My Thoughts on the PBL System

image1.jpeg

With Period 1 under my belt and now that Period 2 is well under way, I can say that I’ve officially ‘gotten the hang’ of the PBL system. I was warned before I got to Maastricht that the style of teaching here would be something that I had to get accustomed to and that it wasn’t going to be an easy transition. I am confident when I say that, coming from a ‘traditional’ American university, there definitely was a small learning curve, but the outcome has been worth it. Here are a few of my thoughts on why the PBL system has enhanced my education and overall experience here at Maastricht University.

With the periods being only 7 weeks long, the idea of retaining such an abundant amount of information can be daunting. The PBL system emphasizes long term retention of knowledge by reinforcing subject matters, encouraging discussion, and having students try to answer their own questions. I left my courses feeling fulfilled and confident that I was ready for the upcoming exams. 

Both of my Period 1 classes were heavily discussion based. Both required student facilitations, discussion leaders, and a few lectures. The diversity of how the subject matter is presented lends to a better understanding of the material. No two students learn in the same way, so presenting material in unique, diverse, and constructive ways will benefit the class as a whole, and individual students as well. 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned after Period 1 it is how to engage with the class. I was quite timid and a little bit apprehensive to share my ideas when Period 1 started. Back at home, students must raise their hands and have the teacher call on them to speak. So you can imagine my confusion when class started and everyone was talking across the classroom, no rules or process in place. But, that’s something I quickly got over because otherwise I was going to have to say goodbye to my participation grade. You learn quickly that it is essential for you to participate not only for your own grade, but to move the class discussion. Most of the time, students are facilitating the classes and it would be impossible to carry on a discussion without the involvement of the rest of the class. Not only that, but you leave class satisfied with yourself and confident that you are learning something.

Group work is the backbone of the PBL system, at least in my opinion. And while some people have mixed feelings about group work, I enjoy it and find it to be a better way to understand certain types of subject matters. During my Period 1 classes, I had about 5 different group projects and I was usually the only ‘international’ student in my groups. Working with full-time, often German, Dutch, or Belgian students was eye opening and helped me understand how beneficial group work can be. Working together with students from all over the world can lead to quality discussion, diverse sets of ideas, and quality content when everyone contributes their best work.

After two month of working with this ‘new to me’ teaching style, I can understand why people ‘warned’ me about it but also why so many students and teachers praise the practice. I’m excited for a new period and new chances to collaborate and learn from the diverse set of students around me!

What are your thoughts on the PBL System?

Advertisements

Bitten by the travel bug!

Since the last time I wrote, so much has happened. The final weeks of classes were very stressful for me. All of a sudden, everything was due. I had presentations, reports, and exams to worry about all at once. I only had one exam and although I was super nervous going into it, I think I did pretty well. Still haven’t got the results back yet – cross your fingers for me!

We wrote exams in the MECC – quite the bike ride to get there. The exam set up was very similar to back home at Queen’s University. A huge gymnasium filled with rows of desks and for a variety of subjects. The weird thing was that they assigned your seat to you instead of just sitting in a specific section for your class. I think it was a good way to organize it.

Right after my exam, my parents came across the pond to visit! I stayed in their hotel with them and we explored Maastricht for a few days together. So nice to see them! I got to see Maastricht from a different perspective than the usual “on a student budget” perspective. When they were here, we toured the caves of Fort St. Pieter. The caves are a total “must see”.  They are a short bike ride from the Guesthouse. You can do the fort tour or the just the underground cave tour or a combination of them both. I did both for about 10 euro and it was fantastic! The guides are knowledgeable, engaging, and so much fun! It’s a great way to get to know a little bit of the history behind this beautiful city.

Following this, I travelled like nuts for the next 2.5 weeks. Right after the first visit with my parents, I went to Madrid, Spain with two friends – one of which is from Madrid – so we got to stay at his house and really feel the city from a local perspective. And THAT IS THE WAY TO DO IT!! Seeing a city with a local is my new favourite way of travelling. You get to see things and experience things that you would never be able to see or do if you stayed in a hostel and visited the super touristy places. There is so much history here too meaning lots of historical sites to see. Best part of the trip was the weather for one (28 Celsius and sunny even at the end of October!) and most importantly the food. Best food of my entire life; not even exaggerating a little. If you visit this marvelous city, you will not leave hungry.

On Monday the second period began and after the opening lectures concluded, my parents picked me up in a rented car and we went on a mini getaway to Ghent, Belgium for a few days. A place known for the neat architecture, the chocolate, and the beer! And we tried it all! A lot cooler weather than Madrid though!

After Ghent was Prague. We stayed for a week. A little too long but if I were to overstay a visit in any city, I’m glad that it was Prague. This was hands down the most stunning city I’ve ever been to. The language there – Czech – is similar to Dutch in the sense that it’s nearly impossible to pick up. Still not sure how to say hello in Czech…

I had one day of classes and then left that night for Paris. Just got back tonight. I have been travelling none stop but I think the first few weeks of a new period is the time to do that if you want to. For the next two weeks, I’m staying here to get back into the grove of school and remind myself of what Maastricht really feels like. I have missed the convenience of biking everywhere. I’ve missed going to the awesome food market on Wednesdays and Fridays to get my fruits and veggies for the week. And I’ve even missed hearing the language even though I still do not understand a word of it! I can’t wait to know more about this wonderful city.

Vrijthof, Maastricht

Do you know that Maastricht turns to festival place sometimes?

We have Vrijthof Square in Maastricht, which turns to interesting place!

If you study in Maastricht in period 1 to 3, you can enjoy Preuvenemint and 11devande11de.

  1. Preuvenemint

preuvenemint

At the end of August, Vrijthof Square is full of Jazz. Preuvenemint is one of biggest Maastricht’s festival and only one festival where you can drink and enjoy jazz together. Preuve means to taste and evenemint means an event. Some of Maastricht’s best restaurants or bars sell there food in the form of snack bar. You should buy a card and top up, if you want to have food there. It is quite expensive but it is affordable in the fancy and chill atmosphere. And also the proceeds of this event are fully donated. It is really good way to know and experience Maastricht’s culture.

2. 11devande11de

Cologne

Have you heard about there is big opening of carnival on 11th November in Cologne, Germany? On the 11th November, whole city of Cologne is transformed for the carnival celebrations. Then, have you heard about the second biggest opening of the carnival is held in Maastricht? You are so lucky that you stay in Maastricht in November. Of course the biggest opening of the carnival is in Cologne, it is really hard to get there and get a room there because all transportation or accommodation is fully booked early.

Last but not least, Christmas market is coming! It will be held in whole December. There will also be a ice skating rink in Vrijthof square. Ice skating rink might make you return to the innocence of childhood. Enjoy the wonderful Christmas atmosphere here in Maastricht.

Who said that Maastricht is quiet countryside? Maastricht is, in fact, interesting, amazing, even romantic place that you should spend your time and you should stay.

Exam Time…

So, now after the first acclimatization time and a lot of learning, the first exams started.

The exams are written in Maastricht within about two weeks, although you only have to prepare for two in each term, but the amount is still not small. It is difficult to estimate which tasks will occur in the exam because the amount of texts being treated is large and there is no old exam to look for. For this reason, you have to put a lot of time into the preparation for the exam.

It was very interesting to find out that many exams are written in the same room at the same time. The exams themselves are written in a large hall in the “MECC”. UM Maastricht puts a lot of effort to prevent the students from cheating during the exam. For example: If you want to go to the toilet during an exam, you have to get in touch with the supervisor and hand in your student card. At the entrance to the toilet there are other supervisors ready to check that no one enters the toilete with electronic devices, they even have extra equipment around them to control the students.

The exam was pleasant in itself, there are quite a few tasks to guarantee points and you have enough time for all tasks. It was a pity that it was not allowed to use a dictionary because there are still some words I do not know. The exam results are worse than expected, but I am glad that they are over now and I can deal with new subjects.

The time after the exams I used to explore Maastricht together with my girlfriend. Maastricht is really a colorful and open city, where everyone can feel comfortable. Since my girlfriend is vegan it’s not always easy to eat in cities, but Maastricht is a positive example here. Both at the university there are opportunities to use vegan products as well as in the city. A coffeebar we liked very well was “KAFETHÉA”. There is not only good coffee, but also really delicious vegan cakes.

I am looking forward to the rest of my time in Maastricht and to further experiences.

Dutch sometimes close their eyes : Drug and Sex in the Netherlands

20171025_170814After the first period and before the second, I traveled around the Netherlands, from Utrecht to Amsterdam, to Zaanse, to Den Haag, to Rotterdam, to Eindhoven and back to Maastricht.

20171027_07474220171030_111250_00120171101_111830

Each of the cities has their uniqueness: Utrecht is tranquil with several fantastic museums that you can’t miss. Amsterdam is mind-boggling with red light district, numerous tourists and fabulous night life.  Zaanse the windmill village is just like the Neverland or any other fairytale scene. Rotterdam is a big city full of historic stories and bizarre architectures. Eindhoven is a dynamic city of design and invention, especially in the annual Dutch Design Week.

However, you can see the common thing between those cities: the open-mindedness of the Dutch has an impact on them.

The most salient ones might be drug and sex.

Amsterdam is the first city which legalize sex industry. The church in Rotterdam is the pioneer that manages drug by tolerating moderate dose. (Thanks to the tour guide in Free Walking Tour Rotterdam.) The reason behind these policies is simple and clear – take those industry in control by asking them to come out from under the table – but no one but the Dutch dare to give it a try.

“Dutch sometimes close our eyes to things,” said the walking tour guide in the red light district in Amsterdam. Closing eyes itself is a gamble, but Dutch has always won.

Are you ready for period 2?

In the blink of an eye, Period 1 is already over, and I have been in Maastricht for 2 months. The workload in Maastricht is definitely heavier than what I am used to back in my home University. Consequently, I wasn’t travelling as much as I initially intended to. But I understand that you only get as much as what you put in. Indeed, studying in Maastricht has pushed me beyond my comfort zone: I have been training myself to read faster and pick out main points more quickly. Looking back, I also gleaned a lot of insights from my classmates (I particularly enjoyed my entrepreneurial course because of the engaging conversations we had in class). My first examination was last Thursday; though I am not sure what results to expect, I know I have done my best, so I will patiently wait for the results (which my classmate said will be out in 2-3 weeks’ time)!

Before period 2 started, I went on a solo trip to London and Oxford to find my childhood friends who are studying there for their bachelor degrees. I was quite apprehensive as this was my first time planning and travelling alone in Europe. After nearly missing the flight to London (I underestimated the duration for security and custom clearance at the Schiphol airport :'(), I finally arrived in London safe and sound!

(Tip: please still arrive at Schiphol airport early even if you have completed online check-in as it’s a busy air hub so there are long queues)

IMG_8260.JPG
Regent’s Park, London
IMG_8383.JPG
M&M Store, London

I really love the vibrancy in London ❤ And even though it was just a few days, I am really glad I managed to catch up with these dearly-missed friends.

Now that I’m back from travelling… am I ready for Period 2?

After my experience in Period 1, I have drawn up the following strategies to help me cope with Period 2 better:

  • Call home more often so as to cope with the homesickness
  • Read up summaries on studydrive.net
    (I only recently realised how useful studydrive is. Studydrive is where helpful students upload relevant materials for other course mates to review. And don’t forget to give these contributors a thumbs-up on the portal for willingly sharing their chapter summaries!)
  • Dance to release stress!
    (I took the initiative to find dance schools in Maastricht so that I could continue my passion of dancing even here in the Netherlands. I am currently enrolled with ‘Dansschool Reality’. The dance studio is only 15 minutes’ walk from the guesthouse so it’s really convenient. Don’t stop something you love even when you’re away from home (: http://www.dansschoolreality.com)
  • Visit friends who are in other European cities
    (I have been thinking of how do I make my travels in Europe more meaningful and less ‘touristy’. And I think visiting friends from other cities is a good idea because they could share insights about the city based on their few months’ of living there. Though they may not be able to fully understand the local context, it still beats me getting to know these cities without any prior knowledge. Hence, I will be visiting a senior who has been living and starting work in Frankfurt soon next weekend and my friends in Rotterdam in early December.)
  • Participate in community-building activities
    (Having an interest in community development and engagement, I spent two years in high school facilitating an academic support programme for underprivileged families. Participating in community-building activities in Maastricht would give me an opportunity to learn from the locals on how to make meaningful contributions to my society too. Hence, my Dutch classmate referred me to the ‘Refugee Project Maastricht’ and I look forward to attending their English Cafe initiative. http://refugeeprojectmaastricht.nl)