Bittersweet Goodbye

It’s the end of May and I’m leaving in about two and a half weeks. I still cannot believe how fast this exchange semester passed and thinking about going home is almost a bit scary considering the fact that I started feeling to be at home here in Maastricht from the very first week on.

Now that I look back at these amazing 4 months I think I would do everything the exact same way again I did it. The city is beautiful (although it is not that different from any Swiss city), the experiences I made are unforgettable and the most important thing: I met great people and I will definitely see some of them again in the near future. The fact that the exchange students here in Maastricht are so international and come from all over the world makes you think that the different cultures and habits make it eventually harder to get along with each other. But in my opinion, this is the most important reason why I would recommend Maastricht as a place to go to do an exchange semester. I also experienced the situation of meeting somebody and having the feeling of knowing this person for years although we met a few hours ago and our cultures are so different.

Not only the people need to be mentioned but also the great location of this country! Inspired by all the non-european students who were traveling almost every weekend, I also did some great trips during my stay here. The fact that Ryanair offers great deals from all airports in close proximity to Maastricht makes it hardly impossible to say no. I also became kind of conscious about how easy it is to travel in Europe, and especially not even that expensive if one is not picky about hostels or accommodation in general.

However, there are also some negative points that need to be mentioned. The PBL system of the university still did not convince me, as I see it, there are subjects that are appropriate to be taught through PBL and some of them are not. I was studying finance which is not suitable for PBL in my opinion. Nevertheless, the university is organized really professionally and especially the International Office responsible for exchange students responds within one hour which is so much better compared to my home university!

Although I think I did not change that much in this exchange semester, I still learned some important things that I will not forget. Firstly, I should never be afraid of approaching people and just do it. It’s always worth it since there’s a possibility that you meet people who you might become really good friends with, but if you do not dare to talk to them you might never find out. Secondly, even if you come to a university with a different system or if you get into an unknown situation in general, and all people around you know how it works except you, the best thing is just to try it, even if you do not have any idea of what you are doing. At the very end it usually works out and even if not, it could be worse. And last but not least, if you meet so many people in such a short time, it is sometimes hard to realize at the beginning who is your type of person and who is not. I guess I kind of improved that skill to realize who I might be friends with or not pretty quickly.

I’m grateful for all the experiences I made and hope to come back to this place at least once again…

Of exams, vacation and people

It has been exactly three months since I arrived in Maastricht and the first period of this semester ended at the end of March. So finally I can draw a conclusion from how the system in university works here.

My exam took place at the beginning of April. Scared by the high demands that university seems to make on students, the exam was not as unfeasible as I had expected beforehand. Since PBL kind of forces you to always be up-to-date the preparation was not as intense as it used to be in my home university. However, the MECC area where all the exams take place is something that I never experienced before. It reminded me of a huge warehouse, there were seats for about 2000 students I heard! After this one exam, the relief was great and I was facing almost two weeks of vacation. I need to mention it again: it is amazing how many days off we are having in this spring semester. There is so much time to travel and explore things, sometimes I almost forget that I am actually studying here, especially in this second period of the semester. There is hardly any week in April and May in which I have two tutorials since there are many days off again such as Ascension or Kingsday.

So then in these two weeks off I almost spent my entire time in Amsterdam. Some friends from Switzerland came to visit me and had a look at the city. I only got back once for two days in which I stayed in the guesthouse, it was totally empty, did not meet any single soul during this time. All exchange students made benefit from the fact that they had so many days off and they were spread all over Europe!

Many people asked me if I was not bored about being in Amsterdam for such a long time. And indeed, in advance I thought the same. However, this city is small but still there are so many different things to see! Since different people came to visit me, they all had different interests. Finally I ended up doing various things and I hardly ever did the same thing twice. From Amsterdam it is also easily possible to visit other cities such as Rotterdam or Den Hague. One day we even went to the beach which is also easily possible by train. The only thing that leaves room for improvement is definitely the weather here in the Netherlands. Almost every weekend I went there, it was supercloudy and cold, but as the saying says, I was probably just wearing the wrong clothes…

There are still lots of things coming up such as the ISN trip to Berlin or the very last Cantus. Additionally I am going to spend three days in Italy since Ryanair offered really cheap flights. That’s another thing that I discovered while studying here: check the Ryanair Website regularly, you might find deals that you did not dare to dream about before. 🙂

I’m really looking forward to experience the last month here in Maastricht. My goal is to enjoy the remaining time even more since this exchange experience is over soon. Especially with the people that I am closest with. There is the beginning of the exchange in which everybody tries to meet as many people as possible to find the one’s who you want to spend your time with. After this certain amount of time in which people finally found their groups, you prefer to stay with the people you get along with, or at least that is how it works for me. And I am really glad to have met so many amazing people in this tiny little town…

Spring has finally arrived!

One month passed again and it is time for a new blog! I thought about what to write and tried to remember what was kind of a memorable situation or event that I would like to share with you guys. And without hesitation I knew what is going to be a part of that blog….

So there was Cantus. I remember that on the very first introduction day the ISN guys told us about this according to them “awesome and unique event”. Tickets for this event were sold out within 20 minutes so whoever wants to be part of it needs to be quick. Due to traveling I could not go to the first one, but I definitely wanted to go to the next one. So due to my roommate I managed to get one of the tickets. And the ISN guys definitely did not promise too much. People were celebrating from the first second on, dancing and screaming (or shall I say singing), as if they were drunk already. But no, since you need to obey the orders you are not allowed to drink if ISN does not allow you to do so. Although the space was supersmall for the amount of people so that you could hardly move, I kind of felt that this was the best organized event so far – great atmosphere, amazing programme and the greatest songs that made me feel a tiny little younger again.  Seeing people drinking beer out of their own shoes as punishment or being saturated with this delicious liquid at the end of the party, yes that is Cantus, definitely don’t want to miss the next one neither!

So I really enjoy everything in Maastricht so far, there is just one thing that I would probably do differently if I had the chance to decide again – only taking one course at SBE! The workload is still really heavy and since we are close to exam week it is even getting worse in the next few days. I mean it is definitely feasible, but when I think at all the parties and events that I missed due to facilitations, presentations or research papers then I wished I had only taken one course this period. Or now that the weather starts getting better it is just the worst to be on exchange and spend your Sunday by writing a research paper while the sun is shining outside. Luckily I’m only gonna have one course in the next period, so I guess that means enjoying Maastricht as much as possible.

This weekend the weather was just perfect, Vrjithof was packed with people, sitting outside and enjoying the sun. All the cute little cafés that Maastricht has to offer are awesome. And one additional advantage that Maastricht has to offer is definitely the central location in Europe – daily trips to Belgium or Germany are easily feasible. Even by bike it’s possible to cross the borders, distances get a different meaning when living in Maastricht. The trips organized by ISN are definitely recommendable as well. Although two days for the amount of cities are pretty short, you get to see a lot in this short period of time and know where it is worth to go back. Definitely plan to go back to Brussels and Rotterdam – amazing cities!

It’s the end of March now, I’m here for almost two months. When I think of going home again it is kind of a weird feeling since Maastricht has become a second home for me. I guess that time is even gonna pass quicker in the following weeks…


First Impressions in Beautiful Maastricht

I arrived in late January. It was rainy, cloudy and cold – nothing new to someone from Switzerland, but also nothing unusual in the Netherlands like I experienced it during the last few weeks. However, the very first new impression I gained was while riding the train: what a flat country! I knew beforehand that the Netherlands is considered to be very flat, but this was definitely more distinctive than expected. Clearly, this characteristic turns out to be of big advantage at latest when using the bike for the first time.

After a two and a half hour ride I arrived in Maastricht, ISN fortunately organized a pickup service straight to the guesthouse (still unbelievably happy about that). Meeting a Swede, a Colombian and an Australian in the pickup car gave me the first impression of how international this university is! Even today I’m still amazed by the fact that I got to know people from all over the world. Sharing my room with an amazing Brazilian, traveling Europe with my Swedish and American friends, dancing on tables with the Australian dude or trying to move my body to the beat of latin music with the Colombians. As I see it, the international aspect definitely represents the most crucial perk of this university. In addition, by having so many different events it is an easy undertaking to come into contact with all these people. A big thank you to ISN in this place, you guys are awesome! I really don’t know how you organize these numerous events and simultaneously study at Maastricht university! I’m already overtaxed by deciding which party to join…

So until now, the only thing I’m not totally happy with is the problem based learning system. On the one hand, it’s definitely a good system in fields in which different opinions and points of view help to better understand the overall whole, such as marketing or management. In finance however, my major, the focus should be rather placed on solving exercises and calculation than on discussion in my opinion (or at least make it 50/50). It’s definitely good being forced to be up to date (since we all know that students are usually world champions in procrastination), but a lot of articles seem to be pretty abstract and theoretical and far away from any practical usage.

Nevertheless, the PBL system is perfectly fine for the other course I’m currently doing, so as I see it, it’s just more suitable in some fields than in others. One advantage though, and what definitely brings you one step further in life is to be forced to hold so many presentations. At first sight it might be annoying and definitely time-consuming, but I don’t feel that much nervousness anymore – which is definitely desirable isn’t it?! What I have learned is even with the biggest hangover and maybe not the best preparation, your presentation will be fine if you just communicate it with enough confidence!

To conclude, Maastricht is an amazing place to spend your exchange semester (especially the spring semester – so many holidays!). The city has a certain charm, I guess it’s even going to be better in spring when the numerous cafés invite to sit outside in the sun and enjoy the time with friends. The friendly and open-minded Dutch people contribute their part to the almost exclusively positive experiences I made here since January.

I’m only here for a few weeks but it feels as if I spent the last few months of my life here, guess this is a good sign;). Definitely looking forward to see more of this country!