Summary of a Lifelong Memory

Dear Reader,

To sum up exchange in one word, it would have to be “unique.” This is because no two people will have the same experience abroad. It is dependent on the individual with regards to what they want to get out of exchange, whether you go on exchange having planned every trip in advance or decided to embark on this new journey with a spontaneous mindset. I have found that no matter what path you choose to take, everyone’s semester (or year in some cases) will be no less than exceptional.

The best way to maximize the amount of enjoyment you will have abroad is to be informed and an aspect of exchange that is commonly overlooked, is your health, both mentally and physically. Your health will be your best friend if you take care of yourself but if forgotten, it can cause you to miss out on potential opportunities. Therefore, ensure that you are fulfilling your physical needs through proper diet, exercise, and sleep. With exchange being filled with constant travel, socializing, and studying, it is easy to forget to take care of your body. On the other side of the spectrum, Maastricht University has created a very comfortable environment that provides students with the resources needed to meet new people, acquire extra help for courses, and teachers are more than willing to answer any questions that you may have. As an exchange student, you will never be alone, as there will always be people to reach out to.

For students who are nervous about going on exchange, you must know that it is normal. Arriving as a tourist, relying on Google Maps or Ulmon to ensure that you get to the right place can be a little overwhelming at times. As each day passes, Maastricht will start to become your home and by the end you will be one with the community. Near the end of your stay you will have built a deeper understanding of the Dutch culture, a vivid mental map of the city, and have become accustomed to the PBL system. Having nine more days of my exchange left, I find it hard to believe that I am truly 9000 miles away from home. Walking through the city streets, visiting the weekly farmers markets, catching up with friends at the Vrijthof has become part of a normal routine.

Things I wish I had prepared a little more for when coming on exchange includes footwear for rainy days, no English translation on food products, and the earlier closing times that eliminated the possibility for a last minute errand. That being said, Maastricht is a beautiful destination that is quite easy to adapt to. In addition, students choosing to go to Europe in the fall for their exchange are in for a treat during Christmas time when all the Christmas markets open up.

Exchange will be a rewarding experience as you will develop a new outlook on the world we live in by interacting with students from around the globe. Acquiring new perspectives and finding innovative ways to tackle problems, both in and outside the classroom. Studying abroad may not be a journey in which you undergo a drastic change but rather you will have a clearer understanding of the person you are meant to be.

Finishing up my semester abroad I have learned to embrace diversity and that it is okay to feel out of the ordinary. Throughout my exchange I can happily say that I left nothing on the table and I hope when it is time for you to go home that you can say the same.

 

Cheers,
Erik Sultmanis

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The Need To Get Out

Dear Reader,

Exams at Maastricht became an experience in itself. I remember looking at the amount of material that we had covered in just two months and asked myself, “How am I going to remember all of this?” I remember the study sessions where students would stress out together the day before the exam wondering if they are prepared. I remember the last minute discovery of an important topic that I overlooked, to the sleepless nights thinking about how I need to pass the exam to pass the course. Then the journey to the exam location, Mecc Westhal, where I would find myself in awe of its size (similar to that of an airplane hangar) and looking down the rows upon rows of desks. Realizing that it was in a location where the majority of UM students in all faculties will be sharing three hours. Three hours of silence where everyone becomes unaware of their surroundings only to find themselves laser focused on the papers in front of them.

I am now entering the fourth week of period two and when I look back, it wasn’t that bad. After the exams came to a close, I packed up and headed to Brussels for the weekend. I have noticed that some people love Brussels and that others are not too fond of it. Therefore, it is up to you to visit and discover it for yourself. Whether it is Brussels, Gent, Antwerp, Bruges, or any other Belgium city for that matter, B-europe.com will be a savior. Not only is the site easy to use, it is also very cost effective when travelling to any place in Belgium. For example, I woke up one day at 11:30am and within an hour I was in Liège exploring the city streets. This has been very beneficial when you’re too busy to give up a weekend but you still want to take advantage of your exchange and travel to new places.

For the individuals that are looking to travel further, the site for you is Ryanair.com, more specifically the “Fare Finder” tab. Here, you will be able to find round trips for as low as 10 euros if you book early (roughly 3 weeks in advance). Another benefit of using “Fare Finder” is that you will look at visiting places that never crossed your mind. Overall, the key to finding a cost effective means of travel is to use incognito mode (this disables travel sites to track your cookies and inflate prices) and to cross reference prices on different sites (ex. goeuro.com) and modes of transportation.

If you are someone like me who wants to travel and isn’t quite sure on where to go, find travel buddies. Travelling with people will bring you to see amazing things because everyone will have their own unique must-see points of interest. For instance, I have made a good friend on exchange who is a full-time student at Maastricht and he has brought me to places that only the locals know about and has provided me with a wealth of knowledge about the history of the towns we stop in.

When second period starts, you will feel the time left for exchange is decreasing at an exponential rate only to find yourself thinking about how there is so much left to do and see. There will always be an abundance of potential trips, experiences, parties, and activities to participate in. Just remember throughout your exchange that it is never too late to branch out and meet new people because you never know where a simple “Hello” will take you.

Have fun,
Erik Sultmanis

Tips, Trips, and Tricks

Dear reader,

What I forgot to touch on last time was probably the most important point. I recently received a letter stating that I could risk deportation if I do not follow through with providing the proper documents. It seemed scary at first but it was all a misunderstanding. I am here to make sure that if that ever happens to you, you can follow suit and find the thought entertaining because you ensured that you are in fact a legal resident in the Netherlands.

I cannot stress enough how important completing all paperwork for your residence permit is in the Netherlands. I know that there are a variety of ways one may stay in the Netherlands legally, of these ways I opted for the Working Holiday Program Scheme (WHPS). The WHPS is offered to people coming from specific countries of origin (Canada was included) and is only valid for a limited amount of time (at least one exchange semester).

First, the University needs to be informed that you will be completing the WHPS. Next, upon arrival an appointment must be made with the immigration office (one person can book for multiple people if you’re going as a group). Thirdly, ensure that when you go to your appointment you have your passport, proof of insurance, proof of residence, proof of enrolment, completed the required document and that you brought exact change. After, a visit to the Visa office at Maastricht will need to be made so that a photo copy of your residence permit sticker can be made. Lastly, after a month you will be contacted to pick up your WHPS card. Yes, it can be at times tedious but planning and time management are key to ensuring a smooth exchange with minimal stress.

The second month of your exchange will fly by. Maastricht will start to feel like your second home, your bike will become your car, navigating through the streets will come with ease, and you will have developed a routine. In the second month, take the opportunity to visit Amsterdam, Brussels, Bruges, and one of the biggest festivals in the world, Oktoberfest. In addition, as an exchange student IESN has trips that are pre-planned, if you want a simple solution to explore Europe. These are just suggestions as I do know of friends who went to Norway, France, Italy, and Germany. While starting to feel like a student rather than a tourist, take any opportunity you can to get out of your comfort zone. Go on spontaneous trips, if you get a last minute invite, say yes. These are some tips that will help you maximize each day of your exchange.

Finally, the reason why we all came on exchange, the international educational experience. At Maastricht you will learn to use the PBL system to maximize your learning. Moreover, you will know the floorplan of SBE like the back of your hand and before you know it, exams will be right around the corner. Everyone has their own way of studying for exams but if I were to give one piece of advice, do your readings. Readings are a big part of the PBL system and therefore become a large focus for the exams. I have learned that PBL is a marathon and not a sprint. All in all, it is university and we all have taken exams before so it will be no different, just know what works for you.

To end on a happy note, remember to bring your traditions on exchange. For example, all the Canadians got together to celebrate Thanksgiving. This was a way to bring people together, make exchange feel more like home, and to have an excuse to eat good food, drink good wine, and have a great time.

Keep smiling,
Erik Sultmanis

The Start of a New Journey

Hello to the reader,

My name is Erik Sultmanis and I am 20 years of age. I am a Queen’s University student from Canada. For exchange I will be at the SBE (School of Business and Economics) faculty studying brand management and globalization debate in the first period. I became interested in Maastricht University when I learned that it was centrally located in Europe and that it had Problem Based Learning. Before arriving I need to admit that I knew very little about Maastricht. It is amazing how fast you will learn about the culture, meet new friends, and adapt to your new surroundings.

For incoming exchange students my advice is to travel before coming to Maastricht. Depending on the individual reading this blog, I have learned that there are two interpretations of travel. On one hand, there is the North American mindset where we try to visit as many places as possible within a fixed amount of time. Then on the other hand, there is the European mindset where travelling consists of staying in one place for a week or two to fully embrace the culture. I mention this because in two weeks I managed to visit Budapest, Vienna, Prague, Salzburg, Rudesheim, and then arrive at my final destination in Maastricht. I believe that travelling is important because you build an appreciation for how great Maastricht truly is. Small number of tourists and a large student population.

Upon arrival in Maastricht I stayed at the Stayokay for 2 nights before moving into the Guesthouse at 100 Brouwersweg. For exchange students who want to live in residence the key to securing a room is to apply early and pay your deposit. I was told that the C-building is the place to be, however, the Guesthouse is made up of many different buildings and they are all attached to each other. No matter where you end up, accommodations will be pleasant.

At first when I went to look for the Guesthouse I got lost so I highly recommend the pick-up service IESN provides. It was easy, efficient, and you get to start meeting other exchange students. This is where I found the city tours to be great. You learn about the city but most important of all you get to interact with people from all over the world who are in different faculties. It was at one of the dinners at the end of the tour where I met people who are my good friends today. When on exchange I have found that it is possible to strike up a conversation with anybody by just smiling and saying, “Hi,” followed by, “where are you from?”

Being from Canada where bars and clubs are closed by 2:30am, I was surprised to find out that clubs are open until 6am. Not only are they open until 6am but there never seems to be a shortage of parties. For exchange students who are not into clubbing there are plenty of patio bars that are very nice to visit. Two events that I highly recommend are the Summer Memories party and the first Cantus that IESN hosts.

As for student life, it may be cliché, but it is solely up to you to decide how busy you want to be. I played Frisbee with the ultimate team, joined the my-buddy program, and the blogging opportunity. The rest of my time has been spent with friends and exploring the city. What you will learn quite quickly with navigating around Maastricht is that a bike is crucial. This will decrease your travel time immensely and you will be able to experience a part of the Dutch culture. With regards to Maastricht the crime rate is very low but be sure to always lock your bike or else it might not be there when you come back.

The first couple of weeks at Maastricht are a hectic time but they are also the most memorable as it is the start to either a wonderful semester or an amazing year abroad.

Cheers,
Erik Sultmanis