My last blog

This is my last blog.I even can’t believe that my life in Maastrichet University will come to an end soon.The final exam will come in two weeks.After the final,I will travel for several days in Europe and then back to my homeland.My emotion to this is so complex.On the one hand,the classes in UM is truly much more difficult than that in my home university.Maybe when I’m back,I will have more time to relax.On the other hand,I feel sad every time I think about that in the future, I have to live my friends here and can’t travel as easy as now.

One special thing during this month is the King’s Day.It’s so interesting for me that everyone can have one day break just because that day is the king’s birthday.I followed the bus of ISN to Amsterdam.The city is very busy and crowded on that day.People from every cities in Netherlands gathered in Amsterdam.We enjoyed the holiday atmosphere there.Yong people song and danced followed the music.Many people were in orange that day.If you have no clothes in orange,don’t worry.Because there are many things like hats and T-shirts sold everywhere in the city which are all in orange.The amusement part was moved into the city center for fun for citizens,with many special food shops surrounded.We enjoyed such a different and happy day in Amsterdam that day.

The season is so perfect this period,with tulip everywhere.I also traveled to the Keukenhof park to see the flowers with my friends.With sunshine,music and different kinds of flowers in the park,we enjoyed a wonderful day there.After seeing so many tulips,we can say that we truly experienced the culture of Netherlands.

I don’t know why the library is not as crowded as that during last period.During last final,the library is nearly full of people everyday.We needed to get up early and rush to the library as soon as it open during the final of period 4.But this time it’s different.There are many places empty whenever I arrive.

Finally,I want to talk about my travel in Greece.Like a small white pearl in the Aegean Sea, where time seems to stopped, Folegandros is located between the neighbouring islands of Milos and Sikinos.Although Folegandros is a very peaceful and tranquil island, during the summer months it becomes very popular and alive attracting visitors from all over the world.The images are of the most beautiful and tranquil settings, and combine perfectly to create the ideal location for your unforgettable vacations in Greece.There is a good transport network with local buses connecting the main villages and hamlets, such as Chora, Karavostasi and Ano Meria, making it easier for visitors to travel around.Although Folegandros is a destination for peaceful vacations, there are plenty of options for fun and enjoyable entertainment. Folegandros is ideal for walks and trekking from one side to the other. It has steep but truly wonderful beaches with crystal waters and amazing scenery. Some are easily accessible and some are only accessible by boat.The traditional tavernas and the cafes and bars are ideal spots for pleasant moments in the laid back and relaxing atmosphere.The beauty of this island is really magical and will instantly captivate you. Whilst in Folegandros don’t miss the chance to sample the local products such as dairy, fresh fish and sea food as well the wonderful honey.

It’s only less than a month before I go back to my homeland.I really feel pity and hope that I will have the chance to come back to Maastrichet again in the near future.

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The last month in Maastricht

I didn’t realize it’s my last month in Maastricht until I received the email reminding me to write this blog. I feel really sad every time I am at the thought of this fact. There are still so many items on my to-do list. However, the only thing I can do now is make full use of every minute left and share my experience with you guys at once.

The first thing I’d like to talk about is King’s Day. No matter how many times you have been to Amsterdam, missing this so Dutch festival must become your biggest regret in Holland. MyBuddy Team organizes a King’s Day trip every year. The €20 participation fee covers a round-trip bus ticket, a big breakfast, and an amazing opportunity to meet a lot of old friends and make more new ones. Or you can go to Amsterdam the night before the King’s Day. It’s said that the exciting music parties already begin then. On that day, the whole city is full of orange. Bells sound, bands play, children perform, deals are made, bargains are found, drinks are consumed, and above all, love, laughter, and smiles abound. What impressed me most is the flea market in the Vondelpark near the Rijksmuseum. When you are bored with the noisy music parties in the street, nothing could be better than wondering in the beautiful park with the delicious homemade apple pies bought from the Dutch family’s stalls. By the way, almost all the stores and museums are closed to celebrate the national festival. Even though a few stores open in the red light district, I can definitely say it must not be the best time to explore Amsterdam thoroughly. Just enjoy a crazy Amsterdam with abandon!

Another place that is worth a visit is Keukenhof, where you can see the most beautiful spring in the world. The park doesn’t open all year round. The specific open time seems to change year by year. So don’t forget to collect all the information you need when making a plan. Besides the open time, tickets, address and some other basic information, the website also provides you a load of background knowledge about the history of the park. When you have a general impression on the park and find what really interests you, you don’t need to worry what you might miss and then can concentrate on the amazing flowers. I went there on the last day of April. Actually, it was a little late although the park was open until the mid of May this year. Many tulips had been cut then and the flower fields were not as splendid as what I saw from the pictures. I just consider it as an unusual experience since not every visitor has a chance to see those less than perfect but actual tulips. In addition, the theme of the expiration this year is the Golden Age, which was exactly the most familiar part that I knew about Holland before I went here. It’s so exciting to see something related in person. Yet, I highly advise you to plan reasonably especially if you are a perfectionist.

Finally, the examination is coming again. What seems a little weird for me is that the library is totally not as crowded as it was this time. I am always nervous when preparing for an exam. What’s more, as I said before, the course I took in this period might be the most difficult one in SBE. According to the old exams which the coordinator has uploaded online, I believe the exam must be a great challenge for me but I think I can make it. Now it’s time to say goodbye. Thanks for you guys reading ~~~

Visiting Paris as a broke student

I’ll admit that blog posts are much easier to write once I’ve put on my adventure hat on and started the reconnaissance mission for my next trip. The last few weeks have been an endless series of trains and sights, beginning from Kingsday in Amsterdam and Leiden. I was lucky enough to have a friend on exchange to Leiden who let me couchsurf for a few days while we cycled Dutch style (where she would pedal at the front of the bike and I would try and hang on at the back with all the bags and try and help keep it all balanced, pretending that I was helping even though I’m not the one that has to propel at least 90kgs of weight) around the quaint student city of Leiden. A place with such historical and cultural value sure merits a visit, especially since it is close to the Keukenhof. However, I’m sure there will be plenty of information about Kingsday from other bloggers so I’ll limit my words on that event.

Some tips:

  • Sleep during the day of Kingsnight even if you don’t feel tired
  • Research which parties to go to during Kingsnight or you will end up like us and be sitting in Maccas furiously soaking up their wifi to look for one closeby
  • Dress orange and head towards Amstel around 11 on Kingsday to catch the boats
  • Research and dress for the weather

 

Paris

So about a week later I met the same friend in Paris, France. I caught a bus from Maastricht which set me back 17 euros one way – the ESN card gives discounts to Flixbus which helped. During the 6 hour trip I amused myself with all the French movies I downloaded the night before. Bringing a laptop or tablet on these trips is definitely worth the extra weight, since most buses have a power outlet so you can charge it. My hostel was the cheapest one I found in Hostelworld.com, but in hindsight I should have researched a little better – there was only one powerpoint and one key for the dorm, hot water wasn’t guaranteed, I’ve still got bed bug bites, and it’s the first hostel I’ve been in that charges for wifi. I’ve stayed in $4 hotels in Burma that felt more luxurious. Nevertheless, my first night in Paris I spent solo, grabbing a meal at the nearby brasserie. All the locals in the restaurant was eating solo too, so I never felt out of place, and I searched through the menu trying to find the Frenchest thing I can order. I ended up getting a raclette, which is a dish of potatoes, cold chicken and baguette slices served with a cheese melting device. I was too proud to ask where I should put the cheese when I melted it so I had the cheesiest potatoes of all of France. I would have stayed longer just to have that meal again; here’s hoping there’s one in Maastricht or Melbourne. For dessert (and it is so nice to finally find a country that appreciates dessert as much as I do) I had my first – and not last – creme caramel. It felt like Paris was 80% cafes and brasseries so foodies will not have trouble trying to get some authentic cuisine.

The next morning we planned to meet at a designated subway station, which we discovered to be right behind the Louvre. Deciding that the line was too long, and that we would spend a decent amount of time in the Louvre anyway, we tried to go to Notre Dame and the Ile de la Cite. We found a rental bike service called Velib and used that most of the day. This presented many opportunities, but also a few challenges. Renting a bike would suit a tourist if they had a consistent internet connection and didn’t like the confines of public transport, and if Paris was not too crowded.

We tried looking the Seine up on a paper map, ended up going the wrong way, came back, hit the Louvre again, and finally biked South to magnificent views of the island and the river. We made the rookie mistake of trying to get food right next to the Notre Dame. EU students are able to go to the tower for free. We got sick of the scenery after a while and went South to the nearby Latin Quarter, where we were able to experience the bohemian atmosphere of the Shakespeare and Co bookshop.

We rode to the Champs Elysees, getting lost and passing the Louvre twice to get there. Feeling a little too civilised, we hit up a bagel diner and then Starbucks, by which point I was ready to find a quiet place to have a nap. The Eiffel Tower was supposed to be our last destination for the day, where we would see the sun set under the grand silhouette. But after getting supplies (wine, cheese, hummus, strawberries and cream, bread, macaroons, and more) from Carrefour, we made a beeline for the park and ended up picnicing under its shadow for many hours, trying to avoid people selling souvenirs and beer. Not just an over-rated gimmick, the Eiffel Tower is a must for every first-time visitor to Paris.

The next morning I ordered a croissant and a coffee from a brasserie to start the day. The agenda was Versailles, and no one was more excited than my inner war historian to find out why the peasants decided to kill the aristocrats and the royal family. The train ride from Invalides, packed with tourists, was an omen for things to come. In the day I had lined up for the chateau, the toilet, the overpriced food, information and a map, etc. Even though everything was worth the wait, it was a bonus that we did not have to pay an entrance fee because we were students. The gardens were 7 euro due to a fountain light and music show so we were content to peek through the bars at the gates like the peasants we are. The long hike to the Grand Trianon and Marie-Antoinette’s estate only made the grounds look more spectacular, and removed any guilt about eating McDonald’s for dinner. We noticed that Versailles itself, the town outside the castle, was a destination itself.

We finished the day back at the Eiffel, where we continued our peasant-themed day by buying student tickets to the lower floors without the comfort of a elevator. We joined some adventurous couples who don’t mind breaking a few sweats on their honeymoon and groups of kids to climb the 500-odd steps to reach the second floor. We watched the dusk darken into night while taking in the Parisian skyline on our third (and last) night in France. Before I knew it, we had finished lunch in a cafe on an intersection where you can see both the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, and were about to board our separate buses.

I learnt a few things on this trip. Firstly that Paris is not prohibitively expensive, especially for uni students, and especially if you are doing your exchange here in Maastricht. We spent our money almost exclusively on food, trains and board. Even the rented bikes were free if you organised your timing well enough. Secondly, spend more than 4 days in Paris. It simply isn’t enough. Maybe 5 months also wouldn’t be enough. But it was a shame that we didn’t have the time to go to Sacre Cour or Moulin Rouge, or make dank memes from the paintings inside the Louvre. That being said, it’s much better to miss out on something than to cram a packed itinerary. You don’t want to end up like Selena Gomez in Monte Carlo.

 

Looking forward to my next trip, and, to a lesser extent, my fast approaching exam.

How I’ve been spending my last weeks in Maastricht

 

If I had thought that period 4 ended very fast, this past month passed faster than ever. I knew it was going to feel that way so I was already determined to make the most of the time I had left in Maastricht in order to go back home without any regrets. And I’m very happy to say that I accomplished all my goals and even overcame some fears.

 

Practicing languages while having fun

I studied French for 11 years at school but didn’t practice since I started to go to university so I was gradually forgetting the language and I was feeling really bad about this. This is also one of the reasons I chose to have my exchange here in Maastricht. I knew that there were a lot of French speaking students and I hoped I would be able to practice that language here. In fact, I was very lucky to be matched with a Belgian buddy when I registered for the MyBuddy program. She’s been helping me practice French while I help her improve her Spanish, since she will be soon going to Peru to have her exchange semester in my university.

I really recommend joining the MyBuddy program. My buddy contacted me even before I arrived in Maastricht and gave me a lot of tips to ensure I had a good start. We met during the first week of class and introduced me some of her friends as well as their buddies, with whom I’ve been able to share a lot of nice experiences during these past months: from going out to try new restaurants from time to time, to sharing our knowledge in different languages like Spanish, French, Italian and Thai, and joining the “Walking Shot” event organized by the Mybuddy Program.

buddies

Travelling

One of the advantages of living in Maastricht is that you can travel to many places without spending neither a lot of money nor time as you can easily go on day trips to very nice places in The Netherlands or Belgium.

One of my most memorable trips was to a village in Belgium. A friend who is doing her exchange in Prague came to Maastricht and convinced me and another friend to go visit Chateau Miranda, a 19th century abandoned castle. I was skeptical at first since we were going to do a 3-hour trip just to see that castle and we weren’t even sure if we were going to be able to enter the building. I started to regret having gone there once we arrived to that little village that was literally in the middle of nowhere and was almost as empty as the castle we were going to see. To top it off, we realized that we would have to climb some hills and walk a lot of kilometers in the woods in order to reach that castle. I’ve never liked adventure sports, let alone in this kind of isolated places, but we had already gone all the way to that place and my friend was so excited to see that castle that I just couldn´t back. All I could do is go with them and hope we could come back home safe and sound (I didn´t want to wait for them by myself in the middle of nowhere, neither 😅).

We ended up all covered in mud and with some little scratches in our hands but we enjoyed looking at the beautiful scenery and really made it to the castle! It had already been too much adrenaline for one day so I didn’t dare to go up the tower, but my friends did and had a great view of the village from there. Overall, I think it was a great experience. Even though I think I wouldn’t do something like this ever again, I’m somehow happy that I went there with them and that I now have these unforgettable memories.

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Participating in an international competition

I think one of the reasons time seemed to pass faster is that I’ve been busier this period. A couple of friends and I have been participating in the SSE Finance Challenge competition organized by the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga since April, and we had to meet several times to work on the tasks together. It was sometimes very tough because the three of us had different schedules and the weeks we had to compete happened to be also the weeks where we had presentations or had to hand in reports in the courses we were taking. However, we managed to do well in both our courses and the competition and even ranked first in the preliminary rounds! 😃 We now have to go to the finals in Riga at the end of this month and hope we can keep it up 😋.

PD: If you also like Finance, I really recommend you to participate if you do your exchange in the Spring semester. The registration period is in March and the competition starts in April.

 

And last but not least I wanted to thank you for reading my posts. I read a lot of posts myself before coming to Maastricht and I found them very useful so I hope I could help you somehow as well.

The end is in sight…

Hello readers!

 

It is crazy to think that this is my final blog that I’ll be writing for you! this means, as the title suggests, that the end is in sight…

I’m not so sure how to feel about this! We just have a few weeks left here in Maastricht, and then exchange is over! As stereotypical as this will read, it has been an absolute rollercoaster. From Arrival week, to travels, to friends, cycling, amazing sunsets, exams…and so much more.

With the end near comes a feeling of nostalgia. i’ve met some lovely people who I may or may not see again. The end of this is really bitter sweet – we are of course exciting to do some more travel, and then go home to our family and friends. But it is unbelievable how fast this has gone.

Now that I don’t have too long left, I will try to do as much travel as I can, soak up whatever is left of Maastricht and the Netherlands, and really appreciate what I have here.

I cannot begin to explain how much I have learnt. There has been so many laughs, tears, happiness, surprises, friends…you name it!

If you are thinking about going on exchange, I just have two words for you, DO IT!!!!

 

Thank you for reading my blog! Please comment for any questions,

 

lots of love and good luck!

 

Sonali xxx

 

 

so long, farewell

I never thought this day would come, or at least, I thought this day would be a long time in coming, but Period 5 is coming to an end, and so at last, is my stay in Maastricht.

I realise I have not really written at all about the other cities in the Netherlands, so I shall take this time to do so. Having visited Amsterdam a number of times, and Utrecht for a weekend trip, I really feel like Netherlands is somewhere you can never be bored in. There is always something to do, especially in the big cities, and it’s always an eye-opening journey.

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Amsterdam is of course, especially exciting, seeing as it’s the capital city of the Netherlands. Many amazing museums are there, most importantly the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, which are really really good museums and you could probably spend an entire day just visiting the 2 of them. The only drawback is that to visit both museums, you need to pay €34 if you don’t have a museum card, which is really rather expensive. However, they are both very good museums and there are so many things to see that it’s really impossible to be bored inside!

Another great museum is the Anne Frank House, which of course rose to prominence after ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ was published, detailing her life in hiding during WWII. It’s an incredibly moving memorial, especially if you have read the book, because you can really feel her thoughts and her fears in hiding and somewhat experience life as she knew it at the time. For visitors, I strongly suggest you buy tickets in advance though, because the queue to get in is horrendously long— I queued for 1.5 hours in the wind and rain that Amsterdam is so fond of giving us, and much as I wanted very much to see the house, I almost felt that catching a cold while waiting wasn’t really going to be worth it! However, perseverance is key, and I managed to get into the house, which was a great experience for me.

One cannot visit Amsterdam without going to De Wallen at night, of course. For those who are unfamiliar, De Wallen is the Red Light District, which almost characterises and distinguishes Amsterdam’s night life. Although there is a lot of hype about it, I would say that going once is probably enough for the regular tourist (unless of course there are ~other~ things you want to do there besides walking around). Seeing the red lights and the working girls in the windows is quite an experience, however, it’s important to respect the ladies at their work, and not stare/take pictures/make rude gestures. Other than that, De Wallen is a great place with lots of nice restaurants and bars, and it’s really vibrant by day as well as at night, so it’s always a great place to hang out and have fun 🙂

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Besides Amsterdam and Maastricht, I told myself that I should at least visit the other major cities in the Netherlands, and so I decided to visit Utrecht, Rotterdam and Den Haag. Utrecht is really quite like Amsterdam, there are lots of museums, cafes, bars, and touristy things to see, except that there is no Red Light District there, of course.

I would highly recommend going to visit 2 attractions in particular. First, the Reitveld Schröder House, which is a house built by the famous Dutch architect Reitveld somewhere in the early 1900s (if my memory serves me correctly). Even though the house was built in the last century, there are many details about the house that are distinctly modern, and Reitveld expertly makes use of light, space and colour to give the small house a very open feel that is indicative of his talent. Although the House is quite far from the city centre, it is well worth a visit— one could even get ideas for their future home from seeing this house. Another thing that will help to recommend going to the Reitveld Schröder house is that a couple hundred metres away from it, there is an AMAZING gelato shop that sells the most truly amazing mango gelato. I really do mean truly amazing, since the gelato only costs €1 and it’s a huge scoop that practically goes on forever. Also, the taste is so amazing, you really wish it would go on forever.

Second, DomUnder, which is an attraction at the Dom Square, the central square of Utrecht. Below Dom Square lies ruins from the Roman times when they occupied this part of the Netherlands, and it’s quite amazing to see the different artefacts and ruined foundations that somehow still managed to stand the test of time to be viewed by us today. It’s a great attraction that charts the history of Utrecht and Dom Square, allowing you to see how Utrecht was built up, and how it flourished to become the large city it is today.

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I will be going to visit Rotterdam and Den Haag next weekend, and I cannot wait to see what those 2 cities will offer, especially since my experiences of travelling around the Netherlands has been nothing but awesome.

I am genuinely sad to be leaving Maastricht— although it is quite a small city, I think its charm derives from it being a small but quaint city that somehow manages to provide a great deal of experiences for those living there, whether it’s night life, good food or interesting attractions. I like the small size of the city since it enables me to travel around quite easily even without a bike, and I really like the fact that no building seems to be above 4 stories (at least in the city centre), which is really different from back home where there are so many skyscrapers. All in all, I have been delighted to call Maastricht my home away from home, and I will definitely come back to visit and reminisce when I am back in Europe again, which will be very, very soon, I hope.

I have had a great experience living and studying in Maastricht, and I do highly recommend that international and future exchange students come to Maastricht and experience life here. I am sure that there will be many fun times and amazing experiences that await.

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Dear readers, it has been a pleasure writing to you, and I hope that you have liked reading about my life and experiences in Maastricht and the Netherlands. For the last time, dankjewel, and goodbye 🙂