Period 2 Travels & Reflection

My period 2 courses are much more manageable as I’m adjusted to the teaching style and have been better about budgeting my time. As a result, I’ve been able to travel most every weekend. This period I have been able to travel to London, Paris, Budapest, Prague, and Dublin.

I’ve enjoyed each city and country. In London, I was able to stay with my cousin who lives right near Tower Bridge. London is such a big city that I am thankful I took a long weekend and had 5 days to explore. I was able to see the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and many other historical sites. My cousin was able to show me the best local restaurants and give recommendations on shows. I ended up seeing Wicked which is one of my favorites. I also had friends studying in London so I was able to meet up with them. Even though this was my first time in London, it felt like home. Everyone spoke English, public transportation was easy, and I was able to enjoy some good comfort food. One day we went to the Warner Brothers Studios Harry Potter tour. We were able to see all the set designs and all the things that happened behind the scenes in the production of the movies. I thoroughly enjoyed London and I would love to go back.

I traveled to Paris via Flixbus which was one of my favorite ways to travel. Extremely cheap and took less than 7 hours. The bus departed right from Maastricht so it was easy and I was able to catch up on sleep. While I was there, I visited a lot of famous art museums. I went to the Louvre which was one of the largest museums I have ever seen. I could have spent an entire day there. I also saw Museum do Orsey on our final day. I loved that the museums were free since we had our Dutch residence permit.  The Eiffel Tower was by far one of the greatest things I got to see while in Paris. On separate occasions, we went and sat in the park and had food and wine while admiring it. We also got to go to the top, which is 324 meters high. I’m scared of heights but it was incredible to overlook all of Paris. Also while in Paris, we walked around a Christmas market and the famous shopping street. Overall, I enjoyed Paris especially all of the delicious crepes sold on every street corner.

Budapest was the first eastern European city I had visited. The look and feel of the city was very different. I took a 3 hour long free city walking tour that highlighted a lot of the important history and buildings in Budapest. The hostel I stayed at was perfect for young travelers looking to explore the ruin bars and wanting to meet new people. One night we did a boat party with everyone from the hostel. The next day, my friend and I visited a thermal bath. One of the things more unique to Budapest, these thermal baths were incredible. There were indoor and outdoor baths all at different temperatures. It was so cool to see and we spent a large part of our day enjoying the baths. Budapest also had a great Christmas market where we enjoyed some goulash, mulled wine, chimney cakes, and Hungarian flat bread. Every city I visit, I always try the unique food to that country. Hungary is known for their goulash which did not disappoint. We also did a ruin bar crawl and visited 5 different ruin bars which was interesting to see some of the history of the city. We may not have gotten a lot of sleep in Budapest but we had lots of fun.

I traveled to Prague on Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was hard to be away from my family and home but I met up with friends studying abroad but also from my home university. In Prague, we are at all the popular restaurants that locals had recommended to us. We explored new town, old town, the jewish quarter, and toured all the castles. The castle provided us with a great history of Prague. We are also able to shop around and went out to Lucerna for an 80s/90s dance night. We were also able to do a bar crawl that took us to 5 different bars and then ended at the largest club in Europe. Prague was beautiful and I was happy I got to share it with friends from home.

I only had a short weekend in Dublin, but I got to meet up with 2 other girls from my home university. We stayed right around the Temple Bar area and Trinity College. On Saturday, we did the Guinness Storehouse and Teeling museum tour which was really fun. It was fun to stop at a lot of the different Irish pubs for a pint and a quick bite to eat. Dublin had a lot of character and I loved the energy of the city and the people.

Now I only have about 2 and a half weeks left in Maastricht. I’m trying to enjoy all the cafes and local spots one last time before I head back to the US. Even though I’m busy with final papers and projects, I want to enjoy my last days here.

Looking back on my time while in Europe, I have been thankful that I haven’t felt super homesick. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to 11 countries and explore a part of the world I have never seen before. Not to mention, learn a lot in Maastricht and adjust to a new teaching style. I have loved my time in Maastricht and I’m sad to return home.

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End of Period 1

Exam week was very different from my exam week at home.  Having only 2 classes to study and prepare for was nice in comparison to the five or six exams I usually take at my home university. However, there was a lot more pressure to do well since a final assignment or exam is a much larger percentage of your grade here. At home, I’m used to having multiple assignments, tests, and projects throughout the semester.

The two classes I took in period 1 were Crisis Management and Finance & Accounting. Crisis management had a final paper but finance had a written exam. The prompt for my final paper was given to us the last day of class and we had a week to complete it. The paper encompassed everything we had learned and read about over the course of the period. I applied all these topics to the assigned case. It took me a while to write.

For finance, my written exam was 80 multiple choice questions. The exam was held at the MECC in a room with hundreds of students and lasted approximately three hours. The exam environment was rather intimidating and the exam proved to be equally as difficult. My one critique of the exam was that the assignments did not prepare us for the test questions. I think the course assignments should have been more applicable to the test questions. I was very happy to have the exam over with. Luckily, I passed the final exam and will not have to re-sit.

Since my exam was the first exam, I was able to travel for the remainder of the week. I traveled to Athens and Santorini, Greece for 5 days. I had to work on my paper while traveling but it was worth it in order to see Greece. In Athens, I was able to see Acropolis and shop along the streets. The Acropolis was incredible to see and learn the rich history behind it.  At night, we were also able to enjoy a rooftop bar and plenty of Greek food. The street food vendors that sold chicken gyros were my favorite. Athens was relatively cheap and had some great souvenir shopping.

In Santorini, we were able to relax and enjoy the beautiful island. Since it was the end of tourist season, we didn’t have to deal with large crowds. My favorite part of Santorini was the hike from Fira to Oia. It took us four hours long but it was incredibly beautiful. We were able to enjoy the sunset in Oia as we grabbed dinner and enjoyed some baklava for dessert. We were also able to take a boat on a day trip to see an active volcano, a hot spring, and end with a sunset in Oia. The hike up to the volcano was manageable and very cool to see. At the hot spring, we had to swim from the boat to get to the hot spring. The water was freezing at first but after we made it to the hot spring it was worth it. The hotel we stayed at was one of my favorite places we stayed. The staff was super friendly and gave us a complimentary meal and bottle of wine. We were very sad to leave.

As the week in Greece ended, we returned back to Maastricht just in time for period 2. I was excited for my new classes to start and for life in Maastricht to be more carefree instead of the intense pressure felt around exam week. Also I was excited to find out that my period 2 courses only had final papers instead of written exams.

 

Weekend Travels

While classes have required a lot of work outside the classroom, I have still managed to travel a lot and see new places. I dedicate my time during the week to school work and I enjoy my travels on the weekends. However, I’m usually busy preparing for tutorials on the plane and train rides.

Some of my favorite trips have been to Denmark, Germany, and Italy.

One of the first trips I took was to Copenhagen. We took a train from Maastricht to Eindhoven and flew directly to Copenhagen. My friend and I visited for the weekend and stayed in Copenhagen Downtown Hostel. This hostel had a bar attached so it was a great way to meet other travelers. While in Copenhagen, we enjoyed a canal tour that showed up some of the most famous spots including the Little Mermaid statue, the opera house, and Christiana. After our canal tour, we walked to Nyhavn and saw the picturesque colorful houses with restaurants lining the water. After enjoying the views, we headed off to Carlsberg Brewery where we received a beer tasting and a brewery tour. We even got to try beer ice cream. Then, we headed off to Tivoli Gardens, one of the most popular sites in Copenhagen. It is a beautiful amusement park that is only open certain months of the year so try and visit in the warmer months. On Sunday, we walked around Christiana, an autonomous nation in Copenhagen. We found it very interesting to hear about their nation’s story. My least favorite part of the trip was how expensive the city is but for a short weekend, it wasn’t too bad. My favorite part of the trip was the city’s welcoming atmosphere and walking around Nyhavn.

Another favorite trip of mine was to Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest. When telling people back home that you are studying in Europe in the fall, it is expected that you will spend at least one weekend at Oktoberfest. To prepare for Oktoberfest, you must get a dirndl and be prepared to spend a lot of money on large liters of beer. On our first day, we arrived to the Hofbrau tent around 12pm and luckily did not have to wait in line to get in. As we walked in, drinking songs were being sung my people of all nationalities. The crowded tents and the mass amounts of people just added to the atmosphere. After a long day, the beers start to weigh you down and you cannot forget to eat! Enjoy a nice bratwurst or some schnitzel. At night, we were able to go out into the city and see more of Munich. The next day, we were off to a slow start and didn’t arrive until 11am. Unfortunately, there were lines and we had to pay extra for our beers for the waitresses to let us inside the tent. Once we got it, the same familiar, fun atmosphere was present. My favorite part of the weekend was to introduce friends from my home university to the friends I’ve made at Maastricht. I think everyone would agree that they could spend multiple days at Oktoberfest, they would just need some rest days in between.

My most recent trip was to Rome and Florence. In Rome, I was blown away by the history on every street corner. When walking around, you had to look up to make sure you didn’t miss a thing. Before you know it, you’re walking through the Roman Forum and seeing the Colosseum. While there, I got a guided Colosseum tour and a guided Vatican Museum tour. It was helpful to hear the ancient history behind both. Seeing the Sistine Chapel has always been a bucket list item of mine. After two nights in Rome, we hopped on a train to Florence. We were able to do a Tuscany wine tour for a full day and become wine experts. I enjoyed copious amounts of homemade pasta and Chianti wines. I will never taste a wine the same way again. Florence was also chalk full of history with the Duomo and Michelangelo’s David statue . I was amazed by the pure size of the David statue. My friends and I also climbed the steps to the top of the Duomo which provided us with an amazing view of the city. My favorite part of Italy was the amazing Italian food and historic tourist hot spots.

As finals week is approaching, I’m fortunate enough to have traveled as much as I have but I will need to focus on my studies for now. I’m looking forward to my trip to Greece after my finance exam!

INKOM: An Exchange Student’s Perspective

I arrived in Maastricht just in time to participate in INKOM 2016. After a long 8 hour flight from Washington D.C, I was eager to begin my semester in Maastricht. I was a tad jet-lagged but excited to explore Europe for the first time!

INKOM is traditionally known as being a huge introduction week for first year students as well as exchange students. After I checked into the Guesthouse, I met my roommate who was also doing INKOM. She had arrived two days prior from Scotland. It was nice to be able to walk to registration with someone who was more familiar with the city than I was. When we arrived at SBE, I met my small group for the first time. Most were first year but there were two other exchange students. Typically, the first year students were either Dutch or German. Everyone in my group was extremely accommodating and more than happy to speak English, which was one of my initial concerns. My group leaders were very helpful and always made sure everyone felt welcome.

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On the first day, we did some group activities in order to get to know each other better. Our leaders also gave us a city tour. Each day, we were out in the city participating in lots of different activities. Usually, there were lots of gatherings in Stadspark or at the Markt. I was able to quickly find my way around the city after being there for just a few days. Some activities were geared mainly towards first year students but exchange students were highly encouraged to get involved in the different associations. There were different kinds of associations you could join. My INKOM leaders were in the theatre association but there were different sport associations as well as study associations. During the first couple days, you could tell the difference between the Dutch sororities and fraternities and the sport associations.

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Group dinner in Staadspark

At night, there were various parties planned which we received free admission for. My favorite activity of the week was Cantus. I enjoyed hearing the tradition behind this event. We enjoyed singing along to the classic songs and most were in English. It was a fun night to get to know my small group better. I’m looking forward to the other Cantus events later in the semester. Before the Bavaria night, our leaders invited our entire group to their apartment so we could get to know each other in a more comfortable setting. It was nice to see where actual students lived and get a better feel for the Dutch way of life. They made us feel at home and wanted to stay in touch after the week was over.

By the end of the week, I was able to see spots all over the city. The last day of INKOM, we all headed to Fun Valley. It was a decently far bike ride but there you could hang out at the beach, play paintball, and rock climb. I enjoyed cooling off in the water, as it was uncharacteristically hot that week. Although Maastricht is a small city, it has a lot to offer.

During my first week in Maastricht, I learned a lot about Maastricht and I met friends that I’m sure I will be in contact with throughout this semester. I think INKOM provided me with an opportunity to make friends with more than just the exchange students. I think this will help contribute to my exchange experience and feeling less like an outsider at the university. It also allowed me to have some time to get acclimated to life in Maastricht before classes started.