The first month in Maastricht: meet Europe and the world

Hi everyone! My name is Shuo Li, from Shandong University, China. I am really excited to share my exchange life with you during this spring semester. When the plane took off at 6:30 am in Amsterdam, I hardly believed it. Just three days ago, I had been taking the final exams in my home university. Once finishing the exams, I took the train to Beijing and flied to Hong Kong there. Then I boarded the plane to Amsterdam in Hong Kong. You can buy a train ticket to Maastricht at Schipol airport. There is a train station under the floor where you pick up your luggage, like other European cities. Everything went smoothly until we were on the train to Maastricht. As we were unfamiliar with the route, we missed the right train stop . Also, we had a hard time finding how to go to guesthouse. Luckily, residents here speak English very fluently and are pretty patient to show us the way. It was a pity that we did not book the pick-up service by e-mails. Finally, with the help of the bus driver, we got off at the right stop and stood in front of the gateway of the guesthouse.

When I walked into the lovely guesthouse, all the exhaustion disappeared at once. Careful staffs told you how to use the mail box and something like that. By the way, you have to pay for your rent of this month when you check in. What’s more, do not forget to get a free SIM card from ISN! The double room I have booked is in the P building. The accommodation is worth the rent. The kitchen in the room is clean and well equipped. I like the big window very much. The decoration in the room is really warm. Our luggage settled well, we began to look for supermarkets. The location of the guesthouse is great. It takes only 5 minutes to the big shop mall nearby, where you can buy almost all the necessities in all kinds of supermarkets. Besides, it is not far from the city center. I went to the city center to shop or visit once a day in the first week.

SBE arranged introduction days for exchange students before we started taking class regularly . It was an excellent opportunity to get familiar with the university, the culture in Maastricht and make new friends from all over the world. What impressed me most is the small group guided by a mentor, a regular student in SBE. All the exchange students were randomly (I guess) distributed into different groups, where a regular student as a mentor was responsible to introduce the institutions in SBE in more details, show us around the city and organize a tutorial based on PBL, which helped us exchange students to adapt to the new study mode as soon as possible. The first tutorial on Tuesday began with a self introduction. Almost half of the students in my class are exchange students from America, France, Australia, New Zealand and so on. The other regular students also just end their exchange in Singapore, Hong Kong, America etc. I had completely realized how international the school was until then.

I only choose one course in period 4 but I have had a busy life since there are so many extracurricular activities held by ISN and My Buddy. I strongly recommend the My Buddy program to you! By this program, I know a nice buddy who helped me a lot when I planned my trip during the Carnival break. I am looking forward to the other fantastic activities we will join together in the left four months! Thanks for your reading O(∩_∩)O~~

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Brussels, England, Maastricht

Hi readers! If you are reading this, then maybe you are thinking of, or in the process of planning, an exchange to Maastricht University. I can verify that it is a worthwhile experience, even if you have to smooth out a few issues before you leave. My name is Kim, and I’m a third year student from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Hopefully I can give some good information about what to expect if and when you start your exchange here.

I had just come home from a semester in Malaysia, and had about 2 weeks of living in my home country before my flight. I flew to Brussels, stopping over in Doha for a while, which amounted to around twenty hours of sitting (never on the window seat) squashed in Economy Class. While in transit, I never got a chance to see Qatar outside the airport, but a country that charges people $15 for a coffee and a biscuit is not on the top of my bucket list. (But in all seriousness the Middle East is definitely a place I would like to visit.) I spent three days in Brussels. I met a friend of mine in the airport and immediately realised that I underdressed. It was my first time in Europe, and I was not used to the negative temperature. Australian winters are rarely so cold, and because of my trip to Asia I had not put on a jacket since winter 2014. From the airport we caught the train to Bruxelles Nord, and because of our luggage we caught a taxi to our hostel. But public transport here – trains, buses and trams – covers most of the city centre. We checked in quite late, but was able to get a frites burger from a street vendor for dinner for 3 euros, of which we finished half. We called the leftovers breakfast the next morning.

I did experience jet lag, as most people would. However, this seems to have worked in a positive way for me. For the first week I had no trouble falling asleep at 8 and waking up at 5. The lack of sunlight helped also. The fact that I’m currently writing this post at 1AM is a sign that my circadian rhythm has indeed adjusted.

Over the next two days we ate mainly mussels and chocolate, and visited a few attractions. The Grand Place, which is a good place to have a bite and a fancy pint, but the museums have entrance fees. The Manneken Pis, which we would have missed if it wasn’t for the huge crowd around it. We were able to watch the national treasure from an olde pub across the road next to a roaring fire. And last, but not least, we headed to Sablon, a little out of the city but worth it if you’re visiting on the weekend because of the flea market. We found all sorts of antiques from World War finds (being on the Western Front) to picture slides to relics from their colonial days.

I caught the ICE from Brussels to Maastricht; I could buy a direct ticket from the station on the day, which is 7.50 euros if you’re under 25. I had to ask the information desk on which train to catch since there wasn’t any information provided on the ticket, but basically I needed to catch any train going to Liege-Guillemins, and from there there are trains that terminate at Maastricht. I arrived a little too early for the pick-up service but the guesthouse was a quick taxi ride away from the station.

Life in the UM Guesthouse offers a sense of security and community that I would recommend. The International Support Network and the business school host many events that will help you integrate into student life here, including organising dinners and trips, and helping you get adjusted to the city. Who can say no to a free SIM card? But since I arrived a few weeks early, I thought I’d better skip town for a while and so I headed to England for a semi-solo trip. And so I spent a week and a bit in the country that kicked out some of my convict ancestors. And then became bitter because the prisoners had the better deal all along. I caught the Eurostar from Brussels, so the journey between leaving the guesthouse and arriving in St Pancras in London took less than 5 hours. I went up to Oxford for a couple of days, then Coventry to meet up with a friend studying in Warwick, then saw the sights in London. It was an interesting few days in London because every street to me was iconic, from Baker Street to Pudding Lane, the West End and Soho; it was exciting to see in person these places that I had so much exposure to in media. I flew back using Ryanair to Cologne and caught trains and buses back to Maastricht, because it ended up being the cheapest option. However I would avoid flying again. Often the cheapest deal departs at awkward times – mine left Stansted airport at 7 AM, which meant I had to sleep over at the airport alongside a few other people, trying to hunt for the best square foot to set camp. (Although I did get to meet other solo travellers and listen to their stories abroad, 3 AM was not the best time for me to make friends).

My first couple of weeks of class have been a challenge, but mostly because I had chosen subjects that I had little experience with. The Problem Based Learning (PBL) system here was definitely something to get used to, but I quickly saw the benefits. There’s a lot more preparation needed for tutorials than I was used to, but I found we were able to discuss concepts more in depth. So far, I found classes to be really engaging, even though they are two hours long.

A few tips if you are planning to exchange here:

  • If you are going somewhere, organise transport first. Accommodation and food are easily arranged, but flights and trains, especially the Eurostar, hike their prices up if it’s last minute. At the same time, it’s quite easy to buy tickets for any journeys that don’t cross borders.
  • The best choice for exchange students here is to stay in the guesthouse, but I have talked to many people who don’t live in the guesthouse who are still able to participate in student life because of ISN activities.
  • Get on the MyBuddy program, which introduces you to established students and organises social events
  • Buy a bike. It’s by far the most malleable mode of transport. There is an oystercard-like system for buses, known as the ov chipkaart, which I have used as a backup sometimes if it’s too rainy to ride. You could use this card for intercity travel as well, if you don’t leave the Netherlands.
  • Lots of people set up a bank account with ING, which is super easy because Maastricht has a partnership with the bank. But I’ve managed to survive so far just using my international debit card from home, which doesn’t charge any fees for transactions or currency conversions.

Thanks for reading!

The arrival of a ‘city kid’

After travelling for more than 9,000 km in the air, I finally arrived at the gateway to Europe – Holland. Why did I choose Holland? Convenient and affordable! But why Maastricht? Cuz there are too many people in Hong Kong :p.

By the way, my name is Thomas 🙂 Nice to meet you.

Thanks to my friend who just finished her exchange here in Maastricht, I managed to get an NS group ticket to travel from Schiphol Airport to Maastricht, which is equivalent to a 70% discount of a single ride tickets. [25.80 eur –> 7 eur (^-^)y ] What amazed me was the proximity between the arrival hall of the airport and the train station, it took me only one escalator to make it there.

I reserved a single room in M-Building of the guesthouse, and it made my day when I saw how nicely it was furnished. It was spacious and tidy, and the kitchen was awesome. Being such a foodie, I could not help to try out the oven and the cooking utensils on the second morning. It was perfect 😀

I arrived on 15 January, which was a bit too early for the pickup service and everything wonderful in the arrival week, such a pity. Luckily, I have made a friend online that helped me survive in Maastricht, Mia Belvedere. I have never met this him/her? in person, but he/she has been super helpful in answering my questions. He/she is patient and speedy, I do recommend newbies to reach out to him/her.

The peeps from the ISN has been very nice to me as well! I got a free SIM card on first Monday I spent in Maastricht, and got internet data after purchasing online. The president of ISN was so kind that she helped me make an online payment for another NS group ticket, since I would be travelling to London through Eindhoven Airport.

I met my buddy, Sarafina before I travelled to the UK, she brought me to Cato Cato for a pasta box. It was so good that I went there twice after I came back from London. I do recommend people to join the My Buddy program, which helped a lot for you to meet some more wonderful people here in Maastricht! (with a higher chance to meet German than Dutch haha).

After I came back from London, I joined the Dutch dinner with tons of mashed potatoes in my plate. XD The Orientation Days organized by SBE were informative, they would be more wonderful if the people in my group were a little more talkative.

I had my first facilitation after the Carnival Week, during which I went to Sweden. The tutor, Leticia, was very nice and friendly. She was one of the few tutors I have met in my life who had a smile on her most of the time, tutors usually did not smile back in Hong Kong. I only registered one course, Consumer Behavior, in period 4, since there was nothing more than this for me to transfer the credit back to Hong Kong. It was quite doable, and my groupmates were very efficient. We only spent one afternoon to prepare everything since everyone was out during the Carnival Week.

There is always room for improvement but the first facilitation went smooth, at least that’s what I thought, haha. It was not as hard as I expected and I did enjoy preparing and facilitating the tutorial. So far so good!

The first few weeks

Hello! My name is Sonali. I study at the University of Sydney, Australia. I’ve been in Maastricht for almost a month now, and I am glad to say that I really love this beautiful little city! From the cute cafes, great shopping, amazing student life, friends, and much more! Before I arrived in Maastricht and whilst preparing for exchange, I read many of these blogs for some quick tips. So I hope I will be of some help to you!

About 4 weeks before exchange started, I boarded a 14-hour flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi, then an 8-hour flight to London. I stayed with some family for a few days while in London. If you’ll be taking a long flight, I highly recommend staying somewhere for a few days so that you can get over the jetlag. It makes travelling a LOT easier!

After London, I met up with one of my best friends from Sydney in Copenhagen, where we celebrated New Year’s and were so cold that we couldn’t feel our hands or feet or faces! We then went to Berlin, met up with some other friends in Munich, then went to Rome. After that I went back to London, went to some museums and visited some more family.

Maastricht – Arrival week

Now, to Maastricht…I had heard and read many times that Maastricht is a “university town”. This could not be any truer; Maastricht is a small city filled with a LOT of university students.

The ISN (International Student Network) organises a free pick up service from Maastricht train station during arrival week – this makes it really easy to get to the Guesthouse. I highly recommend this over taking a taxi or bus!

Most of the exchange students here stay in the Guesthouse. There are a few different buildings which are all part of the Guesthouse. While it isn’t the most beautiful of all places to live, it’s definitely the best because you get to meet so many people really quickly, and really easily. I highly recommend staying in the Guesthouse, especially the C building! The people you live near become some of your closest friends.

One week before classes start is Arrival week, during which there are some dinners, city tours, parties, a pub crawl, and other fun things organised by the ISN. Tickets for these events are all sold at the Guesthouse. Additionally, students of the SBE (School of Business and Economics) have two introduction days (Thursday and Friday), during which we are informed about some formalities, logistics, etc. Arrival week is really crazy for a number of reasons. You meet an overwhelming amount of people in a very short time frame at the events. While this is great and exactly what you need at the start of exchange, it’s also really tiring! However, overall, Arrival week really was a great way to start off exchange.

University

At Maastricht you will be taking two courses per period. Some may have to do the skills period too, that depends upon your home university. The PBL (Problem-Based-Learning) System is employed at Maastricht University, which is really different to the didactic lectures at my home university. Here, it is important to do your readings and take part in the tutorial discussions, as this is essentially how you learn. It takes some time to get used to, and I must say that I find this harder than didactic lectures. Some courses have assignments, exams, presentations…each is different.

Try to enrol into courses that don’t seem too difficult…you don’t want to do a course that you’ll struggle with whilst on exchange! And if you want to change a course, visit the IRO office in the SBE building and ask. It is possible because I changed one of my courses. However, make sure you don’t leave it too late!

Cantus

Cantus is a highly popular event organised by ISN. It involves lots of beer and lots of singing. It is a night that really loves up to all expectations. You MUST attend Cantus when on exchange in Maastricht!

Carnaval

Carnaval in Maastricht is 3 days filled with crazy costumes, glitter, beer, music, dance…all in the streets of Maastricht! If you’re here in the spring semester, you’ll be lucky to experience Carnaval. The entire city comes to life; it really is something extra-ordinary. I can easily say that Carnaval has been one of the best few days in Maastricht so far for all of us here! It is something I will look back on fondly.

Life in Maastricht – some tips

 

  • Be organised for your exchange. Make sure your Visa, passport, course registrations, flights etc are all under control. It’s really important to be organised to avoid difficulties in the future. It can be broing and tedious, but it’s worth it.
  • Be social! Talk to people, don’t stay in your room with your door shut all day! Exchange is all about meeting new people and having fun!
  • Try new things!
  • Buy an ISN card. This costs about 19 euro. It gives discounts on a lot of the events, some shops, food places, flixbus, airbnb etc.
  • Look out for discounts and deals. There are many cheap ways to travel, you just have to do your research! But trust me, it’s worth it!
  • Buy a bike! Everyone here bikes everywhere. Bikes can be bought second hand for around 50 euro, sometimes even less or more. It’s an easy mode of transport and makes you feel more like a local
  • Look after yourself. It’s really easy to eat unhealthily, or not eat enough, not get enough sleep etc, you get the gist. Try your best to keep a balanced diet and lifestyle.

Overall, I want to add that if you’e thinking of coming on exchange, do it! It is absolutely amazing!
That’s all for now, if you have any questions please comment! 🙂

 

 

The first 2 weeks in Maastricht :)

Hello everyone 🙂 my name is Charis, and I’m from Singapore Management University in (if it’s not obvious by now) Singapore! I’m here at SBE on exchange for one semester, and I hope to share my thoughts and experiences of my time in Maastricht with all you lovely people.

Maastricht is truly a beautiful city— there’s something about the cobbled roads and spacious town squares that is very charming. I’m also lucky to be living in an apartment only about a couple hundred metres from Markt and Vrijthof, which has pretty much everything from supermarkets, to clothes shopping, eateries, bookstores, as well as pubs and clubs, which I’m sure is quite important to every student 😉

When I arrived in Maastricht, I was very quickly absorbed into the student life provided by the awesome people at ISN Maastricht 🙂 they really do spend a great deal of time planning fun activities for international students to integrate and have fun. One of the highlights of introduction week was the Pub Crawl, which allowed us to find out what some of the nice pubs and bars around Maastricht are, ending with an awesome party at the Alla, Maastricht University’s home club. I’m really looking forward to attending more events by ISN, and to experience the vibrant student life here.

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My first week at SBE has already passed, and with it, I experienced for the first time the Problem-Based Learning (PBL) system that Maastricht is so famous for. PBL can get quite intense, especially in one of my classes where everyone was pretty vocal and spoke up in class a lot. However, it’s actually a great method of learning where the highly interactive classes ensure that you come to class well-prepared and ready to participate. I believe that everyone knows that if they do come to class unprepared, they will not be able to speak up much, which will adversely affect their class participation grade. At the same time, PBL will make sure that you do weekly revision and keep up to date about what is being covered in class, which is a great way to ensure that you are well-prepared for the final exams.

For those who think PBL is scary and therefore feel less motivated to come to Maastricht, don’t worry! PBL is not as scary as it sounds, and the tutors are very accepting of any contributions to the class discussion. The students in the class are also very willing to help and contribute to the class, which makes each tutorial a pretty fun and engaging experience (if you are well-prepared).

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Without a doubt, one of the highlights of February definitely has to be Carnival Week, where there is pretty much non-stop partying (and drinking) from practically EVERYONE in Maastricht. I remember walking to Vrijthof on Saturday morning and being amazed to find people already having drinks on the street, it was both insane and completely awesome.

The streets suddenly become amazingly vibrant as you see people decked out in all sorts of costumes, masks, with painted faces. It’s really cute to see families walking around the street dressed in tiger onesies, with the children dressed as miniature tigers as well. The whole of Vrijthof becomes the area that never sleeps in Maastricht, where dancing goes on pretty much the whole night, and the entire area is lighted up with colourful lights and banners. Parades also go on at all hours of the day— all of a sudden you will hear what sounds like a marching band, and then suddenly you will find a procession of people decked out in all kinds of colourful costumes, singing and cheering as they walk down the street.

Carnival in Maastricht is definitely not an event to be missed, and I strongly encourage everyone who comes here to go to Carnival for at least 1 night— it will definitely be an incredible eye-opener!

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All right, that’s all from me for now— I will be back soon with more updates on my time in Maastricht. Judging by the first 2 weeks, it promises to be an amazing time, and I can’t wait to find out more 🙂

First week in Maastricht: expectations vs reality

 

Hello everyone! My name is Milagros and I’m a student from Universidad del Pacifico in Lima, Peru. I will be sharing my experiences during this semester and I hope they can be useful for both current and future exchange students 😄

 

Arrival and getting settled in Maastricht

I stayed for a month with my family in Madrid and it took me less than 3 hours to get to Amsterdam so I wasn’t tired at all. After picking up my luggage, I went to buy the train ticket to Maastricht and here’s were I started to realize that all the previous information I had found on internet wasn’t completely true…

I had done a lot of research on credit card use in Maastricht and was a bit worried because it seems like the Netherlands is not a credit card friendly country and I didn’t like the idea of bringing a lot of cash with me. For example, I read it was indeed possible to pay the train tickets with credit card but only on some specific ticket machine. However, I was actually able to pay with my visa credit card at the counters because it had a chip on it.  I paid € 26.85 (€ 26.6+ € 0.25 surcharge for using a credit card) for a single trip from Amsterdam Shiphol to Maastricht that includes one stop in Utrecht to change trains.

Tip #1: Don’t buy a ticket from Amsterdam to Utrecht Central because you will then have to buy another one from Utrecht to Maastricht and you will have to pay more 😮

Single trip ticket from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to Maastricht Central Station
Single trip ticket from Amsterdam Schiphol                  Airport to Maastricht Central Station

 

After buying the ticket, I went to the platforms downstairs. I was getting stressed because I think the information wasn’t clear enough and I wasn’t sure which train I had to catch. Besides, I wanted to ask the station staff but I didn’t find anyone on the platform and I definitely didn’t want to go upstairs again with a 25kg suitcase, a backpack and a heavy tote. Luckily, I found one guy that was also going to Maastricht and was in the same situation as me. I felt relieved because, at least, I wasn’t the only one having a hard time there and I wasn’t alone anymore.

I think we missed 2 trains but fortunately, we found a nice Syrian guy that offered to look up the train schedules on his phone and then told us he was also going to Utrecht! Once we arrived to Utrecht, he showed us the way to the other platform and even made sure we got on the right train before he left!! I guess I was very lucky that day. 😃

2 hours from Utrecht passed by very quickly, as I had a new friend to chat with, and getting off the train was way much easier this time as Maastricht is the last station. We had registered for the pick up service and there were two ISN members holding an ISN flag just at the end of the platform. Then, two other girls joined us and another ISN member drove us to the main guesthouse to sign our contracts and pick up our room keys. As I don’t live in the main guesthouse, they drove me there after I was done with the check-in procedures.

I rented a studio at Markt in the city center so the first thing I did was leave my bags at the room and go to the supermarket. Luckily there was one shopping mall called “Mosea Forum” nearby so it took me less than 5 minutes to get to the Jumbo supermarket… and here’s where I proved again that some internet reviews on credit cards are wrong. I had read on the internet that supermarkets only accept cash or debit cards but this time I was able to use an Amex card and, again, the condition was that the card had to have a chip on it.

After being able to pay with credit cards at both the train station and the supermarket despite the internet said I wouldn’t be able to, I also tried at some other places and sadly didn’t manage to pay with them but it doesn’t matter because at least I know I won’t die of hunger if I run out of cash 😋

Jumbo Supermarket in Mosea Forum
Jumbo Supermarket in Mosea Forum

 

Birthday dinner

This is probably the first year that I don’t spend my birthday with my family or close friends. I wasn’t expecting that much because my birthday was before classes started and, as I wasn’t going to live in the main guesthouse, I thought I wouldn’t make many friends by the time my birthday came but I was totally wrong!! I met a group of friends after a dutch dinner organized by ISN the day before my birthday. We went to the Markt for a stroll after dinner and they told me to go to the main guesthouse to have dinner with them the next day.

It was very, very fun night! One of my friends brought a rice cooker all the way from Hong Kong and we were making fun of this saying that he could start a business here in Maastricht and rent his rice cooker for € 1 per use because there was a strong demand for it.

Super useful small rice cooker from Hong Kong
Super useful small rice cooker from Hong Kong

 

I also proved my culinary skills and prepared Lomo Saltado, which is one of the most popular dishes in Peru, and they liked it 😄

Lomo Saltado, a famous Peruvian dish
Lomo Saltado, a famous Peruvian dish

 

Last but not least, I need to mention that they gave me a big surprise just before I left! One of them went to the kitchen for a moment and came back with cake! 🍰

 

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Thank you for reading and see you later!

Mily 😀