Exams this way come!

Is it March already? I can’t believe it! That must be the quickest month I’ve ever spent. It’s so wonderful to live and study in Maastricht. Indeed, time flies when you are having fun. I just can’t wait to share my second month with you.

Daily life
With so many nice friends to help me settle down, I can definitely say I look more like a regular student now haha. Instead of visiting as many places as I can in the first month, I start trying a local lifestyle. Being more familiar with the city, I gradually adopt to and fall in love with the slow and relaxed life here. As the weather is becoming warmer and there are more and more continuous sunshine days, it’s a crime to stay inside all day on such beautiful days. It is a good choice to take a walk in the city park near the inner city library when you are tired of studying. Besides, I recommend you to wander on the ancient city walls! The view is always different when you stand high. Also, you can enjoy your lunch with your friends sitting on a bench there. When it comes to lunch, I think the food on the first floor of the library is a little expensive. Lots of students choose to have lunch at cato by cato nearby, where the prices are reasonable and the food is delicious. For sweet food lovers like me, you should not miss Bakker Bart, a bakery near the river, not too far from the library as well. Both the taste and the price are perfect!

Extracurricular activities
My Buddy, ISN, SCOPE , SBE as well as other institutions in the city provide you with a wide variety of extracurricular activities no matter day or night. Just choose those interest you and have fun! Group trips are also available, for example, My Buddy will organize a King’s day trip to Amsterdam on 27th, April. I believe it must be a good chance to make new friends and experience unique Dutch culture. Walking dinner was another activity that attracted me a lot. In short, it is a food party held by different groups of exchange students at one night and you guys walk to several hosts’ home to taste food from all over the world. It sounds fantastic but essentially, you need to cook well. However, I am a terrible cook. What a pity! If you are also interested in this activity, take some time to practice cooking in advance.

Study and exams
Last but most important, exams are approaching and you have to concentrate on your study especially for students whose grades are not just pass or fail when converted to their home university. Libraries create a ideal study environment. The atmosphere is thick with study and the study space is adequate for your books, notes, computers and even food. Accordingly, it is not easy to find a position if you go there too late. What’s more, about two weeks before examination, libraries usually open earlier and close later, so be aware of the open time and get up early for your favorite seat. All the information about the open time is accessible on the Internet. As for how to prepare for the exam, my buddy introduced studydrive to me, a website providing many related study materials such as summaries, solutions and even old exams. All of them are free for download.
Nothing could be more magical than observing your own growth in a new environment. I’m so happy with these wonderful changes that Maastricht has brought about in me. Hope to share my next month with you!

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My experience of Teaching Period 4

 

It’s the 6th week into the first teaching period I’ve experienced in Maastricht, which means it’s almost halfway through the exchange. Since last time I posted, five weeks of classes have occurred.

School work

My uni in Australia has a different approach to study than here – I was used to having four subjects simultaneously over 12 months, whereas in Maastricht, I have a couple of units at a time, where I will sit exams before moving on. There are certainly benefits to both styles of teaching. There are fewer hours of classes in Maastricht per week, which means longer weekends and time if you wanted to participate in any extra-curricular activities or work part-time, which some exchange students here certainly do. However, because of the short and focused nature of the semesters, there are greater consequences for missing classes or failing to prepare for tutorials. In that way, it is constrictive to travel. I know people back home who would start the semester in week 5, it’s probably not possible to do that here. But, once I did adjust to the amount of work needed for preparation and within class work, I found that I feel way more prepared for exams than I did back home.

Travel

I did get to travel some places in the weekends though. I was able to visit a friend in Leiden, so went to the Hague and saw the Girl in the Pearl Earring. It was actually easier for me to get to Brussels than Amsterdam / the Hague by train, but I’ve heard that buses are way cheaper and direct. Also was able to spend a weekend in Copenhagen, including a day in Malmö, Sweden, a visit to enough palaces to last a lifetime, and discovering many hidden Danish treasures. The edgy vibe there reminded me a lot of Melbourne. As well as that, I took a day trip to Aachen and the three borders of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. It was easy to get to from the nearby town Vaals, and was a lovely walk through a nature reserve, especially when we went, because it was snowing! I found heaps of German, Belgian and Dutch tourists taking pictures in three different countries at once. I had gotten used to the lack of border control between countries – sometimes there were less signs that you crossed a country border in Europe than there were in when you crossed a state in Australia! It was interesting living in Limburg as it seemed like a foreign country compared to the rest of the Netherlands. Last semester I talked to a Dutch girl studying in Utrecht and she said the Maastricht accent is distinct from the Holland district, despite the country being so small (The drive from Maastricht to Amsterdam would be the same distance as my home town to my university). But if I am in Melbourne and meet people from Brisbane or Perth, I would not be able to tell.

The bike culture

Something to get used to here is the road rules, specifically regarding bikes. When I bought my bike, I did not realise how much of an investment that 40 euros was. In my previous post I mentioned it was very handy. I now see it as a huge part of my life. This is how I imagine I would have seen my car if I had not spent all my cash on a European semester exchange. It was one thing to get used to the left-hand drive (even though Europe will never convince me that it’s better, or even as good, as right-hand drive. Firstly, most dominant eyes are right, so wouldn’t it be better to have that eye focused on the road, where most of the danger is going to be? Also, the pedals go from left in the order, clutch, brake, accelerator. Gears start from the left and have sixth gear on the right. It’s completely backward for highways to have fast lanes on the left since cars are programmed for the right to have most power and speed.) A few months in and I see the logic in all the roads, when to follow pedestrian rules and traffic rules, when it would be appropriate to give way and when you can scoot in front. Watching the locals glide through serious turns gives you great confidence.

Colorful life in Maastricht

How time flies.I have been in Maastricht for over two months! I still remember the first days I was here.These memories seems like happened just several days before.When thinking about the truth that I have to leave Netherlands two months later,I feel sad and recognize that I should cherish everyday I stay here.

 

The second month in UM seems more significative than before,because everything seems have been into the right way.Most of us have gotten used to the life here.

 

Although language is still a big problem for me,which makes it difficult for me to take part in the discussion,I tried hard to say something in the classes, and eventually I succeeded.Most of the courses in period 4 had gone to the end after over ten classes.We all learned a lot during this process.

 

Because no courses were taught in English before I came here,it’s the first time I learn these academic things in English.I know plenty of new nouns about my field,and got the ability to describe the difficult principles in English words.Each class has about 15 students,and students are divided into several groups to do the tasks together.Everyone needs to read the chapters and do the preparation before each class.Our group members make discussions,assign tasks and do the preparations together after classes.In my course,it include a presentation and a facilition done by each group.Both of them need us to read the book first,and then make the slides as well as prepare for what we want to say during the classes.Before each preparation,our group member needs to meet more than 3 times to finish all the preparations.The content we need to show during classes include the book,additional articles about the topic,videos and interactions with other students.Tutor give each group a score after each presentation.During the classes except for the presentation and facilition,the form of the tutorial is always that one student be the leader and control the whole class.The leader cover the book by throwing several questions and ask other students to make the discussions.I once tried to be the leader.Although I did it not good enough,I think it was still a well attempt.We often cover the assignment in the book.It needs us do the homework before classes and discuss it during the second part of the classes.If we still have questions after discussions,our tutor will explain them in detail.These tutorials makes me dare to talk no matter whether I can explain my opinion clearly and fluently,and makes me enjoy the feeling that group members work together for the same aim.

 

Except for study,I also took part in several activities hold by regular students and exchange students.I went to several different kinds of parties.We cook special food belong to our own countries and share with students from other countries.We talked with people from different countries and with different life backgrounds.We talked a lot including traveling ,hobbies and politic.It’s really an excited thing to feel free to talk about everything with people with different nationalities and listen to their opinions.We talked,share delicious foods and play games together,and eventually become good friends.From my point of view,the most important thing during exchange life is to meet different people with different characters,different backgrounds and different thinkings.Talking with them is not only a way to make different friends,but also a tool to have a deeper comprehension about the whole word.I really enjoy this process.

 

This month,I enjoyed different aspects of the life in Maastricht University,and had a deeper comprehension about the students’ university life in Netherlands even in Europe.For me,life is better and easier then the first month.And I am looking forward to new challenges in the following several months!

What a lifestyle!

Hi guys,

It’s just too much fun here in Maastricht!

As I said before, I am only taking Consumer Behavior this period so the workload is not heavy at all. The second facilitation went well and all the tutorials had been enjoyable. I really appreciate PBL as it kind of makes me feel that I am really learning something, even though I forgot most of the things two days after the tutorial, haha! But at least I really need to wake up and listen to the questions in order to answer them and participate in the discussion. My class is a little bit more quiet and passive but it gets better as time goes on.

I will be taking 2 courses in period 5, and who knows, perhaps my impression on PBL will change after I am faced with a double amount of workload next month!

The course Consumer Behavior requires us to work on a project and conduct experiment. Me groupmates and I spent quite some time on that. And after working project, I found that the booking system of Maastricht University very user-friendly and easy to use. There are many choices of rooms that you could choose from, and you could easily change the booking or cancel it at anytime. It came to me as a surprise since the booking of classrooms are not available to individual students, but only to the student societies.

Talking about experiment, I joined two lab experiments by the SBE in March, and I earned quite a considerable amount of money in these experiments. They were interesting and, most importantly, rewarding XD.

 

Apart from study, I have been having a great time at the guesthouse. I have never gone for any parties simply because my time has been mostly occupied by cooking! The kitchen in M-building is simply too lovely for me to leave it alone! I have been cooking every day, all kinds of food including Chinese, Japanese, Italian food etc, and I was glad that my floormates liked the food I prepared when I shared with them!

I was also invited to an international cuisine gathering on the 4th floor, in which everyone prepared their home cuisine and shared the food among the floor like a mini buffet. Well, it was not really a ‘mini’ bufffet, there was more than enough to feed all of our stomachs. 😀

The only thing I would like to complain is, the weather :(. This month has been quite rainy and most of the time I missed the sun shining through the windows into my cosy bedroom.

But what lifted up my mood was that I went to Barcelona, Porto and Lisbon recently! I skipped one tutorial, which was simply inevitable if I wanted to go on a 5-day trip, and met my friend in Barcelona. We would have a little more fun in Maastricht, Liege and Luxembourg afterwards, before I am locked in my room for the preparation of the exams.

And yeah, I am kind of worried about the exam now since I have no idea how it is going to be like. But our tutor helped us request some practice questions of the exams, which helped relieve my nerves a little bit!

Looking forward to the resit break after the exam, in which I will travel to Morocco and Munich!

Stay tuned!

Almost half way!

Hello again! As the title of this blog suggests, I am almost half way through my exchange program here in Maastricht. Exams are soon approaching, and then we will be done with period 4! It is unbelievable that we have been in Maastricht for almost two months now – time really flies!

General Things:

I can now say that I have settled into life in Maastricht. It’s definitely really different from my life in Sydney, but it is a fantastic experience. I have learnt so much living away from home, not only about doing things for myself, but I’ve also learnt more about myself as a person. The weather is finally warming up – there is much more sunshine and much less rain!

The warm weather makes it nice to go to the Markets, which are held every Wednesday and Friday. At the markets, you can buy fresh fruit and veges, meat, seafood, great cheeses, and other little things. It’s really nice to spend an hour or so at the markets – I highly recommend it!

After being in Maastricht for over a month, you will find that you settle in quite easily. You will learn good tips from other exchange students, especially those who have already been studying in Maastricht for a semester, and are currently completing their second semester. You’ll know your way around the university, and hopefully, you’ll be accustomed to the PBL system here.

Travels:

I travelled to Amsterdam for a weekend with my corridor at the Guesthouse. Travelling around the Netherlands is very easy to do, and is also quite cheap if you get a group ticket for transport. It was nice to go to a big city for the weekend, because unfortunately there isn’t much to do on the weekend in Maastricht!

This weekend, I have been in Lancaster in England. I have a friend studying there, and also have some family there, so it will be great to spend time with them and have some meals cooked for me!

Study/exams:

In about a week, it’s exams time! It’s hard to find motivation to study whilst on exchange, especially because there’s always someone to talk to and somewhere to travel to! I recommend studying in the library, or a quieter area – it’s hard to study in the guesthouse (unless you have a quiet corridor).

Holidays:

 

After exams, we all have about ten days of holidays. Everybody has been planning where to travel to…some going to Spain, Italy, France…you name it! It’s important to take advantage of the fact that you’ve got ten days off, and you’re right in the centre of Europe! I will be going to The Hague to visit a friend for a couple of days, then I will be travelling In Paris and Amsterdam with my parents who are here to visit me.

At this point, I can definitely say that exchange is something that makes you a much stronger person. It is an invaluable experience for many different reasons – you learn how to do things for yourself, how to budget, how to look after yourself, what to do in times of adversity when you don’t have your family to rely on. On the other hand, you get to travel, meet plenty of different people from around the world, experience new things, and most importantly, have a lot of fun.

Since I really have to study, that’s all for this blog! I hope you have enjoyed reading and I look forward to writing my next one.

Bye!

The travel experiences of a food lover

Hi there! hope you are all doing well 😀

It’s only been a bit more than a month since I arrived to Maastricht and I feel like I’ve done a lot of things, especially since the Carnival week.

I was lucky I was in Maastricht during the carnival season as this city is known as the Carnival capital of the Netherlands. Once a year, the whole city escapes their daily routine and all the streets become the party venue for the carnival celebrations. You can see people of all ages drinking, dancing and singing in the streets, and entire families with members from different generations dressed in matching colorful outfits. There’s a huge parade and live marching bands that literally play music all day and all night (and I know this very well because I live in Markt, were most of the celebrations take part, and I wasn’t able to sleep for 2 days thanks to the bands that would pass by from time to time 😐). The bars and restaurants were also crowded, and there were long queues in front of restaurants and food trucks, so I thought this could be a good time to start discovering new food and try the famous French fries from Reitz I had read a lot about. I ordered the classic fries, with just mayo as a topping and I liked it.

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Lively atmosphere during carnival week

We had a one-week carnival break at the university so I traveled during this days, as most of the students did. The first place I went to was Liège in Belgium. We went in the morning and came back in the evening as it takes only 30 minutes to get there by train and the city is not that big. We took my Belgian buddy’s advice and went to “La Frite” to have lunch. We ordered meatballs and the classic frites with “sauce lapin” which literally translates into rabbit sauce even though the recipe changed and it’s not made with rabbit anymore.

We headed to different tourist attractions after lunch but the one I liked the most was “Montagne de Bueren”, which is actually a 374-step long staircase. I usually don’t exercise, so I was exhausted when we reached the top but was rewarded with an amazing view of the city and the Meuse river. After burning some (or maybe lots of) calories while climbing the stairs, we rewarded ourselves again with waffles from Pollux, which is said to have the best Liège waffles in town.

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The spectacular view from Montagne de Bueren

My second destination during Carnival week was London. I went there with a friend because the plane tickets were very cheap. The Ryanair flight from Eindhoven to London Stansted airport was only €10 and we were also able to discover a bit of Eindhoven as we took an early morning train from Maastricht and our flight was at 10pm.

That was my first time in London and I really enjoyed the trip. Not only because I got to visit a lot of attractions and even other places like Stonehenge and the city of Bath but also because I’m a food lover and here I was able to try lots of new food. I asked a friend of mine for some recommendations for places to eat traditional English food and got to try many dishes, from the classic fish and chips in Poppies (which is also rated as one of the best places to have this dish in London) to the more curious jellied eels and ginger beer in the same restaurant. When it comes to international food, I had a nice Japanese ramen soup in Ippudo for £10. Here you can also request for an extra serving of noodles for £1.5 as long as you have enough soup, but I didn’t ask for it because I was already full with my order 😄.

I have a sweet tooth and enjoy trying desserts from different countries so I couldn’t miss this in my trip to London😋. My friend had recommended me to try the sticky toffee pudding so I looked up the best places to have it and that’s how we ended up in the Holborn Dining Room, an elegant brasserie with good music and a stunning atmosphere that serves traditional British cuisine. As we were three, each of us ordered a different dessert and not only tried the Sticky Toffee Pudding but also a Yorkshire Rhubarb & Ginger Trifle, and a Glazed Lemon Tart. All of them were fantastic but the sticky toffee pudding was our favorite 😛.

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From left to right: Yorkshire Rhubarb & Ginger Trifle, Sticky Toffee Pudding and Glazed Lemon Tart

But my dessert hunting didn’t finish here… I came back to Maastricht via Brussels and had 5 hours before our bus to Maastricht departed so we took the opportunity to find the best place to have a Belgian waffle, which is different than the Liège waffle because is lighter and has a rectangular appearance. We found Maison Dandoy and, as we expected, had to queue because it was crowded.

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Belgian Waffle at Maison Dandoy

Thank you for reading and see you soon!

Mily

the life and times in Maastricht

Hello one, hello all 🙂 I’m back to give you guys more updates on my life here in Maastricht. First things first— I can finally find my way around, which is a GREAT RELIEF given that I’m super prone to getting lost and cannot for the life of me read maps. Maastricht has lots of useful signposts though, and most of them point you towards central locations like Vrijthof, Markt or the train station, where it’s easy to find your way back from.

Also, as time goes on, I’ve found some things I really like to do in Maastricht! For instance, the best waffles in town come from this franchise called Pinky, which does an amazing Luikse waffle for only €2! It’s a great indulgence especially sometimes when I’m hungry and walking home from school. At the same time, I’ve found this amazing little cafe that I love to go there, have a coffee, chill, or sometimes do work. It’s called Koffie and it’s not that far from the Maastricht library, which probably explains why I see Maastricht students doing work there all the time! However, the place really is charming— it has great coffee and great food, the staff are all really friendly and obliging, and all in all, it’s an awesome place to spend an afternoon.

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More updates on my school life: I have finally finished all my facilitations and presentations but one, which is AWESOME because 1) I can start to relax a bit more and 2) I can (maaaaaaybe) start studying for the final exam. Sort of. I definitely have no motivation to start studying for finals just yet. People who aren’t familiar with SBE usually ask about facilitations, like what it is and what you have to do. This is a pretty unique point of SBE (or Maastricht University), I feel, so let me expound a little more on it.

Facilitations are basically students becoming the lecturer for a tutorial session. That’s not to say they also have the full knowledge of the lecturer (because that would be pretty impossible), but they lead the discussion, prepare questions, and try to clarify any doubts that the rest of the tutorial group has with regards the readings. From time to time, the lecturer will jump in to clarify things and make sure the discussion is on the right track.

I was a bit nervous about facilitations at first because the idea of standing up in front of the class for 2 hours leading a discussion you previously would have no idea about except for the readings is pretty daunting. However, what I discovered is that unlike presentations, in facilitations you don’t have to know the right answer to things. What is really important is that you encourage critical thinking of the readings through your discussion and the questions you pose, and it actually makes for a much better facilitation if you come up with the right answers through the tutorial discussion, since everyone can be involved and learn something at the same time. It’s a very interactive, challenging, dynamic way of learning that I really enjoy, even though you might have to spend a little longer doing preparation for it.

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Since coming to Europe I have also done a bit of travelling around the region, for instance, during Carnival Week I went to Iceland, which was an amazing experience; and 2 weekends ago my housemates and I took a weekend trip to Brussels and Ghent, which was also pretty awesome. It’s really fun to travel whenever you get the opportunity and I think that’s one of the great things about living in Maastricht— the city as a whole is really well-connected to the rest of Europe, and a cheap bus ride will take you to a lot of places in a relatively short time. Take Belgium, for instance— it was 45 mins or so by bus to Liege, and 2 hours to Brussels. Conversely, someone living in Amsterdam, for instance, might need to take a 5-6 hour bus ride instead. In many ways, I think I am spoiled by living in Maastricht 😛

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All right, that’s all from me for now, since I have to get back to more readings (my courses are pretty heavy on readings, which is the only drawback). I will speak to you soon, and hopefully I will have more exciting updates on Maastricht and my travels amongst other things 🙂 see you then!