After staying in Maastricht for 57 days…

17619670_1419604014766650_1079445648_n.jpg

I have been staying in Maastricht for 57 days. It’s been rainy heavily during carnival break, but I was surprised that people were going wild day and night with their drinks. You have to check it out their costumes if this is your first time being here.

“¡Hola!”

During the break, I visited Barcelona and Madrid in Spain. I love tapas, sunny weather, and people there! Barcelona is known for the magnificnet Sagrada Familia church, Casa Batllo and Park Guell and other landmarks designed by Antoni Gaudi. I am intrigued about the history and humanistic culture of this city.

IMG_2898.JPG.jpeg

I’m an Atletico Madrid fan. I was so excited to visit Vicente Calderon Stadium and watched the game! I feel part of this city when the whole crowd was singing for “Atleti”. At 9th minute, the fans all start singing for Fernando Torres to welcome him. I finally feel the unconditioned love to El Nino. Torres also came to support his teammates despite he just suffered from traumatic brain injury from the last match. After all, the boys have played an amazing game! 3-0!!! My dream has finally come to be true!

IMG_3998.JPG

IMG_4028.JPG.jpeg

“Study”

Maastricht University puts lots of effort in developing study atmosphere. I usually study at SBE during the day and Inner City Library after class. One of the most facilities I like is the smartphone charge station. Locking up your phone is the smartest decisions when you want to focus on your study.  Moreover, I’m getting used to PBL sessions already. Reading literature, learning from peers and preparing for facilitations have become my routine. I have taken Cognitive thinking and Customer Analysis in Period 5. Exploring human behaviour from a cognitive perspective and apply it in marketing aspect is the key.

IMG_4484.JPG IMG_4996

It’s also convenient to print at SBE or library here. Tapping my UM card rather than type my account name to print really saves lots of time.

If you are interesting in cognitive thinking or intrigued by human behaviour, I would like to recommend two books for you.

Charles Duhigg – Smaller, faster, better 

Dan Ariely – Predictably Irrational

“YODO not YOLO”

Besides studying and travelling, I also try to attend ambassador lecturer series events in SBE. Jay Shetty: Build a Life, Not a Resume is one of them. I like how Jay started his speech in a humours way. It’s difficult to catch everyone’s attention at 7pm honestly.

IMG_4248.JPG

 

“TEFAF”

I have also been to TEFAF Maastricht which is widely regarded as the world’s premier fair for art, antiques and design.

FullSizeRender.jpg

17577658_1419604018099983_197246827_n.jpg

“It’s not possible”

I’ve been to China, Canada, Spain, Switzerland, US. When I have a request to their customer services,  they always say “sorry” or “unfortunately” first and try to find alternative ways of solving it. However, I feel uncomfortable when people here just tell me “It’s not possible to do that”. I’m not sure if it’s the culture or language barrier that conveys the message inappropriately. What do you think?

17619525_1419604011433317_1588722343_n.jpg

Overall, I like my program and its academic atmosphere. And thank god the weather has been quite nice these days. Looking forward to meeting new friends and learning more from Period 5! Last but not least, miss my friends lots and lots…..

Follow me @zanecai16 on Instagram!

 

Advertisements

Spring has finally arrived!

One month passed again and it is time for a new blog! I thought about what to write and tried to remember what was kind of a memorable situation or event that I would like to share with you guys. And without hesitation I knew what is going to be a part of that blog….

So there was Cantus. I remember that on the very first introduction day the ISN guys told us about this according to them “awesome and unique event”. Tickets for this event were sold out within 20 minutes so whoever wants to be part of it needs to be quick. Due to traveling I could not go to the first one, but I definitely wanted to go to the next one. So due to my roommate I managed to get one of the tickets. And the ISN guys definitely did not promise too much. People were celebrating from the first second on, dancing and screaming (or shall I say singing), as if they were drunk already. But no, since you need to obey the orders you are not allowed to drink if ISN does not allow you to do so. Although the space was supersmall for the amount of people so that you could hardly move, I kind of felt that this was the best organized event so far – great atmosphere, amazing programme and the greatest songs that made me feel a tiny little younger again.  Seeing people drinking beer out of their own shoes as punishment or being saturated with this delicious liquid at the end of the party, yes that is Cantus, definitely don’t want to miss the next one neither!

So I really enjoy everything in Maastricht so far, there is just one thing that I would probably do differently if I had the chance to decide again – only taking one course at SBE! The workload is still really heavy and since we are close to exam week it is even getting worse in the next few days. I mean it is definitely feasible, but when I think at all the parties and events that I missed due to facilitations, presentations or research papers then I wished I had only taken one course this period. Or now that the weather starts getting better it is just the worst to be on exchange and spend your Sunday by writing a research paper while the sun is shining outside. Luckily I’m only gonna have one course in the next period, so I guess that means enjoying Maastricht as much as possible.

This weekend the weather was just perfect, Vrjithof was packed with people, sitting outside and enjoying the sun. All the cute little cafés that Maastricht has to offer are awesome. And one additional advantage that Maastricht has to offer is definitely the central location in Europe – daily trips to Belgium or Germany are easily feasible. Even by bike it’s possible to cross the borders, distances get a different meaning when living in Maastricht. The trips organized by ISN are definitely recommendable as well. Although two days for the amount of cities are pretty short, you get to see a lot in this short period of time and know where it is worth to go back. Definitely plan to go back to Brussels and Rotterdam – amazing cities!

It’s the end of March now, I’m here for almost two months. When I think of going home again it is kind of a weird feeling since Maastricht has become a second home for me. I guess that time is even gonna pass quicker in the following weeks…

 

Spring is coming.

End of March 2017.

As I predicted, this semester has gone by way too quickly for my liking. I am almost half way through and I have barely had a breather to reflect on everything that has happened. Partially why I’m glad I signed up to write this blog even though it’s a week before my first round of exams. Alright, since this isn’t exactly a personal blog to divulge the oh so fascinating chronicles of my life…I will recount the past few weeks based upon the most memorable events that will give you a taste of what it is like to live abroad in the Netherlands – while also incorporating some useful tips I’ve learnt along the way…

Carnival Week – something I have learnt to not question or understand…

This is a week where people of all ages unapologetically dress up in crazy extravagant costumes and drink like there is no tomorrow. Celebrations begin on a Friday night and if you’re lucky, last until Tuesday night the next week. There was a parade that snail paced their way around the city whilst blasting funky dutch carnival music. Honestly, the amount of effort people put into their makeup, fake lashes, costumes and props etc is quite impressive. Some people spend the whole year hand-making them! However, if you’re part of the lazy folk like me, you can just go to the many carnival shops scattered around the city where you can buy things from face-paint to hot dog costumes. So low is also another shop that sells really cheap knick knacks. Warning! DO NOT wear nice shoes, they will get so dirty and ruined that they will never return to the pristine condition it once was 😥 What a rookie mistake by me. Urgh.  Such a fun weekend that I would definitely recommend to stay for at least a day or two, so don’t plan any travel plans too hastily during this period! Oh did I mention that you get a whole week off from university????

Trip to Prague: where beer is water and fairytales comes true.

Since the Spring semester have many glorious holidays spread intermittently throughout the periods, I booked a trip to Prague in Czech Republic. Luckily, I made a good friend from there and he was basically my personal tour guide for four days. I got tickets from Ryan Air for only 30 euros return!!  –Make sure to regularly check out the deals on this site because you can get to so many different places for as little as 10 euros! – It was departing from a crappy airport that is a pain to get to but hey, worth the price! The airport is called Charleroi and you need to take a train, then bus to the airport. As a student you can go to any city in Brussels for only 7.50 euros and I found this is the best site to buy tickets from (http://www.belgianrail.be/en/) where you can also download the ticket onto your phone through the app which saves you the hassle of printing.

The beauty of living in Maastricht is the centrality for travelling to various wonderful locations.

Boat and Caves

By far the most underrated school-like excursion in Maastricht offered by ISAP (google it). They combine a boat trip with a cave tour at a really cheap price compared to if you were to go by yourself. Even though I was incredibly hungover from ISN CANTUS (also google it) the night before, I still managed to get up and go which I’m so glad I did! You take a boat to these man-made caves from a few hundred years ago, a 200km labyrinth used during various periods in history including for refuge in World War II. You’ll even spot bats every now and then. The best part is that the tour guide switches off the lamp leaving everyone in complete darkness for a few minutes. I’ve done that before but it’s always a surreal experience. I met some really awesome people on the tour too that I’m sure I’ll see again!

Amsterdam/Rotterdam/The Hague/Delft 

Okay. So normally a ticket to Amsterdam is around 25 euros from Maastricht. BUT, fear no more. You can buy group tickets that take it down to 7 euros. There are so many different groups on Facebook you can join to buy tickets i.e. https://www.facebook.com/groups/665446850230280/. It takes some getting use to but give it some time to read through the descriptions and threads, and you’ll get the hang of it. Bam, you’re welcome. This is where I would also highly recommend getting a dutch bank account! Many places only accept Maestro and it just makes some things a lot easier. The train ride to the capital was also super easy. You can get a direct train where you can easily kill the time sleeping, reading or listening to music. Rotterdam, Delft and the Hague is literally also 30mins away so definitely give those cities a visit. I had such an amazing time because I caught up with some great friends I made 8 months ago in London and had not seen them since! Most of them are from different parts in Europe and what I absolutely love about being here is that in such a short amount of time you can visit a completely different country or city. Places where the culture and atmosphere can be starkly different and unique. Usually back home it can take me 30 minutes to an hour to get anywhere, even just for brunch. But here, I can run to Belgium in 15 minutes! Haha.

The travelling possibilities are endless!

Anyways. That’s it for now. Until next time 🙂

P.S How can I have not mentioned the weather? It’s getting really good.

The Dutch Culture

It’s been two months now since I arrived in Maastricht…time is running out so fast !

During my first experience with the Dutch Culture I was amazed by everything I got to see. The beauty and the adorableness of Maastricht took my breath away.

Maastricht – The pleasing city

The Netherlands is divided in twelve regions : South Holland, North Holland, Utrecht, Limburg, North Brabant, Gerderland, Overijssel, Flevoland, Groningen, Zeeland, Friesland and Drenthe. Maastricht is located in the province of Limburg in the South of the Netherlands. Together with Nijmegen it is the oldest city in the Netherlands.

As the title mentions Maastricht is one of the most lovely cities I have ever seen. With the Meuse River cutting Maastricht in two parts, both sides are connected by several bridges which all possess a particular style. One of the things I love the most is the fact that  I often get to randomly hear music in the streets if the sun shows up of course…

Starting with the architecture, the narrow buildings tinted in different colors are embellishing the streets. Maastricht is the perfect mix between elderly construction and modern ones. For instance, because of the incredible amount of churches some of them have been rearranged into night club or even into a bookstore called Boekhandel Dominicanen, it is worth a visit !

Some friends of mine were agreeably impressed by the proportion of bikes versus the number of cars in the city. Besides making it a a green peaceful town, it also brings a lots of humanity in Maastricht. It can maybe be explained by the fact that public transportation is quite expensive, more than 3 euros for one bus ticket. It is consequently cheaper to walk or to invest in a bike without forgetting a solid locker !

thumb_DSC_0422_1024

If you are living close to the Vrijthof place you can enjoy the beauty of the twins churches. As for the history, this place had seen in the past many public executions like Jean De Bavière in 1408 and Guillaume De La Marck in 1485, mostly known as The Wild Boar of the Ardennes.

thumb_DSC_0502_1024

In the same area stands the Market Place (Markt) where you can discover Dutch products and listen to the ringsound of the City Hall.

thumb_DSC_0385_1024

The Dutch

If like me your height seemed normal to you before coming to Maastricht, you might have felt very short in this city surrounded by giants. In fact, the Netherlands is the country in Europe where the height average is the highest, almost 1,70 m for women and 1,80 m for men.

About the Dutch people I would say that they are known to be pretty direct in their communication which is nice because you always know what to expect. And contrary to the latine population such as French or Spanish they are always on time at meetings !

 

The Food

What could I say about the food ?

It is true that the Netherlands is not particularly famous for its culinary dishes. Some of the recipes may not seems appetizing at first sight, however, do not pay attention to its look because it’s delicious !

I went to the Cafe Falstaff and had Bitterballens which I can highly recommend ! Vegetarians be aware there is meat in it.

 

Dutch Phenomenon

You might have suffered from a lack of sun lately…unfortunately the bad weather is not the result of climate change. Like Belgium the Netherlands is pretty showery.

Still there is a funny phenomenon which occurs in Maastricht, when the sun reveals itself everyone gathers in streets and parcs get fully crowded. It’s a very nice moment to share, except if you are stuck in the library to study.

Prism

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

I was doing the dishes.

It was one of the first days here in Maastricht and I was awkwardly standing in a kitchen that wasn’t mine, as always trying to express my love and my gratitude with some soap and a beat up sponge. Next to me, in front of an overflowing sink, there was an Australian guy that was judging my dish-washing skills.

We were having a conversation, I don’t remember what it was about, but one thing that I do remember is that I said I was curious. I was curious to see who these people we were meeting were gonna end up being, who was going to be my new best friend and who was just going to be an acquaintance. To me, all these new people, all these new faces, all these new handshakes, felt like a bunch of dust floating around and I was just waiting to see where it was going to settle.

But one thing I didn’t know back then, as I was looking for a towel in that towel-less kitchen was that there was one piece of dust that I had to pay more attention to, and that piece of dust was me.

The truth is that the person I am today is definitely not the person I was a month ago.

I remember the first time I was alone here in Maastricht. It was right after the haze of the first week and I was scared and nervous. I went to this really cool cafè, pulled out my laptop and ordered a chai latte that I ended up spilling. I tried to occupy myself by coding a couple lines. I was hoping that immersing myself into that world of colored letters and square parenthesis was going make me feel calmer, but the whole time it was like there was a big yellow triangle on the top of my head that kept flashing ‘Error error. That’s not what you’re supposed to do. You should be with someone, you shouldn’t be alone’. And then flash forward not even two weeks later to me laying under the Brighton stars completely alone, fiddling with a seashell, feeling happy. I have a record of the waves of that night and I can’t listen to it because it still makes my heart tremble.

And when I think back about this month there are so many snippets of myself in so many different situations that I struggle to believe they’re all starring the same person, but they are.

I am the girl getting pierced in London. I am the girl leaving the library at 10 pm feeling tired but accomplished. I am the girl waking up at 3 pm with the makeup of the night before still on. I am the girl eating waffles in Belgium. I am the girl that was called ‘Peachy’ at a random concert in Utrecht. I am the girl dropping her cacti vase on the floor and then waiting until the next morning to clean it up. I am the girl dressed as a unicorn with glitter on her face for Carnival. I am the girl preparing her last presentation using the wi-fi of five different Starbucks in five different cities. I am the girl rolling down a hill in Luxemburg.

I am a party animal. I have ants in my pants. I am a night owl. I am a busy bee. I am a bookworm. I am an early bird. Damn, I am the whole zoo.

I feel like a prism. I feel like every new experience I have is carving a new face into my surface. A new face that will bounce a primary colored square in a different direction when the sun will finally hit me. Right now I’m really scared and excited to see what’s gonna happen in the next three months and who I am going to become. How many faces am I going to have? Am I going to end up being round again, just a ball of glass letting the light slip right trough me? Or am I just gonna end up being a floating piece of diamond dust?

I guess only time will be able to tell.

First Impressions in Beautiful Maastricht

I arrived in late January. It was rainy, cloudy and cold – nothing new to someone from Switzerland, but also nothing unusual in the Netherlands like I experienced it during the last few weeks. However, the very first new impression I gained was while riding the train: what a flat country! I knew beforehand that the Netherlands is considered to be very flat, but this was definitely more distinctive than expected. Clearly, this characteristic turns out to be of big advantage at latest when using the bike for the first time.

After a two and a half hour ride I arrived in Maastricht, ISN fortunately organized a pickup service straight to the guesthouse (still unbelievably happy about that). Meeting a Swede, a Colombian and an Australian in the pickup car gave me the first impression of how international this university is! Even today I’m still amazed by the fact that I got to know people from all over the world. Sharing my room with an amazing Brazilian, traveling Europe with my Swedish and American friends, dancing on tables with the Australian dude or trying to move my body to the beat of latin music with the Colombians. As I see it, the international aspect definitely represents the most crucial perk of this university. In addition, by having so many different events it is an easy undertaking to come into contact with all these people. A big thank you to ISN in this place, you guys are awesome! I really don’t know how you organize these numerous events and simultaneously study at Maastricht university! I’m already overtaxed by deciding which party to join…

So until now, the only thing I’m not totally happy with is the problem based learning system. On the one hand, it’s definitely a good system in fields in which different opinions and points of view help to better understand the overall whole, such as marketing or management. In finance however, my major, the focus should be rather placed on solving exercises and calculation than on discussion in my opinion (or at least make it 50/50). It’s definitely good being forced to be up to date (since we all know that students are usually world champions in procrastination), but a lot of articles seem to be pretty abstract and theoretical and far away from any practical usage.

Nevertheless, the PBL system is perfectly fine for the other course I’m currently doing, so as I see it, it’s just more suitable in some fields than in others. One advantage though, and what definitely brings you one step further in life is to be forced to hold so many presentations. At first sight it might be annoying and definitely time-consuming, but I don’t feel that much nervousness anymore – which is definitely desirable isn’t it?! What I have learned is even with the biggest hangover and maybe not the best preparation, your presentation will be fine if you just communicate it with enough confidence!

To conclude, Maastricht is an amazing place to spend your exchange semester (especially the spring semester – so many holidays!). The city has a certain charm, I guess it’s even going to be better in spring when the numerous cafés invite to sit outside in the sun and enjoy the time with friends. The friendly and open-minded Dutch people contribute their part to the almost exclusively positive experiences I made here since January.

I’m only here for a few weeks but it feels as if I spent the last few months of my life here, guess this is a good sign;). Definitely looking forward to see more of this country!