It is hard to believe I have been in Maastricht for nearly two months. Time is flying by, and life continues to feel like a dream filled with learning, friendship, and adventure.
With its Problem-Based Learning, Maastricht University’s academic system is a stark contrast to that of my home university. In fact, it is one of the primary reasons for selecting Maastricht. My home university models a traditional-style academic system. Students attend lectures multiple times per week, complete assignments, collaborate on group projects, and take multiple exams throughout the course of the semester. Our culture is highly competitive. The school’s unique grading standard allows few to complete each course with a top grade, so a rather individualistic, aggressive environment is often fostered in each classroom. Maastricht University follows a modern academic model: Problem-Based Learning. Seated with 15 others around a circular table, students work together to understand course material, answer questions, and draw conclusions. Our peers become valuable assets in facilitating learning. Naturally, a community of collaboration and support is fostered. I find myself leaving each session with a strong understanding of the content and sense of community among my peers. Best of all, due to the large population of exchange students here, a variety of perspectives and cultural experiences become a powerful enhancement to learning. One is not to be fooled by the rigor of Maastricht University, however. Though each student takes only two classes at once, success with Problem-Based Learning requires a significant amount of preparation for each session followed by post-session processing. I spend approximately five hours of preparation for each class session followed by one hour of post-session processing, totaling around 24 hours of work outside the classroom per week.
In the midst of coursework, traveling, and adapting to a new culture, being mindful of health—specifically mental health—becomes a critical component of a positive international experience. I have found my gym to be an excellent source in maintaining my health. I am a member of the MAC Gym. Located less than five minutes from the Guesthouse by bike, the gym houses a variety of cardio and weightlifting machines in a clean, trendy building with wonderful staff. Several classes are hosted each day, including cycling, core training, and yoga. I am a regular student in Julian’s Jumping Fitness, where, just as it sounds, the high-intensity session includes 45 minutes of rigorous jumping routines on a miniature trampoline. Thank goodness Julian has an excellent taste in music, or I may not make it through each session!
Nearly every week has come with a new adventure. Most recently, I had the opportunity to visit Paris, London, and Budapest. Paris was one of my favorite cities thus far. I went to the top of the Eiffel Tower, visited the Louvre, and enjoyed wonderful French food. The city’s beautiful architecture and rich history creates a lovely, romantic feel. Several days later, I traveled to London to fulfill one of my dreams: seeing Hamilton at the Palace Victoria Theatre. The show was unlike any show I have ever seen. I highly recommend visiting the theatre when in Europe to enjoy the incredible arts. The trip also included a visit to the royal palaces—something I have taken great interest in since a young age. In fact, my travel companion found it quite humorous I could navigate my way between palaces without having ever been there, as I knew my way from the many videos I have watched on the Royal Family! Following London, I flew to Budapest with several friends. We began our trip with a visit to the Terror Museum, formerly known as the Hungarian Nazi headquarters. Though rather heavy, the visit gave context to the rest of Budapest and the incredible challenges its citizens and their ancestors have been through. We spent the rest of our weekend hiking, visiting the Buda Castle and Hungarian Parliament building, sampling Hungarian foods, and visiting the theatre to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Again, thanks to Ryan Air, friends who share my hunger for adventure, and Maastricht’s central location, quick weekend trips have allowed me to explore seven countries in the span of two months.
In my last blog post, I shared my love for the Guesthouse. My thoughts have not changed; my floor continues to bond on a daily basis. Again, for those looking for a strong sense of community, many friendships, and diversity, I cannot recommend the Guesthouse enough.
In the coming weeks, I look forward to welcoming my parents to Maastricht, completing my first round of classes, and embarking on a spring break trip to Switzerland, France, and Italy. Until next time, blog-readers!