Hello everyone! My name is Jessica and I am a Third Year American exchange student from the University of Richmond, Virginia. I’m excited to be blogging for Maastricht University Blog and share my personal experience of studying abroad here in Maastricht!
It’s hard to believe that it has only been a short two and a half weeks since I’ve arrived in Maastricht! It seems like just yesterday that I was packing my bags and boarding a plane at the Philadelphia Airport and arriving at the Schiphol Airport as a very jet lagged, sleep deprived exchange student.
I’m staying in the UM Guesthouse and if you are planning to do your exchange semester here, I would definitely recommend staying here! Not only is it in a great location relative to campus, the supermarket, and social venues, but it also houses a large majority of the exchange students so it’s easy to meet people, make friends, and create plans!
I couldn’t have asked for a better first week at Maastricht University and that wouldn’t have been possible without the University and the International Student Network (ISN) providing a week of orientation and fun events for us to start transitioning to Dutch life as quickly and seamlessly as possible.I was greeted with exceptionally warm weather during my first week (this was very short lived) which made all the activities planned for us that much more enjoyable.
The International Student Network did an amazing job with making exchange students feel welcome at Maastricht. We had the opportunity to sign up for two different packages; the cultural package or the party package, so there was plenty of things to do for everyone! I decided to sign up for both packages so I wouldn’t miss out on anything and I’m glad I did because it was a nice combination of social events!
The Introduction Dinner was the perfect place to meet new people, make friends, and enjoy the first night of the Introduction Week. Some of the people that I met that night have become my closest friends here! With an incredible after party planned, it was the best way to kick off Arrival Week! The city tours were the perfect way for students to start finding their way around the city and the Bicycle Workshop was extremely useful for students like me who were new to the rules of the road for bikers. A classic Dutch dinner was a much need break to a pretty busy week and it was followed by a night at the museum to see the Raymond Pettibon exhibit at the Bonnefantenmuseum, which was incredible to see.
If there was one thing that I learned from my first week here is that having a bike would be necessary. Coming from a place where it’s virtually impossible to get from one place to another without driving or taking public transportation, this was a new concept for me. But after seeing dozens of students heading to class, the grocery store, or to the main square on their bikes every day, I knew that if I really wanted to adjust to Dutch life, a bike would be a necessity. While I’m still getting the hang of the rules of the road and navigating the city, now I can’t image what it would be like to not have my trusty bike with me!
I was excited for the new semester to start, especially to begin classes at such a diverse university. While I am used to small class sizes, the PBL teaching method was a fairly new concept for me. I was thankful that Maastricht University offered a ‘practice’ PBL session during the Introduction Days so that I wasn’t caught completely off-guard in my first tutorial. After two weeks of practice with PBL tutorials, I’ve come to really enjoy this style of teaching! The discussions in class are led by the students and there never seems to be lack of conversation or debate. I’ve enjoyed that the fact that each session is a new opportunity for debating and sharing ideas without fear of judgement. The best part is that each tutorial group is so diverse that I’ve had the opportunity to work with students from all over the world.
I wouldn’t be a true exchange student if I didn’t mention some of my travel plans! ISN has some amazing trips planned – the first being the Discover Holland trip that I’m participating in this weekend! Others include Oktoberfest in Munich, Prague, and more! With so many other countries so close by, I’m excited to do some exploring and bring my experiences back with me to the classroom!
Maastricht has proven to be an amazing city for exchange students. The population is quite young, there are endless places for coffee, food, and drinks, and the social aspect of the city can’t be beat! There always seems to be something happening in the squares so it’s impossible to be bored in this beautiful city!
Thanks for reading about my adjustment to my semester abroad, I’m excited to continue blogging and can’t wait for you to read my next post!