Hidden secrets

My exchange semester at Maastricht University has now come to its end. I will take the opportunity of this last post to reveal my favorite hidden spots and secret events. 🌈 Of course my list is not comprehensive and can be updated and completed. Still I hope you will find some surprising ideas and try them out.

Chillin’ in the city

In the warmer days of spring and early summer, it is really enjoyable to sit on the terraces of Maastricht and laze in the parks along the Maas. 🌿 In addition, I would also suggest three other nice places. The Livin Room, first, is a calm cafe that has a peaceful courtyard in the back. 🌷 You can play there boardgames while drinking a delicious frozen capuccino or savor one of their special vegan toasted breads. Second, you will appreciate Teazone if you fancy teas and look for a more dime light place. 🎋 This cafe is also a nice place to study on your own or with friends. My third recommendation is Plut Cats & Coffee. For cat lovers, this place is a sweet heaven on earth.

I cannot end this part without a special recommendation for the best coffeeshop in Maastricht. Following my friends Cris’ and Clara’s advise, the Smoky will offer you the most relaxing time. 💆 It is located in a houseboat and you will have the possibilityto play video games and pool, watch netflix or enjoy a nice little chat. 

Eating in the city 

Definitely go in the Pindakaaswinkel to taste a sample of every original peanut butter possible. 🥜 For Asian food I would suggest Dadawan near the train station and for premium quality Italian food a small restaurant in Hoogbrugstraat in front of the Mary Jane. 🍱 For a nice portion of French fries with a sweet Dutch mayonnaise, meet me at La Friterie Tuutsje vaan Teunsje in front of Sint Servaasbrug. 🍟 You won’t be lost in Maastricht as there are a Burger King and a McDonald. Yet if you feel eating fast food, order at With Love Burrito, you will be amazed by the taste of their Mexican recipes. 🌯 New-York Pizza makes the best deliverable pizze in Maastricht. 🍕 For a cheap meal go to The Lab, they have a special five euro offer between 16 and 18 o’clock. Or follow Planet Pasta on Facebook, you can find there pasta for one euro on special days. I have been advised De Gouverneur to drink the best beers of Maastricht. I have never been there as I do not drink, I let you try the place. 🍻

Special events

In addition to Carnival, Maastricht hosts other special events in the spring semester, that you are probably not aware of. The city welcomes every year the TEFAF (European Fine Art Fair) which gather an incredible number of international art galleries, selling antiques to modern art and luxurious jewellry. 🖼 This year we also were lucky to have a debate for the youth opposing the different candidates to the future presidency of the European Commission. More traditionaly, every year takes place a parade around the streets of Maastricht to celebrate Sint Servaas. 🎺 For King’s day, the celebrations in Maastricht are not worth staying. I highly encourage you to go live the experience in Amsterdam and come back with a late train in the night. Finally, the inner city library organises every year a book sale of their old books, give it a try ! 📚

At UM sport

UM sport can be full of surprises. I had the chance to join the Chess Club. 👑 Only a few people know that it exists and it is actually a great opportunity. It is open to every level, and every member there will be more than happy to share his/her passion ! 💫 I can only recommend ! Besides, do not hesitate to try any walk-in activity at the UM sport ; from spinning and yoga to muai-tai and boxing. Indoor soccer is great fun and for an intensive session, go on Monday. You can also book a squash court. 🏋🏼

At the SBE

The SBE is full of secrets and I am far to have discovered them all. One of my favorites is that you can attend some lectures for free. 🎓 I had a brilliant lecture about Starbuck’s strategy in emerging countries and attended some others teaching how to network, better apply online or improve one’s creativity. SBE also has secret rooms. Let me tell you that the Student Lounge is one of these places that you will be happy to know. 🏆 While you can study there, you can also play pool, table-soccer, darts and chess. In the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences where you might end up having some classes, go explore the rooftop, there is a hidden cafe which is amazing ! 👀

Sint-Servaas Parade

Thank notes

I cannot end this last blog without expressing my sincere thanks to :

  • To the international relationship office team, and more especially Dominique, who were always present to answer my inquiry and did their best to ease our experience in Maastricht 
  • To my amazing roommates who shared their unique and priceless experiences and contributed to make my stay in Maastricht a sweet memory.
  • To my knowledgeable professors and tutors from Public Finance, Real Estate, Sustainability and Tax Policy who were an incredible inspiration. 
  • To my new friends.
  • To my home school emlyon business school who allowed me to live such an experience. I’m grateful for them and my family and the Erasmus Programm to have offered me such an opportunity and made me discovered such a vibrant city ! 

I am leaving Maastricht University with new perspectives and stronger by knowledge and experience. My next stop is Moscow, Russia. See you there !

PS : Try the Dutch stroopwafel, they are delicious !

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How to survive

By Valtteri Manninen | June 3, 2019

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The final stretch of exchange has snuck up on us. I’m not sure when or how this happened, but this is the situation in which I now find myself. I had my last classes and presentations last week, and now I just need to muster up the strength to write one final report before signing off on Friday. I’m lucky in that I don’t have any exams this period, but I’d like to wish good luck to all of you who do—You’ve got this!

I’ve also effectively run out of travel money, so no further trips have been planned for the foreseeable future. I spent a lovely weekend in Malta a couple of weeks ago, so I thought I’d illustrate this post with some scenic snaps. They have nothing to do with the subject matter, but Malta is beautiful so there you go.

(I also burned my skin pretty bad on that trip to the point where a classmate I had never talked to came up to me and asked if I’d been in the sun lately. I refuse to believe that it is common knowledge you have to reapply sunscreen several times a day?)

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Looking back, my semester abroad has run fairly smoothly and has all in all been an overwhelmingly positive experience. However, there are a few things which I feel like I should discuss to help those of you considering going on exchange (which, by the way, I absolutely think you should do).

In preparation for my exchange, as so many of us do, I attended an event at my home university where students returning from their semesters abroad told us about their experiences. I remember vividly one person saying that exchange will be the best and worst time of your life. Yeah right, I remember thinking. How bad can it be? I was already studying outside my home country, having moved to Scotland when I was nineteen, so I assumed exchange would be nothing new under the sun for me. I was mistaken.

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Culture shocks are inevitable when moving to a different country, whether you have done it before or not, as I discovered. There are many online resources that describe the experience of culture shock far more eloquently and in depth than I intend to here; generally speaking, however, you tend to go through different phases.

When you first move to a new country, you are usually excited and bewildered: you suddenly have a hundred new friends, and you have no time to miss home as you are busy taking part in fun activities, such as the ISN Arrival Week here in Maastricht. Everything is new, exciting, and wonderful. This ‘honeymoon’ phase lasts a while—maybe weeks, maybe months—until everyday life kicks in.

As time passes, you inevitably start missing your home, family, and friends. Everything in your host country is stupid and everything back home is better. It is good to recognize that this is just the way the human mind works. What has always helped me in these moments is getting together with other people from your home country and venting about everything that’s wrong about the host country in your own language. It really does help to let off some steam. Eventually, you will find peace of mind and come to accept that the way things work in your host country is not necessarily worse, just different, and you start to appreciate both places for what they are.

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Towards the end of exchange, you might start to experience a surreal, bittersweet feeling of being torn between two places. You might be excited to go back home, but at the same time, you feel sad about leaving and having to say goodbye to your new friends, some of whom might literally live on the other side of the planet, as is the case for me. I can see that many of us here who are leaving soon are trying to make the absolute most of our remaining days on exchange.

Another important—and sometimes difficult—thing to accept is that when you return home, things will not be the way they were before you left. I somehow always assume that time at home has just stopped and will not resume until I get back. Depending on how long you were away, some things might have changed drastically. Keeping in touch with friends and family back home throughout your exchange will obviously prepare you for this to some extent, but it will always feel a little bit strange to go back home.

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As you can see, the title of this post is rather deceptive as I’m not really offering a whole lot of solutions here. We are all different, and it’s important to find the ways to manage stress and feelings of homesickness that work for you. Call your mum. Skype with your friends back home. Establish new routines in your host country. Exercise. And most importantly, enjoy your exchange because it will be over before you know it.

Valtteri

Time to say goodbye :(

Dear readers,

I can’t believe this amazing experience is about to come to an end. I’ve enjoyed every moment of my exchange semester and can happily say that I’m on the best moment of my life! It doesn’t matter if I’m in Maastricht or in a trip, everyday in Europe is amazing and I’m trying to make the most of the rest of my stay. On the last few most I’ve learnt so much in many aspects and grown as a person. I would never change anything I did here and I’m totally convinced that Maastricht was the perfect option for me! It was my home for almost 5 months so a part of me will always be here. Although I’m sad about leaving, I’m taking incredible memories and experiences with me… And,of course, friendships for life!!

I’m gonna write about my last trips during this month and then I’ll tell you all about the big trip I’ve planned after exams!

Brussels

This is a big city where you have many highlights. The Grand Place is among the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. I also visited the famous Manneken Pis, the Atomium and of course I tried the delicious waffles!! What also made this weekend amazing was to eat Lomo Saltado(a peruvian dish) in a square where there is kind of a festival of international food and a little market!

Paris

This city is astonishingly beautiful! There are many things to do so I decided to stay for 3 days. First, I visited the place Dauphine, managed to see a bit of Notre Dame, went to Arc de Triumph, walk around Champs Elysee, sat in front of the Eiffel Tower and simply admired it until the night came and it started to shine. The next day we woke up early to go to Versailles. It is so beautiful and walking around the gardens was awesome. On the afternoon we decided to see the sunset and admire the whole city in Montmartre. The last day we visited the Louvre. It is so big that you can’t see it completely in a day but, of course, I could admire the Mona Lisa and other highlights. I loved my time in Paris! There are so many things to do and also delicious food! Croissants, pan au chocolat, the famous macarons and many other incredible desserts!

Keukenhof

I couldn’t leave the Netherlands without going to see the beautiful tulips in Keukenhof! Everywhere you go you will find different colors and types of tulips! It’s definitely a must!!

hamburg

This weekend I decided to go to one of the biggest cities in Germany! It is full of canals and has an enormous tunnel that connects you to the other part of the city. I also loved that you can find a lot of nature around because there are many parks in which you can sit to relax and enjoy the sunny days.

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Goin to Italy is always great! You can find incredible places to visit, good food, desserts and gelato!! In Milan the Duomo is simply impressive, we walk around many galleries that proof that it is the city of fashion. Also, if you go you should stop in Luini to try the delicious panzerotti. The next day we went to Florence and then took a train to visit Pisa. There we took many fun photos, admired all the monuments in Piazza dei Miracoli and enjoyed a delicious pizza. When we were back in Florence we went to La Carraia for gelato! It is 100% recommended to try the flavor cookies!! Florence in general is a lovely city! Walking around it you can find many beautiful squares, streets and, of course, you have to cross the famous Ponte Vecchio. Also, before leaving you have to try the incredible canoli and tiramisu!!

On tuesday May 28th was my last day of classes in Maastricht. I’m a bit sad because this means that my exchange period is over but I’m taking with me so many memories and friendships!

However… the trips are not over! Before the exams I’m going to Vienna, Budapest and Rome! After my last exam on June 7th I’ll begin my big adventure!!! First stop is Sofia in Bulgaria, then comes Istambul and Capadoccia in Turkey, Athens and Santorini in Greece, the south of Italy, Marrakech and Fez in Morocco, Lisbon and Porto in Portugal, Barcelona and Madrid in Spain and then I have to go back to Germany to say goodbye to my uncles and Europe:(

It’s been great to be able to tell you all my experiences! I enjoyed every moment of my experience in Maastricht and I hope you liked my stories and might find helpful some of the tips I’ve mentioned.

It was a pleasure!!

Love,

Meli

City in focus: Cologne, Germany

By Valtteri Manninen | May 10, 2019

Cologne central railway station on a cloudy day, photograph.

Another month has inexplicably passed, and so have I passed my first exams at SBE (yay!). This second half of my exchange semester seems to be going by incredibly fast; it’s hard to believe I only have eight more weeks left here in Maastricht.

I have been trying to make the most of my new-found freedom and my remaining time here. I have now finally visited Brussels, Amsterdam, and Berlin for the first time. I was also feeling a little homesick—a feeling many of my fellow exchange students here seem to be dealing with at this stage of our study abroad—Hang in there!—so I packed my bags and flew back to Glasgow to visit my friends for a few days. Thoroughly refreshed, it’s now back to reality and assignment writing for me. (Give or take a cheeky getaway to Malta this coming weekend, but other than that.)

In this month’s post, I thought I’d share some photos from Cologne which I have visited twice over the past months. Cologne is a major metropolitan city with a long and interesting history dating back to the Roman times, and it only takes two hours and a couple of train changes to travel to the German city from Maastricht. Sadly, I did not carry my camera with me on either trip, so iPhone 6 photo quality will have to suffice.

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My first visit to Cologne took place during the Carnival (or Carneval, or Carnaval, depending on where you’re from) festivities. This was my first experience of Carnival as it is not celebrated in Finland nor in the UK, and let me just say it was quite the holiday. Me and some of my friends first took part in the celebrations in Maastricht during the first weekend of March, and then headed to Cologne on the following Monday. All the locals, from young to old, were dressed up in fancy dress. We tried to accessorize to our best abilities—and within our budgets—but it was fun to observe that many locals really had gone the extra mile and had obviously put a lot of effort into their costumes. There was music, parades, food, drink, and candy, and life was good.

On our Monday in Cologne, the weather was a little chilly and it was raining on and off, so the big parade was delayed by an hour. This mattered little as everyone was in high spirits. I didn’t take many pictures of the long parade as I was busy using my hands to safeguard myself against candy flying across the air. I am fairly sure some of my friends who were there still have some of their stash left. At some point I let my guard down for a couple of seconds, only to be hit in the head with a box of chocolates. They were pretty yummy, though.

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fileWe found Nemo.

We spent the rest of the day walking about in the city, and wrapped up our Carnival with a street party before heading back to Maastricht in the evening.

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file18Liebe ist für alle da.

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Carnival time was pretty crazy and daily life in Cologne was obviously disrupted by the festivities. When I returned in April after finishing my exams, I got to see a more peaceful, normal side of the city. I travelled to Cologne by myself to see the Swedish singer Robyn perform at Palladium. I stayed the night at a hostel in the Neumarkt area, which proved to be the perfect location for inner-city sightseeing the next day. The weather was beautiful this time around.

file4Robyn at Palladium.

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file12A smiley local enjoying a warm spring day in Cologne.

file14.jpegThe Cologne cathedral, a World Heritage Site, is unfathomably large.
It is difficult to capture its magnitude in a photograph.

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file7.jpegThere are many lively shopping streets in Cologne.

file1-1.jpegCherry trees in bloom in front of the main city library.

Valtteri

A month full of trips!

Dear readers,

I seriously can’t believe I’m halfway through my exchange semester. I love everyday I spend in Europe and now more than ever because spring is finally here! The weather is crazy, though, one day it can be raining so much that I  get to classes soaking wet and the next day you can find a shining sun and a beautiful blue sky. However, you can definitely feel the difference in the atmosphere and in the trees. This month I’ve been travelling a lot because we had a vacation between periods and  Easter. When I got back to Maastricht everything had changed; I woke up and everything was green outside my window. It’s awesome to ride a bike and be outside in the sunny days. Maastricht is definitely magical in any season, but even more special in the spring.

Now, I’m going to tell you a bit about this unforgettable month full of trips!

DISCOVER BELGIUM

During this trip ISN encourages groups of 5 or less to do the “crazy 25 challenges”. The group that makes the most of them wins a surprise prize and, of course, my peruvian friends and I were the champions!! We did crazy stuff around Antwerpen, Leuven, Brugge and Gent. All these cities are really pretty and we have incredible memories of them, but Brugge is particularly magical. It’s a fairy tale town where we ate a delicious waffle.

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One of the best and first friends I made here invited me to her hometown, Toulouse in France. I had an incredible time with her in Toulouse. She made me feel like at home and gave me the opportunity to live the real French experience while being able to share a bit of my culture with her amazing French family. We had a lot of bread, cheese and wine. Also, one day I prepared a Peruvian dish called “Papa a la huancaina” for the family and they loved it! My time in Toulouse was brief but unforgettable. I’m so grateful that I had the chance to live this experience.

Italy

My next stop was Brussels to meet a friend there briefly and then travel together to Italy where we met with the rest of my Peruvian friends! First, we went to Turin for a day. I ate my first gelato and an amazing pizza! In the evening we caught a bus to go to Venice. This city is simply magical. Even though it was raining most of the day, I fell in love immediately with Venice. Just walking around it is incredible and is definitely the city of love. The next day we took a train to Verona. This is the city in which Shakespeare set “Romeo and Juliet”. We went to Juliet’s house and took a picture in the famous balcony. I also have one with her statue.

SWITZERLAND

We arrived in Zurich and went directly to the FIFA headquarters and then the museum. This is something all  soccer lovers must do! We had so much fun at this museum for all the great things it has and all the fun photos we took! After spending  many hours there, we started sightseeing around the city which is really pretty but also very expensive.

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The last stop was Luxembourg! We were there only for a few hours, but we got to see its beauty! It was snowing and really cold when we arrived, but we enjoyed our short time there anyways.

Vacation was over, but not for real! We had free upcoming days because of Easter! So, the next day we all went to classes and in the evening took the bus to embark in another amazing trip around the Scandinavian countries.

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After 18 hours in a bus we finally arrived in Copenhagen. This is a beautiful city! On the first day we went to Nyhavn where you can take the typical pictures with all the colorful houses, then to Christiania which you must see for yourself because it’s a different world for sure!! The next day we went to see the famous statue of the mermaid and then spent the whole day in the Tivoli Gardens! This amusement park is amazing!! The rides are awesome and we spent an incredible day there.

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In Oslo we took a free tour which was really good because we could learn more about the culture, lifestyle and vikings! Later we took the ferry to go to a beautiful island. The landscape was simply breathtaking! On the evening we went to the national opera building to see the sunset which was beautiful. The next day we visited another island where we went to the Viking Museum. After 2 great days it was time to move to Sweden!

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Stockholm was our last destination. We learn more about the vikings and the lifestyle in this country in the free tour, it is totally recommended to take it. After an amazing day we just sat next to the sea to wait for the sunset.

Vacations were over, but on the weekend we had king’s day!!

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My friends and I decided to spend King’s day in Amsterdam. This was a crazy day full of fun! Amsterdam was crowded, as always, but this time it was full of people dancing and singing in all the streets wearing orange!

I love travelling, I love being in Maastricht and I simply love being an exchange student! I’m having so much fun and living incredible experiences!

Stay tuned to hear more about my new adventures!

Love,

Meli

How does studying in Maastricht compare to studying in the UK?

By Valtteri Manninen | March 25, 2019

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Let’s not kid ourselves: the study bit of study abroad has never been the top priority of any exchange student. An exchange semester or year offers exciting opportunities to travel to new places, experience new cultures, and make new friends. The studying itself is the necessary evil.

However, one of the reasons why I chose Maastricht as my exchange destination was the university’s innovative approach to teaching. I had become used to a certain way of learning and studying at my home university in Scotland, and these first two months in Maastricht have provided a stark contrast to the Glasgow learning experience. With my first period here drawing to a close and assignment deadlines and exams looming on the horizon, I thought I’d share how I have experienced studying in Maastricht as a UK student.

As regular readers of this blog will know, Maastricht University is a pioneer of a teaching and learning approach called Problem-Based Learning (PBL). PBL emphasizes small group sizes, team effort, and empowering students to take the centre stage. You can learn more about PBL on the Maastricht University website.

So, how does studying in Maastricht compare to studying in the UK?

(Disclaimer: I know that universities across the UK differ in terms of how teaching is conducted. My description here is a huge generalization, based solely on my own experience studying business in an ancient Scottish university and on my observations of my friends back in Glasgow who study other subjects.)

 

1. Classroom setting

Most of my classes in Glasgow are conducted as traditional-style lectures in large halls, with a few small-group, one-hour tutorials for each course. SBE completely flips the script: I have only had two lectures for each of the two courses I am currently taking. Most of my contact hours are spent in tutorial groups of around 10 to 15 students, with two 2-hour sessions per week for each course.

 

2. Student engagement

The tutorials at SBE are by and large student-led. Each session is “hosted” by one or two students who have prepared the material and will lead the discussion. The tutor takes the role of a moderator, making sure students have understood the literature and that all important topics are covered. All the other students are expected to show up having read all the assigned literature and done any exercises, ready to contribute to the discussion. Active participation and the hosting of tutorials are usually graded and count towards a student’s final grade for the course.

 

3. Teamwork

I have done a few group assignments during my time in Glasgow, but my grades have been mainly based on individual work. At SBE, teamwork seems to be the norm, and students are encouraged to work together in hosting the tutorials, writing papers, and giving presentations. I have gotten to know many new people because of the amount of group projects we have done, and many of my classmates who are doing their degrees at Maastricht seem to be familiar with each other from previous courses.

 

4. Workload and how to balance it

I have to admit, myself and many of my friends in Glasgow tend to rely on a cramming strategy, whereby the end of the semester also marks the end of all social life, and our daily—and, sometimes, nightly—lives start to revolve around the library. Before coming to Maastricht, I had never spent as much time every week preparing for tutorials as I am now. Here, it is normal to have to read three or four academic articles before coming to each class. But I have a feeling all this will pay off in my exam preparations as I have effectively already read all of the course material. Exams here are more frequent as courses are shorter and semesters are split into periods. I can only hope I will be able to retain this pace when I return to Glasgow, even when I’m no longer required to put so much effort in on a daily or weekly basis.

 

We are all different when it comes to learning, and each of us develop our own study style during our time in uni. I personally think having to adopt a different approach to studying has been very beneficial for me. I would definitely recommend studying abroad to anyone considering postgraduate study as it can really enhance your study skills—not least because you learn to be very efficient with your time, trying desperately to squeeze revision in between partying and travelling!

 

Valtteri

Another month goes by…

Dear readers,

I can’t believe it’s been almost 2 months since I arrived in Maastricht. It definitely feels like home now. I’m used to waking up everyday and making my own breakfast, drinking tap water, putting on a lot of warm clothes (although that’s changing soon!) and, of course, going everywhere by bike. It’s a new lifestyle and I definitely like it. Particularly, this last month I’ve had to do a lot of assignments for the university, but I’ve also had a Break. Therefore, I had the opportunity to travel a lot and  enjoyed the carnival in Maastricht!

Carnival

As many of you must know, Maastricht is famous for its Carnival, and is for sure something I would have never imagined! The quiet and peaceful streets of Maastricht transform into a totally different place full of people in costumes. From babies to elderly people, they are  all  committed to make Maastricht a magical place full of fun and joy.

AMsterdam

After enjoying one day at the carnival my friends and I decided to start our break in Amsterdam. This city has so much to offer and it’s so beautiful. We did both cultural and entertaining things. We went to the Anne Frank House(really recommended) and the Van Gogh Museum, but also to the believe it or not? museum, visited some bars and, of course, we went to the Red Light district which was something totally new for us. If you are a foodie there are some spots you definitely have to check out. The best cookies of Amsterdam can be found on Van Stapele Koekmakerij, if you love avocado you have to go to The Avocado Show and if you are a lover of the Stroopwafles as me you need to pass by the Albert Cuyp market and get the instant made stroopwafles.

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Our next stop was Berlin! As I have an uncle that lives in this city I stayed with him and I had the luck that my friends hostel was just 5 min away by walk to my uncle’s house! This gave me the opportunity to get to know the city with him by bike and also spend some time with my friends in the evenings.

prague

I only had classes on Monday, so I arrived in Maastricht at noon. I went to my class and then I had only 20 minutes to get to the station and catch the train that took me to Charleroi to finally get on the plane to Prague. It was an exhausting day, but everything worked out fine. The next morning I was ready to discover the beautiful city of Prague. You definitely have to get the free tour and then walk the city since there are many amazing places to visit.

kRAKOW

After 2 days in Prague, it was time to discover another city and Krakow was the perfect destination!! On the first day, we went to Auschwitz and Birkenau which was a really reflective experience. Then, we had one more day to explore the city and we loved it! The atmosphere and the people are so nice! The food is also really good. You have to try Pierogis and DEFINITELY go to Pijalnie Czekolady E.Wedel to try one of the best hot chocolates ever!

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We only had one day to explore this modern but lovely city. If you want something more traditional you have to visit the Old Town to enjoy the atmosphere and the music.

Travelling a lot is part of the exchange student life so if you want to hear more about my next adventures stay tuned!

Travelling is awesome but also really exhausting. I’m glad I’m back in Maastricht at least for a week because this weekend and many weekends in the horizon have already been planned!

Love,

Meli

What I’ve learned in my first month in Maastricht

By Valtteri Manninen | Feb 24, 2019

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Hoi iedereen!

It has been exactly one month since I first arrived in Maastricht. I have been putting off writing this first entry so that I would have more to talk about—but now I find that so much has happened in this first month that I don’t quite know where to begin.

To give you a little bit of background, I am a 23-year-old Business and Management student, born and raised in Finland but doing my undergraduate degree at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. I had never been to the Netherlands before moving to Maastricht for my exchange semester. (Exciting!) In these blog posts I will be writing about what it is like living in the Netherlands and studying at SBE in Maastricht, looking at life here through both a Nordic and a UK lens.

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I am looking forward to exploring new places in Europe and will try to carry my camera around as much as possible—since arriving here I have already taken too many travel pics that I now need to go through—so travel stories and tips are likely to ensue. I will make a separate post about my travels so far; for now, I hope you enjoy these pictures of beautiful Maastricht taken on a cloudy February afternoon. (Side note: it’s been crazy sunny here since I took these photos. My weather app tells me it will be 18 degrees tomorrow. And it’s February.)

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I have been making a list of interesting, funny, and awesome things that I have noticed about Maastricht and the Netherlands during my first month of living here. Some of these are more profound and others absolutely trivial. Here are some of the things I have learned, in no particular order:

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Getting around

The bicycle is the undisputed king of the traffic jungle in Maastricht. Coming from Finland, I thought we had good infrastructure for biking, but the Netherlands takes it to another level—virtually everything is accessible by bike, and biking is often the quickest and easiest means of transport given Maastricht’s short distances.

Traffic here seems to flow very nicely. There are roundabouts everywhere, and if you’re biking, you rarely have to stop: cars usually need to watch out for cyclists, rather than the other way around.

Many exchange students here opt for a Swapfiets rental bike. I personally bought my bicycle off one of my flatmates as he cut me a good deal, but renting is certainly a very easy and care-free option.

I use my bike to go everywhere, and it takes seven-ish minutes to get to school in the morning. The only downside of the ease of biking here is that you become complacent, and when you do need to walk somewhere when, for example, you have left your bike in the city centre after a night out, the journey feels endless on foot.

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Paying for stuff



I knew taxis in the Netherlands would be more expensive than in Scotland, so when I first came to Maastricht I had decided to take the bus from the railway station to the UM Guesthouse where I am staying. I made sure that I had all kinds of change in my wallet, just in case (What if they don’t accept banknotes? What if the driver doesn’t give change?) but this turned out to be an unnecessary precaution. The driver informed me that they don’t accept cash on buses at all. I was thrilled by how modern this all seemed and paid for my ride with one tap of my contactless Visa.

Later I discovered said Visa was useless in many shops and restaurants. The Dutch, I found out, do not use credit cards very much, opting for the Maestro and V Pay debit card systems instead. Many of my friends have opened a Dutch bank account in order to get a Dutch debit card; I am still undecided as my nearby supermarket does accept my card and I can withdraw cash at ATMs without any fees, so paying for stuff has overall been easy and straightforward. However, bus travel aside, carrying cash is still a good idea if you come to the Netherlands from abroad.

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Stuffing your face

I think I am becoming a convert to sweet foods. The Dutch are known for hagelslag, chocolate sprinkles which are often eaten on toast. Other national treasures include pancakes and different kinds of waffles, which are ubiquitous, as my waistline will tell you by the end of my exchange.

Also: sandwich bread is sold in half-loafs in addition to whole ones. This means that, if you’re just one person, like me, you won’t have to worry about your bread going off. And for each bag you only get one of those end bits that nobody ever eats anyway. Brilliant!

waffleA waffle I ate in Volendam. Look at it.

This is all from me now—please check back later for new posts! I intend to write about the differences between the student experience within the UK and the Dutch system as well as share stories and pictures of my travels both in and outside the Netherlands. Stay tuned!

Over and out,
Valtteri

First weeks!

Dear readers!

I’m excited about sharing all my experiences and tell you about how amazing it is to be an exchange student in Maastricht!

Arrival in Maastricht

I arrived in Maastricht on the 29th of January. I consider myself pretty lucky because I have family in Aachen so I arrived in Europe a few days earlier and got to spend some awesome time with them. When it was time to start my experience and move to my own place, my uncle and my cousin, whom I love, took me to my Guesthouse and helped me settle in. As soon as we left my luggage, we went to the Appie to get some groceries for the week and then went for an icecream, as it was a beautiful sunny day (although we were at 3ºC). After getting everything into place it was time to say goodbye. I’ll miss them a lot, but we are only 30 minutes away, so I can visit them anytime!

Bikes everywhere

If you come to the Netherlands, you’ll immediately notice that you have to get a bike. Therefore, I rented mine from Swapfiets. Now, I can get anywhere really fast. However, the first few days were challenging because the bike was a bit high for me, so I had trouble getting on! Fortunately, I’ve overcome that and now I love riding my bike!

Introduction days

On the 31st of January it was time to go to school for the first time! Nobody should miss the introduction days because it’s not only the perfect opportunity to learn more about the teaching system, how things work at the university (where to eat, where to study, tips for the courses, etc), but also to meet a lot of new people! Everyone is in the same situation as you, so everyone wants to make new friends! 

Classes

For me the PBL system, which stands for Problem Based Learning, is something totally new, and I find it really interesting. In both of my classes, I only have tutorials, so I have to read a lot and prepare for each class in advance by myself. Even though it’s a bit demanding, I particularly enjoy one of my classes because the teacher always does experiments or we play short games. It’s important to mention that we are only 15 people in the classroom and that’s one of the main reasons why I feel comfortable participating. Also, I like working in groups because so far all of them have been very effective!

Trips

As many of you must know, Maastricht is very close to Belgium and Germany. Consequently, on the first weekend my friends and I decided to go to Namur just to spend the day. It was nice, but the city is really small and can be discovered in half a day!

Namur

The next Friday I went to Cologne and the same happened! If you don’t go to any museums, it won’t take you long to see the whole city, as everything is pretty close. But, don’t get me wrong, the cathedral is impressive, you should visit Cologne!

Cologne

On that same weekend I went to the discover Holland trip! We went to Kinderdijk (famous for the windmills), Delft (really cozy!), Rotterdam (we spent the night there and went to a party, but I have to be honest, R&B is not my style!), Utrecht (we went on a nice boat trip) and Volendam. The last city (Volendam) was astonishingly beautiful!! We had the opportunity to dress as dutch people and ate a typical dutch meal. I loved it!

So far my experience has been amazing! I really like the lifestyle here and love the fact that you can get to many places so conveniently fast!

I hope you enjoyed reading about my stories and stay tuned to hear more about my journey!

Love,

Meli

In this blog, you will discover why is the fall semester the best time to come to Maastricht and some inside tips to know before you arrive!

First impressions 

First of all, let me introduce myself! I am from France, 22 years old, and am normally studying at emlyon for an MSc in Management. 🤓 I have decided to do my exchange programme at the University of Maastricht because it is said to be the 2nd best university in the Netherlands, 5th best under 50 year old university worldwide, and the city is well-known for its student life ! 🍻

I must confess that these first days have impressed me and gone beyond my expectations! The city is cute! For these of you who know Lyon for example it is quite comparable. Before arriving, I thought Maastricht would be a red brick and depressing city from the North … In fact it’s not!! On the contrary, the city centre is bright, with a nice architecture and airy thanks to lots of shops and their vitrines. 💫 Just to give you an idea, Germans and Belgians from the border come to shop and escape in Maastricht on the weekend! If you do not have the chance to study at the University of Maastricht I can only recommend you to come and visit the city at least for a weekend!! 🎉

Let me tell you why the fall semester is a wise choice!

The fall semester is sequenced by many events, which will enrich your study and cultural life!

First of all, at this time of the year the Netherlands have a lot of holidays succeeding!! For example, I was told that March begins with the Carnival, which is said to be delirious. 🎭 Then you have the European Fine Art Fair animating the city for a whole week with merchants from all around the world! Not to mention that there will also be the Easter holidays. And at the end of April, the Dutch celebrate their famous King Day!! So you’ve understood, the fall semester promises an amazing time in Maastricht! 🔥

On the student level, Maastricht University organize a Study Abroad Fair in March, which is the occasion to discover new universities around the world and meet new interesting people! 🎓 In addition, the career week at the SBE takes place in March. It’s basically a networking and information week that can be very useful to kick start your career! For example this year we will find representatives from the number one bank in the Netherlands ING bank, and also from Procter and Gamble, Amazon and EY among others ! 🚀

Useful tips and study hacks!

Tip #1 : If you are the party type or feel to meet new people, you’ll definitely use the ESN card. It’s a card sold by the international student office which costs around 20 euros and give you unbeatable discounts on many events, such as pub entrance, international parties and travels to discover Europe. You will easily earn your 20 euros back!! 💵

Tip #2: Contrary to the common wisdom, bike is not necessarily a vital tool. T he bus is expensive. But wait till you’re installed in Maastricht and analyse if you need a bike. For example I go to school by foot, it’s only a twenty-minute walk. 🕺🏼 Also buying a second hand bike is not always the best solution, considering that it can get stolen and you’ll have to buy a locker. Instead have a look at the “Swapfiets” website. This company allows you to rent a bike for 12 euros per month and replace it if it gets broken for example. Keep also in mind that bikes are not allowed in the city centre during opening hours in the day (around 10:00 till 18:00). 🚴

Tip #3: If you want to be part of a sport team of the University of Maastricht, there are a lot of opportunities! ⚽️ For instance the football teams are looking for new girl and guy players! Just give it a try and maybe you’ll be accepted in the official teams!

Tip #4: There is an official bookstore for students of the SBE, which sells the books required for your course of the period. The bookstore is called the “Studystore” and is located in front of the SBE. 📚 You may also check the Facebook groups for second hand books. It might be a helpful solution for your financings. Also check out that website where students upload their course summaries and corrected exercises! The latter is named “Studydrive”! 👀

Tip #5: Keep in mind that not all store accepts credit cards. They allow sometimes only maestro card and cash. Even the supermarket may ban you from using a visa credit card. ‼️

Why am I so excited about the coming days!

I am happily surprised to see how many international students I have already met! 🤗 In less than a week I can’t even count how many new people from all around the world I’ve met. You’ll run into students from the US, Singapore, Italy, Turkey, Scotland, China, Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden etc. Maastricht University counts more than 50% of students from 100+ countries and you can feel it! That has really impressed me so far. 🌍

Also the global reputation of the University of Maastricht seems particularly laudatory. 🇳🇱 It’s partly due to the innovative teaching system, which stimulates cooperation, interaction and self-study. I am really curious to see how the Problem-Based Learning system will motivate me and bring me new knowledge! 🔥

PS: we’ve learned in the opening session that the Dutch people is particularly egalitarian. Have a look at this traffic light!! 😍