Bungee Jumping and Christmas Markets

Drinking Glühwein at Cologne’s Christmas Market

We’re down to the last month, and as I enter my final few weeks in Europe, I can’t help but feel bittersweet about returning to the US. During our Introduction Days, Philip Vergauwen, the Dean of SBE, discussed the diversity of the student body and Maastricht University’s commitment to creating an international community. After 3½ months here, I’ve found his words to be true, and I’ve been very lucky to meet many people from all over the world.

Some of the people who came to our Thanksgiving Potluck

Thanksgiving, one of my favorite American holidays, was on November 24th this year. The first one was celebrated in October 1621, and was celebrated by both the Pilgrims and the Native Americans after their first harvest. Now, it is a holiday to give thanks and enjoy a delicious dinner with others. My floor thought it would be a great idea to introduce this celebration to our European friends, so each of us invited a few friends to join us for a Thanksgiving potluck. The turnout was much larger than expected (~30 people), and as a result, all of us had a lot of leftovers to sustain us for the next few days.

Dumpling making party

As a part of ISN’s Social Dinners program, my group members and I took turns sharing traditional dinners from our respective families. Previously, we went to our Dutch friend’s house, who served us Dutch pannekoekens with stroopwafel ice cream! :9 For my turn, I invited them over to the Guesthouse to make dumplings from scratch and watch Christmas movies. Although we had a few accidents in the beginning, our dumplings still came out well!

Post-bungee jumping in the Hague

Our next adventure was taking the train up north to the Hague to bungee jump off of Scheveningen Pier! My go-to fun fact is that I’ve bungee jumped 33 times, so this getaway made it #34! We got to the beach at around 5 PM, so we were able to leap off the pier during sunset. To celebrate our adrenaline-filled evenings, our friend introduced us to Oliebollen, which is now my new favorite Dutch pastry.

Christmas Markets

Maastricht

Magisch Maastricht

During the month of December, Maastricht’s Vrijthof transforms into a festive bazaar where you can go ice skating, ride the Ferris wheel, or explore the many souvenir or food booths in the center. ISN held an ice skating event there, and we got 3 tickets for drinks to spend as we wanted. It’s been a while since any of us ice skated, so we wiped out consecutively within the first 10 minutes. Despite these initial incidents, we eventually became somewhat more coordinated by the end of the night.

ISN Ice Skating

Cologne and Aachen

Glühwein is always more enjoyable with friends

Yesterday, my friends and I went to the Christmas markets in Cologne and Aachen, a must-see if you are in Maastricht during the holiday season. Personally, I used this excursion as an excuse to drink glühwein, try as many delicious foods as I could, and shop for Christmas presents. Since we had two Germans in our group, we were able to try all the best foods in both cities! :^)

Something delicious with a dark chocolate drizzle

I was surprised to find out that Cologne had six Christmas markets, and we explored five of them before heading to Aachen for dinner. My favorite one was the “Markt der Engel,” or Angel Christmas Market, because of how beautiful the lights looked after sundown. 

Markt der Engel

In the 4 months that I’ve been here, I’ve travelled to 9 countries and 28 cities, and I’ve made some friendships that I know will last, even if we are in different countries or continents. Thank you, Maastricht University, for one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had.

Hope to see you again soon,

Caroline (Instagram: @oh.deeeng)

Previous Posts:

 

Advertisements

Bidding Adieu

Ten months ago, when I selected Maastricht University in my exchange application, I could scarcely have imagined how the journey would turn out. I had expected Maastricht would be just another modern town, with a stale old university campus, students running around like in any other institute of learning, boring lectures and endless assignments.

I did not for one second know of the beauty of this little town. How the sun would sparkle on the Maas at dusk and dawn and transform the area into a scene straight out of Eden. How even the humblest of university buildings or train stations would have stunning, kaleidoscopic stained-glass windows that would leave an unprepared visitor awestruck.

I did not know that here, students and mentors stood together almost as equals, each guiding the other to be better, do better. Where the act of learning was not a transfer from one party to another, but a self-powering cycle

I was unaware of how neither lectures nor assignments would be boring, but (for the most part), challenging and stimulating and would force me to broaden my perspectives. I had no idea that I’d be sitting in a room of 15 people from 12 different countries, each with a perspectives so completely unlike any that I could have conceived of.

I did not know that we, a gaggle of guests spending barely a semester with you, would be greeted with such warmth. That parties would be held in our honor, that we’d be folded into the daily life of the University as family, and that we’d be given gifts on your festivals.

But my stay here has been a reminder of how surprises are not always unpleasant, lectures not always boring, cities not always loud and crowded, universities not always grey and daunting.

Thank you for the welcome and the hospitality, Maastricht. It is with regret that I must bid you adieu, and it is with certainty that I say I will be back, for your stroopwaffels and your beer if nothing else 🙂

There is a quote on farewells in my language, that I leave here with its translation-:

“Alvida nahi kehte, kehte hain phir milenge.”

For we do not say goodbye, we say rather that we will meet again.

 

The Last One

Hello everyone!

This time I will be writing about the courses I am taking during the second period at SBE. The 7th week starts tomorrow, so I can share quite a lot with you guys.

This period was busier, partly because I managed to pick some courses where the workload is quite a lot, and party because I had many visitors in the last few weeks and I just couldn’t focus on university as much as I wanted to. Plus, I started my own blow (find me on Facebook under Makeuphoarderdiaries!), so I put my time and effort in that one, rather than the SBE blog (sorry!).

First, I will talk about Marketing Management. It is a 2nd year course here, and I had some difficulties with my home university till they accepted my choice (I’m in my 3rd year). Since I knew that the uni here is demanding, I thought that picking marketing (which I already had back in Mannheim) would be a piece of cake, and so did the administration, and boy we couldn’t have been more wrong about this.

True, we learn about the basics of marketing but we also do it through case studies, which is very far from the method my home uni uses, but we have this big market research project going on. On the 1st week, 6 companies from Maastricht and the nearby area presented themselves and the posed some challenges for us to solve. We were assigned in teams and then to companies, and had to come up with a problem statement, research questions, and hypothesizes to test based on the company’s intents. Then we needed to make a questionnaire and after at least 100 responses we gathered to evaluate the responses with some statistical tools in the SPSS program (which was just as dreadful as it sounds), write a report, which we just uploaded a few hours ago, and tomorrow we are going to present our findings.

We still have attendance, participation, and a written exam at the end of the period next to the research project. This course is very practical, but a lot of work and effort (we already had two deadlines on the second week, come on!). I am the only exchange student in my tutorial group meaning I was one of the few brave people who dared to take the challenge.

Anyway, by the end of the period, I like it better than my other course. This one starts out with a big explosion and you have to really put in some work to keep up, but calms down as exams approach.

My biggest stress factor is actually the fact that I have another very big project going on parallel to this with my other course, and the deadlines fall to the same time period for both, so it’s really just an enormous amount of work that I have to deal with right now. OH, did I mention that exams are in one week? Casual.

My second course is Brand Management, which I liked far more than Marketing Management AT FIRST, but then this dreadful project happened, which is just a complete mess. Anyway, this course is obviously about branding approaches, their history, application, pros and cons, managerial implications, etc. The subject itself is intriguing, and it was quite all right.

Then, we had to go to a movie and write a report based on a chosen product placement which was in it and its ethical implications. It was a short assignment, and the movie was a good one (Skyfall), but it only gives us 5% of the full grade and took a few hours to complete, so I think at least a 10% would have been more fair.

On top of that, we go a really awkward branding challenge to complete: a pension awareness project. PENSION. That’s not even branding! We had a looong challenge manual, plus something else about it in the actual course manual, plus some e-mails and announcements concerning some questions or problems with the challenge. So, all in all, it was pretty hard to filter out the really relevant information, our task was not exactly clear, and I got the impression that it was no different for out guiding tutor. Even more stupid is the fact that we only had a consultation with her two times, fifteen minutes each. The first consultation was at the very beginning, when we didn’t have a lot to show yet, but we got reassurance that we are on the right track. Then, the second consultation, one week before the final event, the tutor changed her mind about a lot of things and told us that what we did was not really useful. So, we spent days to re-create the whole thing, so close to the exams, wrote the report, and tomorrow we need to participate in this big event, where we have a promotional stand with flyers and posters and whatsoever, pitching our idea a few times over something like 5 hours.

The challenge in itself was a nice idea, but just the lack of clear guidance and the weird allocation of the consulting sessions made this a lot harder than it should have been. So I hope they reorganize the architecture of the challenge by next year and improve the process.

The workload was easier to manage with the new Gilmore Girls episodes airing in November. Who else has seen it three time already as well??? J

In less than two weeks, I am flying home for Christmas. I cannot believe how fast these few months have passed! I really enjoyed my time here, the uni is very hard and demanding but it really made me speed up and kept me energetic.

I engaged in a lot of activities here, the language course was fun (mostly because I speak German very well, that way it’s a piece of cake), LaunchBase is still going strong and I just love the little community there, and Maastricht is truly a beautiful and nice place to live. In January I will come back for a few more weeks, so it’s not the ultimate goodbye for me, and hopefully I get accepted for my Master studies here and can continue this energetic, busy way of living and learning.

But, for the blogging part, this will, sadly, be my last post. I really enjoyed this task, it was fun, and creative, and inspired me a bit to finally get started with my own blog. It was nice to reflect back on everything that happened over the last few months, I had an amazing time, made some amazing friends, had a lot of fun, and now it’s time for somebody else to experience the same.

I wish you all wonderful Holidays and a successful exam period!
Hortenzia

2 weeks left

Feeling a little bittersweet that we’re almost at the end of the semester. Can’t believe its just another 2 weeks till my last paper and i’ll be leaving Maastricht! Just when i’m starting to feel this is home, i feel like its time to leave 😦 Nevertheless, will be making the most of my last 2 weeks here. Top on my list is the christmas market in Maastricht. The Maastricht Christmas Markets are open and they look really pretty!!! They even have a mini ice rink and a Ferris Wheel!!! And i’m also looking forward to visiting one of the parks in the city. Some friends mentioned to me that there were some animals being kept there (i hear there is even a goat)! I haven’t really had a chance to visit it just yet, but will definitely make my way down soon enough!!

This small city has somehow become very much like my second home. So many things about this experience that i’m going to miss but i’ll leave the reminiscing for when i actually do leave.

 

 

Period 2 Travels & Reflection

My period 2 courses are much more manageable as I’m adjusted to the teaching style and have been better about budgeting my time. As a result, I’ve been able to travel most every weekend. This period I have been able to travel to London, Paris, Budapest, Prague, and Dublin.

I’ve enjoyed each city and country. In London, I was able to stay with my cousin who lives right near Tower Bridge. London is such a big city that I am thankful I took a long weekend and had 5 days to explore. I was able to see the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and many other historical sites. My cousin was able to show me the best local restaurants and give recommendations on shows. I ended up seeing Wicked which is one of my favorites. I also had friends studying in London so I was able to meet up with them. Even though this was my first time in London, it felt like home. Everyone spoke English, public transportation was easy, and I was able to enjoy some good comfort food. One day we went to the Warner Brothers Studios Harry Potter tour. We were able to see all the set designs and all the things that happened behind the scenes in the production of the movies. I thoroughly enjoyed London and I would love to go back.

I traveled to Paris via Flixbus which was one of my favorite ways to travel. Extremely cheap and took less than 7 hours. The bus departed right from Maastricht so it was easy and I was able to catch up on sleep. While I was there, I visited a lot of famous art museums. I went to the Louvre which was one of the largest museums I have ever seen. I could have spent an entire day there. I also saw Museum do Orsey on our final day. I loved that the museums were free since we had our Dutch residence permit.  The Eiffel Tower was by far one of the greatest things I got to see while in Paris. On separate occasions, we went and sat in the park and had food and wine while admiring it. We also got to go to the top, which is 324 meters high. I’m scared of heights but it was incredible to overlook all of Paris. Also while in Paris, we walked around a Christmas market and the famous shopping street. Overall, I enjoyed Paris especially all of the delicious crepes sold on every street corner.

Budapest was the first eastern European city I had visited. The look and feel of the city was very different. I took a 3 hour long free city walking tour that highlighted a lot of the important history and buildings in Budapest. The hostel I stayed at was perfect for young travelers looking to explore the ruin bars and wanting to meet new people. One night we did a boat party with everyone from the hostel. The next day, my friend and I visited a thermal bath. One of the things more unique to Budapest, these thermal baths were incredible. There were indoor and outdoor baths all at different temperatures. It was so cool to see and we spent a large part of our day enjoying the baths. Budapest also had a great Christmas market where we enjoyed some goulash, mulled wine, chimney cakes, and Hungarian flat bread. Every city I visit, I always try the unique food to that country. Hungary is known for their goulash which did not disappoint. We also did a ruin bar crawl and visited 5 different ruin bars which was interesting to see some of the history of the city. We may not have gotten a lot of sleep in Budapest but we had lots of fun.

I traveled to Prague on Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was hard to be away from my family and home but I met up with friends studying abroad but also from my home university. In Prague, we are at all the popular restaurants that locals had recommended to us. We explored new town, old town, the jewish quarter, and toured all the castles. The castle provided us with a great history of Prague. We are also able to shop around and went out to Lucerna for an 80s/90s dance night. We were also able to do a bar crawl that took us to 5 different bars and then ended at the largest club in Europe. Prague was beautiful and I was happy I got to share it with friends from home.

I only had a short weekend in Dublin, but I got to meet up with 2 other girls from my home university. We stayed right around the Temple Bar area and Trinity College. On Saturday, we did the Guinness Storehouse and Teeling museum tour which was really fun. It was fun to stop at a lot of the different Irish pubs for a pint and a quick bite to eat. Dublin had a lot of character and I loved the energy of the city and the people.

Now I only have about 2 and a half weeks left in Maastricht. I’m trying to enjoy all the cafes and local spots one last time before I head back to the US. Even though I’m busy with final papers and projects, I want to enjoy my last days here.

Looking back on my time while in Europe, I have been thankful that I haven’t felt super homesick. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to 11 countries and explore a part of the world I have never seen before. Not to mention, learn a lot in Maastricht and adjust to a new teaching style. I have loved my time in Maastricht and I’m sad to return home.