The One That Got Away

 

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Me and one of my oldest friends in one of my favorite new places here in Maastricht.

 

 

This month I got to meet with a bunch of people from back home. Specifically, my two best friends and my family. I was excited and scared at the same time, waiting in a Starbucks in Bruxelles like I was some sort of rom-com character played by Zooey Deschanel. It’s funny because three months is a very short period of time, especially if compared to the nearly twenty years I spent with these people. But in these two months, I’ve been through so much, seen so many things and just learned to live a complete new normality, while those familiar faces were starting to slightly fade from my memory. But then I hugged them, one by one, on different days and different cities and realized, in that brief moment, three different things.

The first one is that it’s way easier to leave than to stay. If you’re reading this, chances are you are about to do an exchange and you may be having those twisted thoughts of being alone in a foreign country where you don’t know anyone. But the thing is, you have it way easier than the people you are leaving behind. Imagine them, whether it is your family, or your friends, or even your partner. They are the one left with a gap to fill that is perfectly you-shaped. You, on the other hand, have way too much to fill it up with. New people, new places, new things you have learned. If feels like somebody took three different jigsaw boxes and dumped them on the table in front of you. There are colors and shapes everywhere and frankly way too much to worry about to care about that one piece that ended up under the sofa.

Number two, time is a weird thing. Three months is a long time and a short time at the same time. It is enough to learn your way around the supermarket and the main square, to not be faded by the things that make your friends whip their camera out and to be able to make your new little room pop up into your mind when you say the words ‘I wanna go home’. It is enough for stuff to happen in your hometown. You know, things like that guy cheating on that girl and that girl hooking up with that girl who’s secretly into that guy who’s with that girl. That sort of thing. But it is not even a speck on a 5+ years long friendship. I may be liking new foods now, but I am pretty sure there are only two people in this world I want to ironically watch Fifty Shades Darker with, eating melted ice cream sandwiches. It takes so much time to get that comfortable with someone, it is going to take even more time to break that bond.

Finally, here’s a thing. Exchange is a little bit of a prolonged daydream. You are in this weird situation in which everything is fun and possible, but that is because there is a deadline. I think a lot of people romanticize the country they do their exchange in because they think that that is the reason they had so much fun, whereas it was because we were put in a sort of make pretend situation. This person I am right now, it is not who I am. It is a person that doesn’t really have any consequences to ever face, at least for this remaining two months. There is not a moment in my life in which I am going to have this luxury again, doesn’t matter where I am.

So in conclusion, if you are reading this huddle up in your bed, with your heart racing because you are about to take a plane to somewhere unfamiliar in the world, wondering about what is going to happen, half excited, half scared, this would be my advice to you. Enjoy this weird time as much as you can, and do it without a care in the world, because the people you care about now are going to be waiting for you when you come back.

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Discovering Europe!

How not to travel when living in the center of Europe? That’s impossible!

Which brings up the following question: Where to travel close to Maastricht?

A lot of options are available to you: The Netherlands, Germany or even Belgium.

The Netherlands

The beautiful Netherlands is full of gorgeous places to visit: Eindhoven, Utrecht, Nijmegen, Gouda, Rotterdam, The Hague (Den Haag) or the popular Amsterdam.

Even though I have only been travelling to Amsterdam and Maastricht so far, here are my recommendations concerning hostels.

My favourite Hostel in Amsterdam is definitely the Flying Pig Uptown Hostel. Located close to the Vondelpark, this Hostel is the perfect shelter for travels, either alone or accompanied, smokers or non-smokers. The breakfast, a very complete buffet, is included and even commodities such as a fully equipped kitchen. For the smokers you can do so directly at the hostel, in a room specifically designed for this purpose. If you have any questions, feel free to ask the staff: they are full of good advices.

If you don’t mind been a little far away from the center, I encourage you to go to WOW Amsterdam. Its design is particularly unique! This is a calm place suited for travellers looking to get some rest of for people travelling with children.

Germany

You could also travel to Germany to cities such as: Cologne (Köln), Bonn, Aachen or Berlin.

Pretty popular for its Festival, Cologne is also rich in history and may surprise you. Besides the Cathedral, you could admire the bridge and the market along the canal as well as the Skulpturen Park.

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Cathedral (Cologne)

Did you know the meaning of Cologne coat of arms? The three crowns stand for the three holy kings while the eleven flames are representing the eleven virgins who have been murdered by the Huns.

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Coat of Arms (Cologne)

Regarding to Hostels in Cologne I recommend you the Die Wohngemeinschaft. Each room has one theme and it’s decorated in consequence. The staff is nice and accessible! The location is perfect, really close to bars, groceries and a tram and underground station. Finally, I really encourage you to go to the bar located downstairs, so you could taste the Kölsch, a German beer for only 1,70 Euro.

I had a huge crush for Berlin, which according to Germans is the less German city in Germany. Filled with international students and workers the city is full of life and there are so many things to do! Berlin is wonderfully rich in history and it is definitely worth discovering.

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Street Art (Berlin)
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Street Art (Berlin)

Food lovers, you have to try the Curry Sausage German called the “currywurst”. Even though it is not a fancy meal, it will make you satisfied.

Here are some links if you are looking for activities to do or places to visit:

  • Abandoned Berlin.com
  • Residentadvisor.net

Belgium

And of course the wonderful Belgium! World’s capital for beer, chocolate and waffle lovers.

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Beer Tasting (Brugge)

Lieges (Luik) is only 30 minutes by train away from Maastricht. A one-way ticket will cost you around 5 euros. If Lieges is your destination, I highly recommend the bar called Le pot au lait. The decoration of this place will blow your mind.

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Le pot au Lait (Lieges)

You could also go to Brugge (Bruges), the ideal place for chocolate tasting! The several canals and bridges will charm you.

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Market Square (Brugge)

If you want to get away from big cities you could go to Louvain-la-Neuve, a small city located 30 minutes away from Brussels. Don’t except to party during the week-end, most students are going back home. This pleasant city is full of students during the week, from Monday to Thursday and during the week-end. Louvain-la-Neuve is a very small city built for students. Don’t be surprised of the number of drunk students on the streets nor the time of the day, it is part of the charm.

And of course the well-known Brussels! Amazing city full of bars and places to party.

I strongly recommend you to go to the Delirium Café, this bar shall please you with its 3162 beers.

How to travel with a small budget?

If you’re travelling in Belgium, and you are under 26 years old, I suggest you to take a Go-Pass. It’s less expensive than a regular ticket. You could buy this ticket at the Belgian Rail blue machine.

As you may have noticed, the train is particularly expensive in Europe. If you are an early bird, you can find some really cheap flight tickets with Ryanair.

If like me you are a last minute person, I highly encourage you to travel by carpooling such as Blablacar. It is the perfect way to meet people and to travel easily and comfortably, especially for long-distance rides.

For short-distance rides, Flixbus is also a really good way to travel. You can use it also for the long-distance rides, but it usually takes twice the carpooling time and can be pretty expensive.

You can easily find some connections from Maastricht to Cologne or Bonn. From there it is not difficult to find a Blablacar to go to Berlin for instance.

Besides, you can find cheap accommodation on Couchsurfing or via Airbnb.

Finally, for each country I suggest you to try the free tour guide. It is a great way to know a little more about the city you are visiting and to meet some people from all around the world.

Of exams, vacation and people

It has been exactly three months since I arrived in Maastricht and the first period of this semester ended at the end of March. So finally I can draw a conclusion from how the system in university works here.

My exam took place at the beginning of April. Scared by the high demands that university seems to make on students, the exam was not as unfeasible as I had expected beforehand. Since PBL kind of forces you to always be up-to-date the preparation was not as intense as it used to be in my home university. However, the MECC area where all the exams take place is something that I never experienced before. It reminded me of a huge warehouse, there were seats for about 2000 students I heard! After this one exam, the relief was great and I was facing almost two weeks of vacation. I need to mention it again: it is amazing how many days off we are having in this spring semester. There is so much time to travel and explore things, sometimes I almost forget that I am actually studying here, especially in this second period of the semester. There is hardly any week in April and May in which I have two tutorials since there are many days off again such as Ascension or Kingsday.

So then in these two weeks off I almost spent my entire time in Amsterdam. Some friends from Switzerland came to visit me and had a look at the city. I only got back once for two days in which I stayed in the guesthouse, it was totally empty, did not meet any single soul during this time. All exchange students made benefit from the fact that they had so many days off and they were spread all over Europe!

Many people asked me if I was not bored about being in Amsterdam for such a long time. And indeed, in advance I thought the same. However, this city is small but still there are so many different things to see! Since different people came to visit me, they all had different interests. Finally I ended up doing various things and I hardly ever did the same thing twice. From Amsterdam it is also easily possible to visit other cities such as Rotterdam or Den Hague. One day we even went to the beach which is also easily possible by train. The only thing that leaves room for improvement is definitely the weather here in the Netherlands. Almost every weekend I went there, it was supercloudy and cold, but as the saying says, I was probably just wearing the wrong clothes…

There are still lots of things coming up such as the ISN trip to Berlin or the very last Cantus. Additionally I am going to spend three days in Italy since Ryanair offered really cheap flights. That’s another thing that I discovered while studying here: check the Ryanair Website regularly, you might find deals that you did not dare to dream about before. 🙂

I’m really looking forward to experience the last month here in Maastricht. My goal is to enjoy the remaining time even more since this exchange experience is over soon. Especially with the people that I am closest with. There is the beginning of the exchange in which everybody tries to meet as many people as possible to find the one’s who you want to spend your time with. After this certain amount of time in which people finally found their groups, you prefer to stay with the people you get along with, or at least that is how it works for me. And I am really glad to have met so many amazing people in this tiny little town…

Amazing April

Time flies, I’ve been living in Maastricht for 88 days! I was busy in preparing exam, paper and Pecha Kucha in the first week of April. It took me a day to plan and submit my Pecha Kucha, which is a 20×20 simple presentation format where I show 20 images, each for 20 seconds. The PPT will play automatically with my narration from the background. I would suggest you to prepare earlier if you have the same assignment style! Though I have tons of reading per course, learning more knowledge related to marketing findings make me fulfilled. (Tip: library was always packed during exam period in the morning. You can easily find a spot at SBE!)

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(Maastricht)

I’ve seen typical gloomy and rainy Dutch weather in Feb and March. The weather in the beginning of April is amazing! I see cherry blossom everywhere in Maastricht, even on my way to take my final exam at Mecc. Studying in such a sunny weather make me feel loved. I always crave for food while I was studying. Guess what, it has been shown that brain needs more glucose since it’s consuming energy. In turn, I go to gym roughly three times a week. (Plus, summer is coming! Whoop Whoop)!

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(@Cafe Zondag)

After the exam, I went to Rotterdam for a day. Spontaneous travel makes me feel relaxed and good weather is a BIG plus. I visited cube houses and Erasmus bridge. More interestingly, it was the event day for Marathon Rotterdam #RUN 010 RUN, I can feel the passion and vigour of youth in Rotterdam.

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I tried to make best of my vacation, so me and two other girls decide to explore Scandinavian countries – Stockholm and Copenhagen for four days! In Stockholm, you can see trend-setting design, historic museums, and well-connected bridges. The gloomy weather and coldness steal the beauty of the atmosphere. I always join the city tour whenever I travel, it’s an enriching experience to know the story of each place. The guide told us the meaning of IKEA and how prince Daniel and princess Victoria met and fell in love with each other. If you are interested to know the story, feel free to comment or message me. 🙂 Walking along the cobbled lane of the old town, Gamla Stan, you will see Storkyrkan, and the Swedish parliament building. We also went to Drottningholms Slottsteater (look at my featured image!) and The Royal Palace. Another fun fact is that fake marble paint has been used for saving money in both the palace and the theatre in 17th century.

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Finally, on the last day of Stockholm, we got sunshine! Thus, we took tons of pictures and explored the subway metro art thoroughly. Did I mention it was snowing the day before?IMG_6726.JPG.jpeg

The bus departed from Stockholm to Copenhagen via Oresund Bridge. The Øresund bridge connected the Danish capital of Copenhagen to the Swedish of Malmo. When I woke up in the morning and felt the sunshine on my face, I saw the stunning view through the glass. An array of windmills was surrounded by the deeper blue glistening sea.

After 7 hours of overnight bus, we reached Denmark’s capital – Copenhagen! It has long been famous for its design, fashion and innovation. Besides Copenhagen’s Nyhavn and Langelinje Pier, I like the star-shaped fortress – Kastellet. The little mermaid sculpture  is inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s beloved fairytale can also be spotted at the pier. It’s such unforgettable journey to visit the fortress. It make me feel like a princess who grew up from this fairy-tale scene.

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(@Nyhavn)

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(@Kastellet Fortress)

I took Marketing Innovation Management and Managers@Work for the upcoming period. We played marshmellow challenge at the beginning of the tutorial as the picture shown. Don’t forget to check out the TED talk by Tom Wujec who used marshmellow challenge to show the finding of creativity and teamwork.https://www.ted.com/talks/tom_wujec_build_a_tower

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(Marsh mellow challenge)

Reunion on KINGSDAY!!! 

This is the most exciting moment that I was looking  for the past few months! It’s so nice to see MIBers in person in Amsterdam. I miss my friends from Queens so much. We hug, talk, laugh and just reminds me of those days in Kingston. We were in Oranje and embraced the Dutch culture. 🍺🍺Hope to see them again in Canada!

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(@Vondelpark)

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(@Amsterdam)