Big Hugs!

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It truly is bitter sweet as I start writing this last blog post. There’s so much I have experienced and so many different ways I have grown within the 4 months of my exchange program. Let me share with you some of my personal favorite moments! My biggest achievement during my stay here in Maastricht is that I won the food eating competition held amongst my friends! Lol! I will mention that this might have definitely played a role in my new addition of a few pounds on the weighing scale but I am also proud to say that I finished 12 stroopwafels in 5 minutes! (and I loved every bite of it). Woot woot! So of course, naturally, I am bringing some home with me. As I slowly pack my bags with stroopwaffels and Belgian chocolates for home, I’ve realized that I will really miss the different varieties of Dutch food. Well yes, I am talking about chocolate letters, appelbollen, bitterballen, vlaai, worstenbroodje, zuurkoolstamppot, cheese, erwtensoep, oaaliebollen, raisin bread and so much more! *drools*

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Well, this is my last week here. How quick time flies when you’re having fun! Today, I walked through the corridors of SBE and dragged my bicycle up and down the walking bridge for the last time. “I complain about you all the time, stairs, but I must admit I will miss you and the beautiful view you so willingly gave me every time I make my journey to and from class”, I murmured. Yes, I am sentimental like that. In fact, I’ve been slowly building a list of facts about the Netherlands and the Dutch people that I find utterly fascinating. This gives a pretty good overview of what I can takeaway from this experience. I really really really recommend everyone to go study abroad. You’d make such a cool list! But for now, here’s mine:

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  1. Europeans dress so much better than Americans
  2. The Netherlands is the 3rd best in English as a second language country (after Sweden & Norway)
  3. You get fined more for peeing in public than jerking off in public
  4. Dutch men are on average one of the tallest in the world
  5. Raw Harring, bitterballen, stroopwaffles and Smoked trout are so f***king good
  6. Dress well but always bring shades, umbrella, wind breaker coat
  7. You need to pay for plastic bags at grocery stores so bring your own
  8. You need to pay for ketchup and mayo at McDonalds (and everywhere else)
  9. There’s a deer/donkey/goat park behind the business school (Til 2 years ago, there was a bear sanctuary too)
  10. Maastricht is said to be the oldest city in the Netherlands
  11. Stores open from noon to 6pm everyday, but stay open til 10pm on Thursdays & just barely open on Sundays
  12. Maastricht is pronounced as Mastrikht with the phlegm excretion sound
  13. The dutch don’t pick up after their dogs so keep an eye on where you step
  14. It’s only a 20min bike ride away from the Belgium border
  15. Maastricht University’s School of Business is known for their PBL (Problem Based Learning) where students read articles and come prepared to discuss in class. Lessons are also facilitated by students so the official teacher is just there to make sure things run smoothly. Yes, this means small classes, lots of reading prep & a lot of discussions
  16. Unlike the US, road driving tests here are taken after min 2 months of official practical training
  17. All the bread at the grocery stores (Albert heijn) go on a 35% sale after 8pm
  18. “Hoi Hoi” means hi and “Dankjewel” means thank you
  19. Very similar to Malay, in Dutch, ‘Nasi’ is rice and ‘Kicap’ is soy sauce
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Great Spots in Maastricht

Hey guys, how’s everything going in the past month?

I can’t believe my exchange life in Maastricht is almost coming to an end!!!

I love this little town so much, and started to feel bad not exploring it enough …

Since we’ve been here for a couple months, there are some cool places in the lovely town, and those places are all must-go spots! Below are my favorite spots.

[Selexys Dominicanen]

Said to be the most beautiful bookstore in the world, and also my favorite spot in Maastricht!!

Just walk in the bookstore, you will find it very historical and amazing.

You can sit inside the café and enjoy whole afternoon even doing nothing (that’s what I usually do 😉 )

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[Stadhuis]

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Every Wednesday and Friday, there’s a market, you can find almost everything there!

They have fresh fish, meet, fruit, bread, like literally very fresh!

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Oh, and don’t forget to try Reitz , they have the best fries , just across the Stadhuis !

[Besiliek van St. Servaas]

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One of the oldest church in Holland! A cool church that you don’t want to miss.

[Maas]

The river goes through the entire town, you can easily find a spot and enjoy the view!!

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[Helpoort- Hell’s Gate]

Built in 1229, the only remaining gate in Maastricht and the oldest in the Netherlands.

There used to be a black death house in front of the gate, patients had to be delivered through the gate to the house to be isolated, and they never came back, this is how Hell’s Gate got its name from…

Creepy huh? But now it has become a historical site and next to it , you see a beautiful park !

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[Fort St. Pieter]

It dates from 1701-1702, completely restored in 2007. You can walk through the corridors and even get onto the top of the fort, near the fort there’s lookout where you can see the town super clearly 🙂

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[Grotten St. Pietersberg- Cave tour!! ]

Obviously, it is pretty close to the fort St. Pieter. The underground tour is something you really can’t miss!

They have English tour almost everyday, and you can buy the tickets at VVV ( at the city center ) or just get it at the meeting point. But I suggest you buy the tickets beforehand, you don’t want to go there and find out the tour is full right 😉

This is our tour guide Peter, very humor and professional.

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In the cave, it’s really dark, make sure you stick with the group and don’t get lost !  The tour is approximately an hour, 10 celsius all year, you’ll like it !

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[Basiliek van Onze Lieve Vrouw- Square of Our Lady ]

Yes, another beautiful church! It’s Europe, churches are everywhere!

The church is located in the square surrounded with lots of cafés, bars, after visiting the church, you can enjoy your beer at a random café , they are anyway good .

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OK, now , enough of the historical sites, it’s time for some sweets and delicious food in Maastricht !!

[ Chocolate Company ]

Very nice place, the shop itself with cute decoration and chocolate all around!!

You get to pick your chocolate flavour, and put them in a cup of hot milk, how awesome is that!

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[ Teazone]

By their name you know they have lots of tea, literally all kinds (with pretty cool names actually )

Besides tea, they have tons of handmade cakes , you can just spend whole afternoon here reading and chilling 🙂

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[Wen Chow ]

Best Chinese restaurant in Maastricht I would say! As a Taiwanese student, I sometimes really miss the Asian food, and Wen Chow is the place where I can find the food that make me feel at home 🙂 The food is decent with big protion , moreover, its a Michelin restaurant with reasonable price !! If you like Chinese food, definitely don’t want to miss it!!

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[ Bisschopsmolen ]

They have great pies made of fresh fruit, as you can see, and a big watermill behind the shop, a  lovely place and super nice staff!! You can also find some bio food and fresh bread!

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Merry Christmas in advanced!

So, at the time I’m writing this blog, Christmas is around the corner, and if you are doing your exchange in fall, you will see lots of Christmas market in Europe, and of course in Maastricht as well. If you are lucky, you might see Black Pete!! The past few months have been such a sweet time in Maastricht, I’ve made a lot of friends from all over the world, travelling quite a bit and enjoyed it a lot. I hope your stay in Maastricht will be as fruitful as mine, and wish you all the best with your exchange life!

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Jasmine

Parties… Exams, facilitations and…… End of exchange soon?!?!?!

HI Everyone! Sorry i’m a few days late on my blogging D: Have been pretty caught up with facilitations and stuff BUT HERE I AM 😀 😀

 

So… Period 2 has started and my courses this sem is soooo readings-intensive! ): My friends and I have a total of 200++ pages of readings per week but if you don’t read them you wouldn’t be able to participate in class! So it’s really important for you to read your readings! (Sigh)

 

Soooo Halloween was approximately 2-3 weeks ago, and Halloween is a HUGEEE thing here, or at least, it’s a bigger event than in Singapore. And we went for this event organised by ESN (ESN Halloween Madness) and it was held at the bar directly opposite where we stayed (HURRAY!).

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Here’s a photo with the Singapore peeps who went for the party! And speaking of parties… How can we forget about the 11/11 carnival?! Unfortunately… I had classes till 6pm so by the time i reached the carnival it was ending in 20mins?!?!?! T.T  But nonetheless it was so much fun! Made friends with some people who were there, everyone was dressed up in onesies and lovely costumes, huddled around singing German(?) songs… The atmosphere was AMAZING!! 😀

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So anyway i was mentioning that it’s period 2 now, and we’ve been through 2 exams from Period 1…. I’m happy to declare that I passed all my courses HURRAY! I’m sure most of you have read about how exams are held in Maastricht… Basically we’re all seated in this HUGE hall (called the MECC) and exams are 3hours and you are free to leave anytime you’re done. Was pretty excited and nervous as it was really cool how huge the hall is and how many people are taking the exams together with you! We have similar examination halls in National University of Singapore, but they are nowhere as big as that one at MECC.

 

Anyway, the courses i’m taking this period are Global Business and Strategic Marketing. Every. Single. Time. i tell the local students that I have Global Business, their responses are ALWAYS the same. “WHAT?!?!?” “Poor you!!” “Did you choose it?!” “WHY did you choose it?” and “You better study REALLY HARD for it”. I’m starting to be quite scared of that course… Some called it the hardest exam they have ever taken.. I’m not looking forward. So if you’re thinking of choosing that course, think twice maybe? HAHA, i’m kidding i’m sure you’ll manage fine! The workload this period is also much higher, with a total of 4 facilitations, 2 presentations, 1 final report and 2 final exams 😦 BUT I BELIEVE IT’LL BE FINE IN THE END 😀

 

So anyway, I made a short weekend trip to Amsterdam 2 weekends ago and I found a new found love for these amazing mini pancakes. They are called poffertjes and I’ve not seen any stalls selling the fresh ones in Maastricht ): So if you do drop by Amsterdam, YOU’VE GOTTA TRY IT! They are amazing!! I’m totally addicted to it. And i visited this place called Zaanse that is only a 30 mins train ride away from Amsterdam Centraal and it is absolutely gorgeous!!! Let the photos speak for themselves 🙂

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Zaanse

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As winter is approaching… The nights are getting longer and the days are getting shorter ): Having classes from 4 to 6pm meant entering class when the sun is still shining and leaving class thinking that it’s 10pm already (its super dark!!!)

This cartoon perfectly sums it:

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I have approximately 1.5 months left in Maastricht and I’m starting to feel the heartache of having to leave this small cozy town :((( So with whats left of my time here, I’m going to make the best outta it!!! While cycling past Vrithof today, (Vrithof is the town square in maastricht!) I saw that they have started to set up tents, christmas markets and such for CHRISTMAS!! There is even a ferris wheel! Oh God i’m super excited!! I heard there’s gonna be an ice skating rink too! Shall upload photos next time 🙂

 

Till next time!! SEE YOU 😀

 

School life- Course, Classmates, Exams

Hi guys, how’s life!

This time, I would like to talk about the course, classmates and the exams to make you know more about UM school life!

[Course]

You will have to register the courses before hand , and keep in mind to check the “availability ” if you prefer not having evening courses. _I didn’t know when registering, and ended up having a 18:30 tutorial in period 1…..

For preparing the tutorial, we have to basically read all the materials as I mentioned last time how the PBL works. Before my first tutorial I was somewhat nervous, but the tutor helped a lot explaining how it will be, and what to expect from us.

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(picture of the classroom taken before my tutorial)

For period 1, I took Brand Management, the course itself is interesting to me, yet a lot of work to do. For the earlier tutorials, it was easy, only read the materials and get ready for class. There were also some events coming up. First, we had a Procter and Gamble Workshop which was really challenging, we had to solve a case, calculating the marketing related numbers…. it was hard yet very practical, though our team didn’t win, we’ve learned a lot from it.

– Facilitation

After the workshop, each team had to do the facilitation for 2 times for later tutorials. What is facilitation? The team doing it has to combine texts and articles, and to make it interesting same time educating. It is not too difficult, just make sure you understand the materials and try your best to combine them in a fun, creative way, make a catchy powerpoint and bring it on !

– Brand and Communication Challenge (BCC)

We have to help a pension fund to create awareness of pension, which is already said, a challenge! During the preparation it was actually very fun also time consuming. We had to meet with our team members frequently and think of marketing campaigns that are catchy. But it was worthy, we were announced second place!

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(Team Partner Pension at the final event )

[classmates]

In every tutorial, there will be regular and exchange students. The regular students are all very friendly and helpful. I ask questions of all kinds, and they always have answers for me.

In class, you can’t really tell which ones are regular or exchange since everyone all work pretty hard. The regular students do know more about the facilitations, presentation and paper requirements, and they will just show us how they usually do it, so relax!! Everything will be fine.

[Exams]

Just few weeks ago, we had our period 1 final exam, and you can feel the exam is really coming up because in the guesthouse lobby, there will be lots of people studying already weeks early.

For my course, they gave out some practice questions with answer key, so I just did all the practices and reviewed the materials again. If you did go through the materials for the past weeks, it should be fine and just make sure you have practice the exercises because they might be in your exam!

In UM, there’re lists of the exam rules, make sure you read them all!! The exam took place in Mecc, yes, not in SBE, so I would suggest you go check the place first to avoid any tragedies .

On the exam day, you can smell there’s panic in the air… everyone is nervous especially the exchange students I think. I didn’t know how it will be and afraid that I would fail.

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(tons of people waiting to get in the hall)

I woke up and got to Mecc early, and basically everyone did.  The exams took place in a big hall, everyone having the test at the same time will be there, and you will have to find the seat with your name on. As long as you get there early, you’ll have plenty time to look for your seat, all the best!!!

I’ll see you next time 🙂

Examens, as the Dutch would say it

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The halfway mark of my journey as an exchange student was appropriately signified by Period 1 exams. A rather hard-hitting mark I’d say. It’s been a crazy and fun ride so far but in order to move on, I need to ace this b**ch! As you can see from the picture above, the exams took place in a HUGE warehouse-looking room in MECC. They literally shoved all the students from all different classes into one huge space. It was terrifying yet pretty cool. In the middle of the exam, if no one was sneezing, coughing, flipping pages, clicking their pens or opening cans, you could almost hear a pin drop. I’ve never been in that kind of environment before so it was definitely interesting. I didn’t really feel the scale of the hall during the first exam as I technically sat right in the middle but on my second (and last) exam of the period, I sat right at the corner of one end of the hall and it felt HUGE. It took me a solid 5 minutes to find my seat after I left for the toilet in the middle of the exam.

Hopefully, I did pretty well in the exams. My grades are transferred back to my homeschool, unlike most others who only reply on the pass/fail results. In terms of preparation, the last few weeks were strictly dedication to planting my face on my books. I must admit, all this travelling has made it pretty hard to truly focus on my studies. I read the assigned articles mostly for the sake of class participation points. Thank god both my classes are really interesting. Talking about the things to you are passionate about comes very naturally so it would definitely help to be doing what you love! Plus, it wouldn’t be that great of a challenge to rant on and on about my personal perceptions of the topic. Since the mentors emphasize on additional material and knowledge on the topic at hand, being an extrovert does have it’s perks. I remember at first, I was reluctant on writing my own notes for the articles I’ve read but later on in the semester, I figured I wasn’t willing to re-read all the 50 articles so I made my own notes (which I managed to sell copies for the exams, yay!). Glad all my efforts paid off. Also, I’m glad I took the classes I took.

So, what classes did I take for Period 1?

I took 2 classes: Brand Management (BM) and Management of Organizations (MOO). Comparing the two classes, MOO is definitely easier with less workload but the exam questions were very tricky. On the other hand, BM has several group facilitations, a group paper plus a final Brand Communication Challenge where we had to present our pension campaign approach to numerous field experts. Some jury members were nice and affirmatively agreeing with our suggestions while others were very skeptical and shook our confidence. During this 5 hour-long event, there were at least 200 people in the MENSA at the Business school trying to put their best foot forward. Our group did not take home the trophy but the experience and friendships built was worth it. In terms of exams for BM, the open-ended questions made it tougher to study for but easier to obtain points, which I prefer.

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Now that the exams are over, I visited Poland and it’s very cold weather. Although we spent only the weekend there, we managed to see the Salt Mine, the concentration camps and the main square. I really enjoyed the trip but the unexpected drop in temperature was a sure indication that winter is soon to come.

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School life- orientation day!

Hey guys, it’s been a month, how’s everyone?

Today I would like to share with you my school life.

In the first week, there’s a two-day compulsory orientation which I thought pretty helpful and a good opportunity to make friends.

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I got an orange bag and an envelope filling with all the useful information! In it, there are instructions of the ELeUM (Maastricht University’s electronic learing environment ), instructions of writing a paper, and presentation skills. I think it shows how UM warmly welcome the exchange students and put much effort on helping us to get used to the school life soon.

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After the first day orientation, we all got lunch boxes (oh yes, and the cupcakes!) and had a pleasant time with all the new friends.

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Since there’re so many exchange students here, they split us up into several groups, each group had a assistant student helping and guiding. The assistant  student was so nice , answering all kinds of questions regarding to school life ( how to borrow books in the library, how to make copies, how to top up your UM card..), where to get a bike , recommendations of bars to hang out  and basically all the things you ask, even if she didn’t know, she’d ask someone to help. I think that is even helpful to have a student telling you how they usually do, don’t you think ?   After lunch, we had a city tour, and it’s nice to have someone who knows the town to show you around, we went to the library, and all the way to city center.

The next day of orientation was the PBL training!
In Maastricht University, they do the Problem Based Learning, and that’s probably a very different way of  learning  from your universities.
The assistant student showed some learning steps of the PBL, we had a case study, everyone had to try to answer the questions regarding to the case, and show our opinions. I strongly recommend you must go to this PBL training! You will learn more about it and do not freak out in your first tutorial.

Now, I would like to tell you how PBL work in my course.

Everyone in the tutorial has to study all the materials and bring your thoughts to class. There’s a discussion leader every time, he or she has to lead the class to go through the materials and discuss all the possible questions.  There will be a tutor as well, but he or she might not speak as much as you thought, the PBL is to make it possible for students to deliver thoughts and through discussion make everyone understand the material and have different points of view. So what the tutor do basically , is to make sure  we don’t go too far away from the topic, on the right track of understanding , and record our participation ( the quality and quantity of your speak, and of course, the physical participation.)

It is crucial that you go through the materials before you attend class, because you only get more out of it if you did study beforehand.  Through the discussion you’d see how your classmates think differently. It is always fun to have multiple perspectives, and fun to learn from your classmates from different countries!

Ok, enough serious PBL,  let’s go back to the orientation.

After two days of orientation, in second day afternoon, there’s a welcome drink !

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This really surprised me because I never thought students can ever drink publicly in school property . I guess that’s another culture shock!

It had been a fun 2 -day orientation, I’m sure you will feel the same !

I hope this helps you more or less to know about the school life, and i’ll see you next time 🙂

Exams!

So.. It has been 2 months since i’ve arrived here in Maastricht, and we are on the 7th week of the first period! And sadly….. ITS EXAMS NEXT WEEK D:

I am currently sitting at the library, and it is fully packed with people!! Be sure to pay attention during orientation when your group leader brings you to the library….. If not you will probably end up like me. I got lost on the way here, and thankfully I met 3 really really friendly regular students who walked me over! According to them, many people camp outside the library early in the morning before opening hours, and rush in immediately when the doors open. Sounded pretty much like what happens in Singapore as well……….. 😀 One friend of mine said that her group mate in class skips classes the whole of week 7 just to stay at the library to study the entire week. I’m starting to feel the pressure too!

As mentioned previously, its week 7 now, which means that its the last week of classes before exams start! I was thinking about the whole PBL system here in Maastricht and the 6-7 weeks that i’ve spent here. I only have 3 more months here in Europe and then I will be back in warm sunny Singapore!! Don’t get me wrong, I LOVEEEE Singapore! But I’ve already started to get used to the lifestyle and system here and I love it here very much too! So I shall cherish what’s left of my time here in Maastricht 🙂

Previously before coming to Maastricht, I’ve been looking through blogposts of exchange students who have been here and have experienced the PBL system. I was originally really worried that I wouldn’t be able to cope with the PBL system, and was quite skeptical about having to do our own readings before sharing them in class. However, I have thoroughly enjoyed my classes and I feel that the PBL system has allowed me to speak up wayyyy more than I used to in Singapore. The way the classes are structured, the layout of the classrooms… It has made sharing less intimidating, and everyone seems to be very accepting of your opinions and many regular students will encourage you to speak up and share your ideas! So if you are thinking of coming to Maastricht, don’t be too afraid of the PBL system! It’s really manageable as long as you do relatively consistent work 😉

Sorry that my blog posts are so wordy! I promise I will add in more pictures next time 🙂 Feel free to comment on my post should you have any questions and I’ll try my best to answer them 🙂

Till next time!! 😀