‘Nooo, whaaat?’)


I chose Tilburg.

And I was confident that I will be accepted, because there were two available positions and two applicants (one of them me, obviously). But when I came to the interview at my home international relations office I was told that the contract between the universities has been ended. Let’s panic! I don’t want to go to my second or third not-really-wishes! Thankfully the officers were understanding and checked if there were any free places left at other Dutch universities.

‘Maastricht, maybe?’

‘Uhm, sure.’

‘Make a little research at home about it and the other two universities, look if the courses match and tell us in a few days if you decide to take it.’

That was it. That is how Maasticht choose me. And the more time I spend at its University, the more I see how special it is. The PBL makes all the difference. We are probably getting boring here, always talking about it and our love-hate relationship. Because sometimes you just wish to have the old system back, the one where you can hide yourself in the crowd and remain a passive observer. The lecture type system. If you are coming to Maastricht, you can say goodbye to it. Forget about coming to the faculty a little sleepy, but eager to see what the professors have to tell you. This is a student-centred learning approach where you are the one responsible for covering all of the required literature, tasks, cases, projects, presentations – you name it. And that’s good. You might hate it, getting up at six, reading articles, reading articles, reading articles, going to sleep at midnight, not really seeing the sunlight (which is, according to the Weather App, more common than stereotypically expected in the Netherlands). And then you get used to it. You actually start to like it. Because giving presentations is not a nightmare anymore, but even a bit of fun, because you don’t have to go to the lectures of professors with unbelievable slow pace or because you can expect an interesting discussion at each and any of the tutorials.

Do you gain more knowledge with PBL than with a classical approach at the universities? I don’t know. But I know this. There is more to studying than learning facts. And PBL gives you more in the sense that it makes you active. Active as in constantly doing something for your studies, active in terms of participating in the discussions, actively seeking solutions and connections. I think that this is the most important thing I have learned during my exchange period. Do you see a problem? Think of a solution. Want to know more about the topic? There’s the library. Don’t like how something works? Change it!

Therefore I cannot say if I have learned more here than I would have at home. A book is a book. But more importantly, I have gained a new attitude towards learning, taking responsibility for my own education and stop waiting for others to do something. Take for example global warming. I am not exaggerating here. We all know it exists, we just all wait for others to do something about it. Are you feeling hot? Then join the Maastricht University Green Office and make your (not so) little contribution for a nicer world. I did, so I can tell you that you won’t regret it.

An exchange anywhere will be much more than just studying at a different university, making new friends or being more independent. It will change you. And maybe, if you let it choose you, Maastricht might just change you a bit more than other destinations. Give it a try.

Thank you for reading my blog. I wish you all the best in 2016 and in years to come.

Take care,



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