A sea of orange flooded the streets of Amsterdam on April 30th as all of the Netherlands took to the streets in celebration of the abdication of their new king – King Willem-Alexander. For the first time in 123 years, the Netherlands will be welcoming a male monarch to the throne. Koninginnenacht (Queensnight) and Koninginnedag (Queensday) is known as one of the biggest street parties in the world, and I was there proudly wearing orange and celebrating the peaceful transition of power.
The university organized a trip to Amsterdam for Queensday. Usually, I try to avoid these massive group outings and the subsequent easy identification as a tourist – but with Queensday, I could not be more thankful to step onto the tour bus. About 800,000 people flocked into Amsterdam for the celebration, and hotels capitalized on this increased traffic. The school organized trip was a hassle free and cheaper option to get to Amsterdam and stay overnight – without this organized outing I probably wouldn’t have battled the crowds, chaos and expenses to make it to Amsteram. Which would’ve been a real bummer, because experiencing Queensday was a fantastic insight into Holland and two purely fun days in Amsterdam.
The atmosphere on the bus as we pulled away from Maastricht enroute to Amsterdam was rowdy anticipation. We arrived midday on April 29th and had a few hours before Koninginnenacht festivities started. Having already visited most the museums in Amsterdam, my friends and I enjoyed cappuccino’s outside, soaked up some sun in the large Museumplein square then spontaneously walked by a tourist office and bought reduced priced tickets to the House of Bols museum.
Our night started in Leidsplein at a massive outdoor concert. All the bars had their doors open and people opening went from the bars to the concert back to another bar down the street back to the concert danced with their friends danced with surrounding strangers sang loud and off key then again back to the bar – the night was chaos.
After hours outside at the concert, my friend Sarah and I decided we wanted to see other parties around Amsterdam. The city has a valid reputation for being a party town, but I don’t think Amsterdam gets enough credit for the great community that lives there. The night was safe. It was chaos, but controlled chaos. Not once did Sarah and I feel uncomfortable while exploring Amsterdam. It was around 3 in the morning when we set off on our adventure, and in America I would NEVER wander around Chicago at 3am with just another female friend as a companion. Given, it did feel more like three in the afternoon because the streets, even at the late hour, were packed with people celebrating.
We walked around a bit then landed on a fancy looking club with a long line queuing to enter. People were dressed up, looking Amsterdam sharp with trendy haircuts, dark jackets, studs and embodying every aspect of the word “hipster.” Without tickets and without paying, Sarah and I managed to enter the club. We found a group of people from Vice Magazine who were on the list, and they somehow talked us in as +1’s and we entered the club.
It was three stories, packed, and probably one of the coolest party venues I’ve ever been inside. Later that night, when looking for the bathroom, I realized that I had walked from the club to the Chicago Comedy Club – where Seth Meyers started his career. It turns out the club Sarah and I entered was actually the Chicago Social Club, one of the trendiest and most sought after party venues in the city. SUCCESS!!!
Inside the club and feeling like rockstars for managing to get in!
We finally arrived back to our hotel around 5am, managed to get around 4 hours of sleep before it was time for Queensday.
On the way back to the hotel I was surprised to see people in sleeping bags lining the street, but I didn’t think too much of it. Early on April 30th I awoke to what seemed like an unnatural amount of people outside for so early in the morning and so far away from actual Queensday activities. When I opened the window, sunlight filled the room. After my eyes adjusted, I was surprised to see hundreds of people and vendors lining the room. Instantly it clicked that the people I had seen sleeping on the road just hours before were actually there to reserve their sideway space to set up shop.
Queensday is the only day of the year that street sales are legal. The holiday brings people to the city to celebrate the Queens Birthday, but also to shop at some of the hundred flea market type stands all across the city. I left breakfast early to walk through the vendors – it was the typical junky “garage sale” type products for sale. Still, the number of vendors added a fun element to the holiday. I especially enjoyed occasionally seeing part-goers holding bizarre purchases like a massive gittering owl in Museumplein.
The day started off slow as our group recovered from the night before. We headed back to the Museumplein where a giant stage and massive screens stood tall with crowds filling the grass and enjoying the sun. We watched the Inauguration on the big screens and danced to the live stage performances at the Museumplein. Food vendors and other merchants walked around the crowds and added to the upbeat atmosphere.
I am Amsterdam sign in Museumplein
After the Inauguration some of us headed out to explore. Walking through Amsterdam was like flowing with a sea of orange. Orange balloons created a new facade of Amsterdam buildings. Everyone was wearing orange – shirts, crazy hats, face paint. The canals were packed with people partying and holding orange flags. It was the craziest, largest, most festive street and water party I have ever been a part of and exceeded all my expectations of Queensday.
Party exhaustion hit and a few of us broke away from the street party scene to head to the other side of the canal to watch the Royal Boat Parade. We basically just followed the crowd and a few signs, and ended up with some of the best seats in all of Amsterdam! The King’s boat stopped directly in front of us, and I swear we had eye contact and waved! The boat was stopped for a good 15 minutes directly in front of us and we had the same view of the water stage as the king did. It was fantastically lucky how we ended up with such good seats!
The small group of us then headed back to Museumplein to end the day with a live performance by Andre Rieu accompanied by a full orchestra. Maastricht is very proud of Andre Rieu – he is from our small town in Limburg! It was a real treat hearing him perform and watching couples gleefully dance to the music across the lawn.
I’ve completed two full courses thus far in Maastricht: Project and Production Management and Consumer Behavior. Finals are behind me and I’m finally starting to get the hang of the Problem Based Learning system used at Maastricht University. I spent a full cappuccino amount of time analyzing my formal education experience at the University so far. Here are some of the random thoughts, self-feedback and general analysis that I’ve come up with between sips of espresso:
I am challenged.
The material isn’t necessarily more difficult than back home – but HOW I am reading and learning the material is fantastically different. I’m going to call much of my business education up to this point as “lazy learning” while the history, journalism and other liberal arts classes I’ve taken thus far have not been “lazy learning” classes. In those, I have actively read the texts, engaged in critical thinking and participated in class discussions that created mental unrest and a nearly obsessive hunger for knowledge on the subjects.
With business, however, I haven’t had the passion or the opportunity to really dig into a business curriculum. I’ve been bored with my classes, frustrated with the content and uncertain of the importance of receiving a degree in business. While Mizzou does have a highly esteemed business school (of which I am a Business Ambassador and really shouldn’t be saying all this on the internet..truth prevails!) I have to admit that the school has failed me. For three years I just thought I haven’t had much of a passion for learning business. Through extracurriculars at Mizzou I’ve come to enjoy applying business, but learning it? Boring waste of time.
The PBL at Maastricht University has entirely redefined for me what learning business entails. We read textbooks, scholarly articles, cases and the news and work as a classroom to challenge our perceptions of business. For two full hours, fifteen of us students question each other, question the business concepts we learn, apply these concepts, reevaluate business decisions, create our own business models and are so ACTIVELY engaged in learning that we expand our education much, much further than definitions in the textbooks. Nearly all my business exams at Mizzou have been multiple choice – this is a testament of the one-dimensional business education that my home university offers. At Maastricht, business is organic and alive – problems aren’t defined by filling in a bubble on a scan-tron; rather problems are to be discussed, debated and knowledge to be fought for. I am challenged here – challenged by the material, challenged by my classmates, and challenged by this new active way of learning.
I am humbled.
These high level classroom conversations are happening in my native tongue – but for the rest of the classroom, English is a second, third or even fourth language. My peers excel academically in a foreign language. They are able to discuss complex business issues and do so eloquently with an impressive array of technical business terms. My favorite thing about studying with ESL students is listening to the idioms and English sayings that are used. From slightly overly formal English, to the most attractive boy in class using an English expression typically reserved for those over 80, there are obviously some quirks and smile-worthy translation error moments. But, for the most part, English is flawless. I could not be more impressed by my peers, and more humbled to study with them. I studied Spanish for over 4 years and then spent 6 weeks in Barcelona – fairly extensive language training. Yet, I could not even come CLOSE to engaging in the level of conversation in Spanish that these students are capable of in English.
Even more impressive than students speaking perfect English are the exchange students who choose to study in English in Maastricht who do not have a comprehensive background of language training. One boy from Chile in my Consumer Behavior class nervously admitted before his speech that it was his first time to ever speak in English in front of so many people. He rocked it. He’ll never know, but I was like a proud mom in the corner listening to him tell jokes in English and occasionally stumble over his words. I hope he’s proud of himself because of what he did…to be that fearless and to speak a language he’s not comfortable in, and to do so well in the delivery, is truly something to be proud of. Way to go Sebastian – though you’ll never read this!
My new courses this semester are Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management. Compared to other courses offered at MU, these are two of the easiest (so I’m told). This Friday I am facilitating my HRM course – meaning I am a discussion leader for two full hours. It is my responsibility to cover all the material we’ve read, bring real world examples to the class and facilitate critical discussion. It is a lot of work and preparation but is helping me to prepare for big pitches or meetings in my professional future. So while Thursday night at 1am as I put my finishing touches on the presentation, I’m sure I’ll be cursing all this academia and hating school. In the long run however, the black bags under my eyes will disappear but the knowledge and experience from facilitating a session will help me succeed.
Here’s a photo from the exam room. Multiple class subjects from different schools gather together for 3 hours to take our exams/power through together.
If you ever decide to come to Maastricht for exchange or just do your bachelor or master here, and you happen to be a huge fan of traveling, then congratulations, it’s definitely the perfect place for you. Try to Google “euroregion” and you could quite easily find one of such areas “Meuse-Rhine Euroregion”, or “Euregio Maas-Rijn” as in Dutch. Nothing says how great Maastricht is located louder than that.
A regional train from Maastricht to Liege, Belgium takes off every hour, costing you 50 minutes, and within one hour, Bus 50 will take you directly to the central train station of Aachen, Germany. From Liege and Aachen, at least all the Belgian and German cities are fairly accessible, so undoubtedly it’s easy to travel to Belgium, Germany and Luxemburg from Maastricht, let alone all the cities in The Netherlands! Basically within three hours by train, you could be in Amsterdam, Brussels, Luxemburg City, Cologne, and even Paris. In addition, the Ryanair airport, Maastricht-Aachen, serves a number of cheap flights for major European cities, such as Milan, Berlin and London. If those are still not enough, flights from airports in Eindhoven, Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne would totally be taken into consideration as well.
I myself did a couple of day trips or weekend trips to the cities mentioned above, always amazed by how easily you could travel around from Maastricht. Also, I’ve transferred my trains in Liege, Aachen and Cologne for several times. Sometimes, I do feel more like living in European city rather than Dutch. Among all the trips I’ve taken so far, two of them were definitely unforgettable, the one to Amsterdam on Queen’s Day and the one to Brussels on Europe Day.
Queen’s Day is, well actually it was a national holiday in the Kingdom of the Netherlands until 2013. Celebrated on 30 April every year, that day was Queen Beatrix’s official celebration day. From 2014 onwards, it will be King’s Day given the crowning of King Willem-Alexander on Queen’s Day this year. Since it’s a national holiday, everyone just enjoys going out and celebrating it with friends. And of course, everyone wears something orange on that day as it’s the official color of Holland. Since it was the last Queen’s Day for probably decades, everything went even cooler in Amsterdam as a result of Queen Beatrix’s abdication. It was like the biggest street party in the whole world. Also many other traditional activities are held outside, for instance, flea markets. If you’ll be in Holland on Queen’s Day, go to Amsterdam. It’s always nice to see everyone in a city having a same party! 🙂
Compared with Queen’s Day, Europe Day would be a little less exciting, but still it’s quite cool. In Europe, Europe Day is an annual celebration of peace and unity in Europe. There are two separate designations of Europe Day: 5 May for the Council of Europe, and 9 May for the European Union (EU). Usually on the first or the second Saturday in May, the Council of Europe will hold an open day for the public. Just for this single day in a year, everyone can go inside the EU headquarter and pay a visit to the European Parliament, the European Council and the Council of the European Union. Plus, there are always a large number of activities organized by different branches of the Council of the Europe Union. Guess how surprised I was when I found that I was on the cover photo of EU Council’s Facebook page, only by playing a game with a couple of stranger there!
It’s always nice to visit different cities, and by that Maastricht is more and more like home to me. Every time I get back here, I feel relaxed and just want to chill. Dutch people joke about that sometimes Maastricht is more like another country, but guess they’re just kind of jealous how easily people here could travel around. 😉
Today, I received an email regarding the Sweater/ Jumper that arrived! And it’s a present for exchange bloggers like me who tell you every single information needed. Maybe not?! But if you still have questions, always feel free to ask! Maybe not me but the experts of the incoming exchange stuff! It’s my first time walking into their office! And they are just awesome people. If you’re awesome too, you can ALWAYS 😛 drop by their office to give them a big HI and compliment them for the awesome things they are doing in that office!!!
I still remember I had so much complications on the course registration and the website they used to register the courses. But the staff in incoming exchange department was really friendly to help. Well, if you’re lost, you can always skype them! How handy!! Their skype name : iro-incoming-sbe
So to show off my jumper to you! HEEHEE~ and to officially show you my asian face!
If you plan not to blog to get the jumper, you can always buy it. The normal price would be quite …
so you might one to look out for promotions where they open the stalls selling Maastricht university merchandise for a pretty reasonable price!! Usually the beginning of a new period. Cause when I first came for period 4, there was a massive sales for cloths, jumpers, bag!! and other stuff.
Maybe you can consider getting the orange colour jumper! Since it’s the Netherlands’ colour. I didn’t know that until some of my friends told me that!
Well, orange is just a little TOO striking for me!
Talking about orange day, (the queen’s day)
I was not proud to say I wasn’t there! I know, I was just too mesmerized by cheap flight tickets and was away for that week! How those RyanAir has cheap flights!!!!!! SO TEMPTING!!!
To let you get a feel of orange day, its this….
Well, I wasn’t there for orange day, But i was for the carnaval! So HAR HAR~. I still did feel parts and parcel of partying on street!
so if you’re coming for any crazy parties, maybe one more for your check list would be *bringing crazy cloths!
the crazy you are, the more dutch you are on carnaval!!! works pretty awesome!!
Now there’s only 2 weeks left after everyone will be packing their luggages and head home! (OF COURSE, NOT DIRECTLY) many of them plan to travel around before heading back home!
Hummmmmm~ all the friends i know from exchange will be leaving, and I’m here for another period!
So if you have been reading my post, drop by to say HI! Now i’m all alone, just have to wait for the next party to grab a new handful of new exchange students to hang out with!
Please visit the TEFAF MAASTRICHT website to learn more about this special event!
TEFAF: the world’s most glamorous art fair! Held in Maastricht every March, The European Fine Art Fair welcomes the world’s most demanding and sophisticated art collectors for a no-expense-spared celebration of culture…and I was there!
Determination always pays off.
I’m ashamed to say that the TEFAF event in Maastricht didn’t fully grasp my attention until I read that Kanye West was in Maastricht for the event. KANYE WEST IN MAASTRICHT?! I couldn’t believe my favorite rap artist traveled all the way to Maastricht to see me!
Soon I discovered he was just one among the many big names and wealthy art enthusiast to poor into Maastricht for the most-respected and comprehensive fine arts festival in the world. Entry tickets were pricey, and the town became alive with extremely nice vehicles and silver haired art patrons.
My curiousity about the event became overwhelming and I worked my email contacts to try and find a way to get a ticket to the event. International student networks, the Fine Arts Department at MU and even the Exchange Student Blog yielded no ticket for me. Upset that the event was nearing a closure and I still didn’t get even near to a piece of art, I devised a plan to sneak in. Operation TEFAF was to commence at 10am the following morning. The operation was aborted before any action due to a series of bizarre but very lucky events.
Some friends and I were enjoying a night out at Take Five, a favorite jazz bar of mine. An older man at the bar asked us about the town, and we all got to chatting about Maastricht. After about five minutes of banter about Maastricht and majors, he offered up why he was in town: TEFAF.
He is an art enthusiast and also a currency broker. Basically, his job is to manage large exchanges of currency between the buyers of art and vendors. He informed us that the previous day he had managed the exchange for a purchase of a 2.2 million euro map. All my other friends seemed bored by these stories and were slowly starting to turn their backs. I instead asked a few more questions then dropped the one question that I was eager to ask:
How can I get a ticket to TEFAF?
Be it the ambition of a young student trying to get a ticket, or just a wealthy person sharing a good experience with a new acquaintance, he asked for my number and said that he would call at 10:30am the following morning with instructions about a ticket.
Though late the next morning, he followed up on his promise and called to let me know that a ticket was waiting for me at the front desk.
Dressed in my nicest clothes I hopped on my bike and rushed to the other side of the river – SO EXCITED! I soon realized that riding a bicycle into TEFAF was absolutely not acceptable, so I hired a taxi for a few blocks distance and rode up to the legitimately red carpet walkway – feeling fabulous.
My ticket was in a red envelope with my name written in calligraphy. I could not believe my luck! The walls were lined with fresh flowers and live trees provided roadblocks for the beautifully dressed art patrons strolling through the vendor stands. I was actually inhaling class with every breathe I took, and I went into a “look and mimic” way of survival as I tried to flow into the sea of luxury around me.
I called the kind man who had organized my ticket and we briefly agreed to get lunch at 2 since he had to meet with clients and mingle all day. This left me with hours open to stroll around and admire. The floor plan was organized by section, and I decided to start my day in the antiques section.
Each vendor created a room that tailored to their specific store personality, so each passing shop provided an entirely different experience than the previous. It was like traveling through hundreds of little museums, but with the bizarre knowledge that people around me were shopping. Many of the vendors created settings that resembled a home – Picasso paintings were hung above dining tables and Rodin statues rested on dresser tables.
At the Bowman Sculpture vendor stand I was able to touch real Rodin statues. This blew my mind that my fingertip was resting on one of my favorite artist’s actual work of art. It was even more mind-blowing to know that the patrons around me owned magnificent art like the sculpture my finger was resting on. Filled with the luxury and class around me, I braved a look at the price tag, imagining myself one day owning the tiny Rodin treasure. For 850,000 euros, and no taller than a gallon of milk, I slowly walked away from the unattainable and shockingly expensive statue.
Consistently, one of my favorite items to look at was the jewelry. There tended to be a sense of comradarie between all us females when we entered the jewlery store. For the women who were trailed into the jewelry stands with their husbands, the diamonds behind the glass were attainable and exciting. For others, like me, it was a magical sense of imagination that allowed us to lust over the jewelry together. Jewelry, like this necklace:
For a brief moment during my window admirations, I became part of the shopping experience. An older woman was alone and shopping for a pair of earrings. The man behind the counter was trying his hardest to make the sale, but was starting to miss the target. He spent the entire time talking up the earrings – the quality of the diamonds, the shape of the cut, the way they dangled. I was watching the older woman watching the diamonds, and realized how little his words were impacting her. As a nearby stranger, I could not help but cut off the salesman and speak directly to this glamourous woman. All I said was, “those would look beautiful on you.” She smiled at me, and I walked away mortified that I had spoken.
At a distance, I watched her purchase the 7,700 euro earrings.
That’s the deal with sales. Often, salespeople get so caught up with the grandeur of the product they are selling rather than focusing on the implications and what it means for the customer. To spend that much money on a pair of earrings is simply narcissistic, and in the case of this sale there needed to be a focus on the customer, not just a focus on the earrings themselves.
I learned about art during TEFAF, but even more so, I learned about business. From observing the earring sale, to watching the wealthy interact, to even studying how older and dignified women behaved, I walked out of TEFAF with a new set of knowledge about how to conduct business in a very “high class” setting. I enjoyed my time as an outsider looking in at TEFAF and look forward to the next time I’m able to explore the world of TEFAF and luxury.
A big thanks for the ticket, and to all people who take the time and effort to gift a young university student the experience of a lifetime.
In addition to the TEFAF art exhibition, there was also a polo match in the Vrijtof. Horses and huge crowds gathered in the main city square of Maastricht to enjoy the sport. It has become nearly unbelievable to me that so many interesting events happen in such a “small town” as Maastricht.
I cannot believe my time in Maastricht is coming to an end so soon. Because I’m ineligible for period 6, my flight is already booked to return to Canada on June the 8th – how sad!
I’ve learned a lot during my time abroad. I’ve really benefitted from the cultural diversity, the international travel, and the opportunity to study at a different institution. Studying at Maastricht University has certainly added value to my degree from The University of Western Ontario.
However, there’s something very, very different between both universities. In fact, you could even make this comparison between schools in North America versus Europe – resits.
A resit is the opportunity to re-take an exam if you fail. Sometimes this resit takes the same shape and form as the original exam (for example, if exam #1 was 100 multiple choice, so will be exam #2), and sometimes the evaluation comes from something completely different (an exam followed by an essay, for instance).
Here at Maastricht University, we have the opportunity to write one resit, however some of my friends from France have told me that their school offers up to three resits for the same exam. In Canada and the United States, you’ve got one chance: pass or fail – if you fail, you’re forced to redo the course.
I definitely see the benefits to the resit system. Sometimes you truly understand the material, but you’re just having a bad day and thus, a failing grade may result. Redoing the exam is much more manageable compared to redoing the entire course.
But as I’ve gone through the exam system three times since starting my fall semester here at the school of business and economics, I’ve noticed a fatal flaw with this system: some students depend on their resit, meaning they’re not applying their skills and talents to the original exam.
I’ve witnessed many of my classmates, exchange students or not, go into the exam period with very nonchalant attitudes. There’s always the resit! often seems to be the mentality. Ultimately, depending on your resit would most likely only harm your final grade, since any student is bound to recall more relevant information when it’s fresh, as opposed to when it’s been recycled two months later. Of course there are lots of students who are dedicated to acing their exams on the first try, but whether this group forms the majority or minority is debatable.
On the contrary, with no resit to depend on, students at my home university are typically more committed to the exam period. Students eat, sleep, and breathe finals. But this system doesn’t always capture the student’s full potential either: some students might crack under this type of pressure, which not only hurts the GPA, but is also not good for health.
So what are your thoughts? Is the resit system taken advantage of? Do students in Europe depend on it for more than it’s worth?