Adjusting to Life Abroad

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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3+ Things that you should do as soon as you get to Maastricht

Hi, my name is Euimin Chung and I am an exchange student from Korea University.

I really like blog posts like “5 tips” “7 things you should know”, so I also prepare this kind of post. These are tips that would make the start of your Maastricht life beautiful.

 

  1. To open ING bank account

You might need Dutch account for booking a group ticket(NS train group ticket), using MAESTRO card, transferring money to friends, etc. Since almost every exchange students is going to open a Dutch bank account, you should schedule an appointment earlier. In Netherlands, it is needed to make an appointment before visiting bank. For me, it took a 2 and a half week to open account at ING. On my first visit, I made an appointment. After two days, I visited again(passport and admission letter needed!) and entered some personal information(address, phone number…). Actually, my friend who visited with me successfully opened her account that day. But I should wait for ordinary mails, so I rearrange an appointment 2 weeks later. The staff said she also has no idea with this happening, just saying to my friends “You are lucky.”

And for your information, my another friend told me that with all ordinary mails needed, he can open an account without making new appointment. If you have to open an account, just try to visit there when the bank is empty.

 

  2. To buy a bike

You might already heard about Dutch bike culture. Bike makes your life in Maastricht enrich. It reduces travel time, improves your health, and saves you money. So, the thing is, you should buy a bike. Since it is really expensive to get a new bike, most exchange students prefer to buy second-hand bike. There are several second-hand bike shops, also on the Facebook(“buy / sell a bike in Maastricht”). Second-hand bike costs about €60~€90.

 

By the way, if you really want to save money, finding cheap bike, please pay attention here. There is a cool guy whose name Paul selling bikes at a nominal price. I bought my bike from him for €25. He lives Bovenstraat, 3770 Riemst, Belgium. It takes 1 hour on foot from guesthouse to get there. It might be a nice experience going Belgium on foot and returning with riding a bike.

 

     3. To use Facebook well

Facebook provides tons of information such as ISN events, nearby events, NS group tickets, and so on. These are some recommendations- ISN Maastricht 201X Students, NS Group tickets Eindhoven/Maastricht, Sharing is Caring – Maastricht University, Fleamarket Maastricht.

Also ‘Events’ tap is useful(Facebook > Settings > Events). You can find nearby events, upcoming events, and events popular with your friends. I have been to ‘Preuvenemint 2017’ with getting information from ‘Events’. It was such a nice food, drink, music festival in Maastricht.

 

     4. More tips…

I have some more little tips to share with you. If you already register the class, and class begins but you want to change because of several reasons, you can just ask school employees for it. If it is possible to change, they will help you.

And do not hesitate to buy OV-chip card. I did, because I thought I don’t need to take a bus and the card is quiet expensive. But I was wrong, and it is way more cheap using OV-chip card.

To change your password of Maastricht university account, using this link: https://myaccount.maastrichtuniversity.nl/

Last but not least, and to a certain degree it might sound like cliché, let’s be open-minded and be nice.

 

This is end of my first blog post. I should go to bed because tomorrow I am going to trip with ISN! ‘Discover Holland weekend’ Hope to see you again with more fun things to share. Let’s enjoy life in Maastricht 🙂

I don’t want to say goodbye.

A few days ago, I said my first goodbye. That was not fun. Being cheesy by nature, I gifted my good friend a sentimental message written in a mutually appreciated novel with a polaroid we took together on the last day. With only two weeks left until the end of semester – for some, even less – there exists an unspoken rule of not mentioning that soon we must all part ways and go back to our ‘real’ lives. The topic is strictly forbidden and any word of it will result in a sea of uncontrollable tears or internal anxiety. A bit dramatic? Study abroad for half a year or more and you’ll understand.

Knowing that the end is near, I had ambitiously planned to travel every single weekend before exams. I managed to tour around Belgium, visit the famous Dutch windmills in Zaanse Schans, revisit Berlin and road-trip to Luxembourg. I even had plans to go to Morocco and London but my body finally gave in and I ended up catching a nasty cold. At least the weather is warm now (even heading towards the 30s in Celsius!). Falling sick is probably a blessing in disguise because it let me appreciate the last few moments with the city itself and spend more quality time with the people here.

The expiration date motivated my friends and I to overcome our intrinsic sloth existence by squeezing in as much time together as possible. All the whilst juggling the pressure of University and exams. We began by visiting restaurants we talked about going to but never did, and to pre-drinking but never making it to the actual party because it can be more fun to be idiots with friends in an enclosed and private space as opposed to being idiots with strangers in a larger and more public space. Wow that was a mouthful.

Maastricht is truly a hidden gem and I’m glad I had the privilege of living here pretty much like a local to truly explore all the great things it has to offer. It might seem like a small and boring city but it is one of those places that you can’t possibly appreciate to the full extent as a weekend traveller or passer-by. Since this will be my last post about my exchange period here (if you’re reading this and deciding whether to stay for a semester or two – do two), I want to leave you with some of my last recommendations/findings/experiences about this gorgeous city.

Foodbank

Foodbank is an event that runs every Friday without fail (ok maybe holidays) in the funkiest abandoned warehouse you would not expect to find by the river. To reduce food wastage and promote the awareness of vegan delicacies, this non-profit volunteer based event gathers the left-over food from the Friday markets (that otherwise would have been completely discarded) and transforms them into a delicious three course meal. Yes, that includes a starter, main and dessert!! They even have accompanying live music and decent 1.5 euro beer. The first night I went, it was ‘open-mic night’ and I was fortunate enough to hear some great freelancers perform, one of whom was a friend too! The atmosphere is fantastic because it gathers kind souls from all over the world where everyone puts in effort in preparing and cleaning.

mac SportsClub

So…I’ve never in my life purchased a gym membership but I guess when you’re on exchange, everything is a possibility. if you’re part of ISN Maastricht, there is a decent deal where you can pay for 3 months of membership and get the 4th month free! I found out a little too late and won’t be able to get the most out of the 4 months so jump on that quick! There are some fun classes like jumping fitness and anti-gravity yoga that I would seriously recommend checking out. Oh and this is not a sponsored message.

Enci B.V.

The days will get hot enough where you will dream of a beach. In Maastricht, the next best thing is a quarry. Fun place to spend a warm day! But hopefully it’s not too crowded.

How to Say Goodbye 101

Don’t avoid it, give it your all for one last hoorah! If you start feeling sad, just remember that it won’t be the last time you see them. Oh and it also means you’ll have more free accommodation around the world. Who needs Airbnb?

 

Half a year went by like a flash of light. Incredibly grateful for everyone and everything. Enough with the cheese, thanks for reading!

 

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.

Not just a small town.

It has only been a month of living in this quaint little town and it has removed all doubts about my choice of exchange destination. At first, I was worried about the notorious gloomy weather and how fun the city would be. But, despite it’s small size, Maastricht truly has so much to offer.

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Firstly, you get used to the weather. Really. Although coming from Sydney, where sandy beaches, blue skies and a beaming sun are well acquainted friends, Netherlands did come as a shock to me at first. I would look out my bedroom window at 10am, see absolutely no sun and wonder whether my jet-lag was so bad that I slept until the evening of the next day.Before I left for Europe I even stocked up on some vitamin D in fear of seasonal affective disorder. But like I said, you get use to it. You learn very quickly to invest in a handy pair of gloves, beanie and raincoat. Riding your bike around warms you up quite nicely too – speaking of bikes, it is mandatory that you buy one. You literally can’t get around this town easy enough without one. The roads are so bike friendly that you always, I think, get the right of way. I managed to get a great second hand bike for just 35 euros! Anyways – back to weather chat. Every now and then, even in winter, the weather deities will grant you with a sunny day and a mild temperature. This is when you must visit Sint Pietersberg – the only hill in the area of this pancake country – and watch the sunset overlooking the city with a liquor of your choice, some damn good cheese and new friends.

One thing that I’ve learnt in my first few weeks here is that it’s not about where you are, but who you’re with. You could be in the most amazing city in the world but it just might not be that great unless you’re surrounded by great people to share those experiences with. I’ve already met some incredibly open-minded and interesting people here. I’m lucky to live in the Guesthouse which is accomodation specifically catered for exchange/international students. I love the international atmosphere and learning so much from talking to people from all walks of life. You end up meeting so many people I don’t even get offended if they’ve forgotten my name because the chances are I’ve probably forgotten theirs too. Also, the university and societies make a huge effort in organising events for new students to settle in. Just don’t be too cool for school and skip out on all the events. In terms of the nightlife, there is pretty much only one club/bar you can go to after a certain morning hour for those non-sleepers and even though it is a questionable atmosphere, you’ll still have an awesome (maybe even a little weird) time with the crew.

 

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Another great thing about Maastricht is that the amount of cafes/bars offered are friggin amazing. There are so so many places to try, it will definitely not be financially viable for my student budget but hey – anything is possible when it comes to food. There is one cafe where my friends and I waited for TWO AND A HALF HOURS inside the restaurant to be seated and oh my lawd it is so good that thinking about it makes my mouth water right now. The place is called Cafe Sjiek and the leg-numbing-wine-consuming wait was completely worth it.

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(Another cafe recommendation is tea-zone, amazing coffee/tea/cakes and a dedicated study area for students)

Lastly, I’m really glad to have been placed at Maastricht University for exchange. It almost sounds like I’m sponsored to say that but I’m really not. The problem based learning style really forces you to interact with the content that you are learning. I genuinely wish it was introduced at my home university, especially for all the social science subjects! Instead of cramming a semesters worth of content in one week and then forgetting it all after the exam, the information is actually retaining in my brain which I guess is a much better use of time haha.

Maastricht is a tiny town with so much to offer. This will be a 5 month love affair with a destined heartbreak when it due time to leave.

#TravelAsMuchAsYouCan

HELLO AGAIN!!!

Today’s post is about traveling!!

Even though I’m from Europe I have never had the opportunity to travel within my own continent, not even to the famous interRail. This happens because the flights from Lisbon are quite expensive. However, this excuse is over if you come to study in Maastricht.

This small and cosy town is near (2h30 by train) Brussels & Amsterdam, 2 huge cities where low cost airlines operate a lot. In addition, you also have the Eindhoven airport even closer and if you prefer to travel by bus, I recommend you to use Flixbus.

Tip1: the best website to search and combine all options to travel within Europe is goeuro.com. It combines plan, bus, train and even bla bla car.

I’ve been to a lot of places since I’m here but I truly recommend you to explore The Netherlands first (specially if you come in a sunny time). You have to explore Maastricht, Utrecht, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Delft, Giethoorn…! Use your free weekends or maybe a free day!

Tip2: you can travel around The Netherlands for 7€ a day (including return). How!? Simple. There are a few groups on facebook like “NS GROUP AMSTERDAM”. If you have further questions about this, comment below and I’ll help you.

After exploring your second home country, Europe is yours. You name it. There are so many flights with affordable prices that is ridiculous. I’ve been to France, Switzerland, Monaco, Belgium, Germany, Prague…!

Tip3: There are some people who love to plan their own trips and do their own things. However, if you are not of these kind of people don’t worry. There are student agencies that care of everything for you. ISN/ESN, Wanderlust or even pm2am – Student Trips are some examples!

Hope I helped you with some useful information.

See you soon,

Patrícia

Super fun happy times

Hello everyone!

I haven’t had time to write anything for a long time, but this time it was not the workload that held me back but the huge amount of fun I had! 🙂

I was first visited by a good friend from my home university, and we spent some chill days together: we watched films, we talked, and kept stuffing stroopwaffels in our mouths (of course).

Then, after she left, one of my oldest friend from Hungary came to fill her place right away. She stayed for a bit longer so we had the chance not only to discover Maastricht, but to go to Aachen as well (which is a beautiful city and totally worth a visit, btw). We also went to the Winter Vodka Land party, which seemed as a very good decision at the time (free vodka shots), but had its downfalls (let’s just say that cobble stones and bicycles were involved).

After this, I had a few days to relax during which I participated in the Innovator’s Challenge during the Global Entrepreneurship Week in Maastricht. This event caught my interest because this time, the participants had the chance to work with the Forza Fashion House, and well, give me an empty wardrobe and I’ll fill it. But all jokes aside, it was a nice opportunity to try myself out in something I haven’t done before, meet new people, and make some use of the squishy pink thingy taking up the place in my head. Anyway, it was a nice experience and HARD work. After the exact challenge was presented (ideas for a new creative hub in Maastricht for designers and a sales platform), we had a few hours to work on the project, with some short mentoring sessions in between. there was hardly any time for a break and long story short, we were all pretty pooped by the time we presented our ideas. Even though we didn’t win it was a fun thing to do and I would definitely do something like this again, and I advise all of you to keep an eye out for similar challenges.

Then, my parents and my brother visited (which was super great since I haven’t seen them since August and I missed them so much), so naturally I allowed them to spoil me a little bit with a bit of shopping and nice food. 🙂 Also, I mentioned to my mom that I would like het to bring me some type of Hungarian snacks so naturally, I ended up with two big home-made spicy sausages, two types of cakes, salty snacks made by my grandma, some home-made soup sticks, Hungarian paprika for seasoning, a ton of chocolate, and two bags of the snack I asked for. I love my family.

I promise to post about my new courses next week (4 weeks into the period, just in time). By the way, I passed all my exams, I got a mediocre 6.5 for my Strategic Marketing which was disappointing considering the amount of work I put in the course, but then I had a phenomenal 9.5 for Birthing New Ventures and life was good again.

So, thanks for reading and see you next time!

Hortenzia