Hello everyone! 🙂
Two days ago I started a new adventure by moving to Maastricht for my exchange semester. This place is going to be my new home for the next few months, and I’d like to introduce you to my everyday life here.
In my first post, I will talk about the city itself to provide a general idea about life in Maastricht.
The city is located in the very Southern part of the country, really close to the German and the Belgian border as well (it takes roughly 20 minutes to Aachen or to Liège by car), which means you can do fun weekends or day-trips to a lots cool places nearby, and not only in the Netherlands. A semester abroad is always a great opportunity to get familiar with other cultures and visit new places!
Maastricht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands. The Meuse river flows through the middle and divides it in two parts: the left side is the old town with the city center and the university, and the right part is supposed to be a somewhat less pretty industrial neighborhood (I’ve haven’t checked myself yet, though).
Here on the left side everything looks like a fairytale. The atmosphere is really something special: narrow streets with tall, brick-walled houses, cozy cafés and crazy bikers. Most of the houses have huge windows, but strange as it may sound, barely anyone uses curtains. So I guess people always need to make sure that they didn’t leave their towel and clothes in another room if they go to take a shower. 🙂
Also, everything is very neat and clean, people tend to decorate their windows with little statues, and put out a lots of flowers on their front porch or balcony. The streets are kept well, too, but it disturbs me that you can hardly find garbage cans (this is particularly a problem for me since I have a dog and after she does her business I need to walk around with a bag of dogsh unpleasant content for quite a few minutes before I can throw it out).
Taking out trash generally is also something that takes time to get used to: residual waste will be picked up from your apartment every week if you live in a big building with lots of flats (which is not so common), otherwise only every two weeks. For this you need to buy special bags at special stores. I find this system far from optimal, especially in summer, cause the trash will start to smell very soon and VERY badly. Everything else you need to gather separately and bring it to waste containers (hopefully somewhere close to your place). Except for the smell of old trash, I found it refreshing that people care so much about recycling. For this reason, I don’t even mind bringing everything to the containers, and this says a lot cause I’m a very lazy person. 🙂
Housing is a somewhat problematic topic in the city, or at least for students. The university actually has a guest house (about which my university has no knowledge apparently), where you can have a room and share a big kitchen and bathroom with 15 people. It’s nice to live there because you will get to know a lots of people and you can always find something to do with someone. However personally I found it a bit expensive compared to private room. For flat/room hunting, you can use various Facebook pages. There are a lots of offerings, however the number of people who are looking for a place is even higher. You need to be quick to contact the person who put up the ad. It was especially hard to find something with my dog. I was told that the old buildings are often under monument protection so pets are usually not welcome in most places (which is really surprising given that the city is full of dogs!). Prices are a bit higher than in Germany, you can hardly find anything under 400€. Most buildings are generally in a good condition. You should try to find a place close to the center to be able to attend all the university parties courses.
But even if you don’t find a place in the center you need not to worry, since bikes will get you everywhere in only a few minutes. Bikes are basically an essential need for living. Sadly, lots of them get stolen, so after buying a bike make sure to buy a big, sturdy lock as well, otherwise you might as well throw your money out the window. When searching, try to make sure to look for a trustworthy place so you don’t end up with a stolen bike!
There are various bars and clubs around the city. The university parties are usually quite good and you can get cheap beer and meet other (exchange) students. There’s an international night every Thursday near the guest house. The you won’t meet Dutch students, though. There’s a buddy program you can sign up for, and you get a Dutch student to be your guide and help you get familiar with Maastricht. There are also parties for the participants on a weekly basis, I think. At non-uni parties, alcohol can get very pricy, but you can always buy some beer at a supermarket. However, if you go out, keep in mind: drinking in public places is not allowed, and you can get a fine for drunken behavior.
If someone says Netherlands, coffee shops is probably something that pops into most people’s minds first. Here in the South the rules are strict: the locals got fed up with all the people coming from Germany and Belgium just to smoke weed, and nowadays not even Dutch citizens from other cities are allowed to buy here. You need to be a registered citizen of Maastricht and your ID will be scanned upon entering a coffee shop. However, smoking weed in public places is also illegal. Also, watch out for dealers on the street. It’s illegal as well and you can never know what you are actually buying!
So this was my very first try at blogging, I tried not to fail miserably at it.
I plan to write about the introduction days and the PBL system soon, and I will gather the first impressions about my courses as well.