The Last One

Hello everyone!

This time I will be writing about the courses I am taking during the second period at SBE. The 7th week starts tomorrow, so I can share quite a lot with you guys.

This period was busier, partly because I managed to pick some courses where the workload is quite a lot, and party because I had many visitors in the last few weeks and I just couldn’t focus on university as much as I wanted to. Plus, I started my own blow (find me on Facebook under Makeuphoarderdiaries!), so I put my time and effort in that one, rather than the SBE blog (sorry!).

First, I will talk about Marketing Management. It is a 2nd year course here, and I had some difficulties with my home university till they accepted my choice (I’m in my 3rd year). Since I knew that the uni here is demanding, I thought that picking marketing (which I already had back in Mannheim) would be a piece of cake, and so did the administration, and boy we couldn’t have been more wrong about this.

True, we learn about the basics of marketing but we also do it through case studies, which is very far from the method my home uni uses, but we have this big market research project going on. On the 1st week, 6 companies from Maastricht and the nearby area presented themselves and the posed some challenges for us to solve. We were assigned in teams and then to companies, and had to come up with a problem statement, research questions, and hypothesizes to test based on the company’s intents. Then we needed to make a questionnaire and after at least 100 responses we gathered to evaluate the responses with some statistical tools in the SPSS program (which was just as dreadful as it sounds), write a report, which we just uploaded a few hours ago, and tomorrow we are going to present our findings.

We still have attendance, participation, and a written exam at the end of the period next to the research project. This course is very practical, but a lot of work and effort (we already had two deadlines on the second week, come on!). I am the only exchange student in my tutorial group meaning I was one of the few brave people who dared to take the challenge.

Anyway, by the end of the period, I like it better than my other course. This one starts out with a big explosion and you have to really put in some work to keep up, but calms down as exams approach.

My biggest stress factor is actually the fact that I have another very big project going on parallel to this with my other course, and the deadlines fall to the same time period for both, so it’s really just an enormous amount of work that I have to deal with right now. OH, did I mention that exams are in one week? Casual.

My second course is Brand Management, which I liked far more than Marketing Management AT FIRST, but then this dreadful project happened, which is just a complete mess. Anyway, this course is obviously about branding approaches, their history, application, pros and cons, managerial implications, etc. The subject itself is intriguing, and it was quite all right.

Then, we had to go to a movie and write a report based on a chosen product placement which was in it and its ethical implications. It was a short assignment, and the movie was a good one (Skyfall), but it only gives us 5% of the full grade and took a few hours to complete, so I think at least a 10% would have been more fair.

On top of that, we go a really awkward branding challenge to complete: a pension awareness project. PENSION. That’s not even branding! We had a looong challenge manual, plus something else about it in the actual course manual, plus some e-mails and announcements concerning some questions or problems with the challenge. So, all in all, it was pretty hard to filter out the really relevant information, our task was not exactly clear, and I got the impression that it was no different for out guiding tutor. Even more stupid is the fact that we only had a consultation with her two times, fifteen minutes each. The first consultation was at the very beginning, when we didn’t have a lot to show yet, but we got reassurance that we are on the right track. Then, the second consultation, one week before the final event, the tutor changed her mind about a lot of things and told us that what we did was not really useful. So, we spent days to re-create the whole thing, so close to the exams, wrote the report, and tomorrow we need to participate in this big event, where we have a promotional stand with flyers and posters and whatsoever, pitching our idea a few times over something like 5 hours.

The challenge in itself was a nice idea, but just the lack of clear guidance and the weird allocation of the consulting sessions made this a lot harder than it should have been. So I hope they reorganize the architecture of the challenge by next year and improve the process.

The workload was easier to manage with the new Gilmore Girls episodes airing in November. Who else has seen it three time already as well??? J

In less than two weeks, I am flying home for Christmas. I cannot believe how fast these few months have passed! I really enjoyed my time here, the uni is very hard and demanding but it really made me speed up and kept me energetic.

I engaged in a lot of activities here, the language course was fun (mostly because I speak German very well, that way it’s a piece of cake), LaunchBase is still going strong and I just love the little community there, and Maastricht is truly a beautiful and nice place to live. In January I will come back for a few more weeks, so it’s not the ultimate goodbye for me, and hopefully I get accepted for my Master studies here and can continue this energetic, busy way of living and learning.

But, for the blogging part, this will, sadly, be my last post. I really enjoyed this task, it was fun, and creative, and inspired me a bit to finally get started with my own blog. It was nice to reflect back on everything that happened over the last few months, I had an amazing time, made some amazing friends, had a lot of fun, and now it’s time for somebody else to experience the same.

I wish you all wonderful Holidays and a successful exam period!
Hortenzia

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Super fun happy times

Hello everyone!

I haven’t had time to write anything for a long time, but this time it was not the workload that held me back but the huge amount of fun I had! 🙂

I was first visited by a good friend from my home university, and we spent some chill days together: we watched films, we talked, and kept stuffing stroopwaffels in our mouths (of course).

Then, after she left, one of my oldest friend from Hungary came to fill her place right away. She stayed for a bit longer so we had the chance not only to discover Maastricht, but to go to Aachen as well (which is a beautiful city and totally worth a visit, btw). We also went to the Winter Vodka Land party, which seemed as a very good decision at the time (free vodka shots), but had its downfalls (let’s just say that cobble stones and bicycles were involved).

After this, I had a few days to relax during which I participated in the Innovator’s Challenge during the Global Entrepreneurship Week in Maastricht. This event caught my interest because this time, the participants had the chance to work with the Forza Fashion House, and well, give me an empty wardrobe and I’ll fill it. But all jokes aside, it was a nice opportunity to try myself out in something I haven’t done before, meet new people, and make some use of the squishy pink thingy taking up the place in my head. Anyway, it was a nice experience and HARD work. After the exact challenge was presented (ideas for a new creative hub in Maastricht for designers and a sales platform), we had a few hours to work on the project, with some short mentoring sessions in between. there was hardly any time for a break and long story short, we were all pretty pooped by the time we presented our ideas. Even though we didn’t win it was a fun thing to do and I would definitely do something like this again, and I advise all of you to keep an eye out for similar challenges.

Then, my parents and my brother visited (which was super great since I haven’t seen them since August and I missed them so much), so naturally I allowed them to spoil me a little bit with a bit of shopping and nice food. 🙂 Also, I mentioned to my mom that I would like het to bring me some type of Hungarian snacks so naturally, I ended up with two big home-made spicy sausages, two types of cakes, salty snacks made by my grandma, some home-made soup sticks, Hungarian paprika for seasoning, a ton of chocolate, and two bags of the snack I asked for. I love my family.

I promise to post about my new courses next week (4 weeks into the period, just in time). By the way, I passed all my exams, I got a mediocre 6.5 for my Strategic Marketing which was disappointing considering the amount of work I put in the course, but then I had a phenomenal 9.5 for Birthing New Ventures and life was good again.

So, thanks for reading and see you next time!

Hortenzia

Exam week

Hello peeps!

The second period has officially started today!
Before introducing my new courses, however, I would like to write a bit about my exam week.

You could have noticed that while I posted 3 writings in September, I barely made it to 2 this months. This is due to the fact that the amount of workload went steep up in the last weeks, and exams were coming. Think whole days spent with learning, throw in a big pot of coffee and you get the picture.

So I’m not gonna lie, this university sets the bar quite high, the workload is very high at the start, gets even more with time, and it accumulates in silence if you ignore it, so a week before the exam you will get a smaller heart attack upon realizing the height (quite literally, when you print everything out and flood your desk with it) of that sneaky pile! Tbh, I was used to a big workload because my home university also has quite high standards, but for someone who is not used to it and wants a chill exchange with parties all week and missing half of the week due to travelling is Maastricht not the ideal choice.

When you are not accustomed to this system, 8 weeks pass so fast, especially when you have a buttload to do, and then suddenly exams will be held in a week, and then you don’t even know where to start. So, future UM students, try to keep up and prepare for every session, make notes, summaries or overviews, decorate your papers with glittery stickers, whatever works for you, but do it, it helps.

All in all, I must say that even though they want you to do a lot, the exams are quite fair, it is clear what you need to learn and what you don’t, and to which extent. Plus, there are usually a bigger assignment or facilitations within each course which make up a big part of the grade as well, so the exam will have a smaller impact.

I had only one exam in Strategic Marketing, which consisted of a multiple choice and an open end question part. As i mentioned, the tasks were fair, and there was absolutely no time pressure. We had 3 hours to complete the tasks and it took me 2 hours to finish and check it 3 times (and drink 1 liter coffee, because why not). For this course, the exam makes up 40% of the overall grade, alongside with the 40% from facilitations and the 20% from participation.

The other course, Birthing New Ventures required case studies prepared and handed in every week, which count for 20% of the final grade, and the remaining 80% was the essay which I think I already mentioned in one of my posts. We needed to choose a biography about an entrepreneur and reflect and apply the theory on it about which we talked during the sessions. This was a fun work for me, entrepreneurship really got me excited and I was interested do the research, and my chosen entrepreneur, Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS, was a very exciting case to handle. This was quite all right to handle with the given literature, and the online university library is also a very big help when it comes to researching papers.

Sadly I had very little time to relax, and I also got sick which is why this post is more informative and less funny, but I will work on that next time when stuff stops running out of my nose.

Until next time!
Hortenzia

As Rihanna wisely said: work work work work

I’M BACK, BABY!

Ok, so I’ve been neglecting my blogging duties lately, but honestly, I am so swamped right now that I try to ditch sleep so I keep up with uni.

Because I have so much to do I can’t decide anymore where to start. Instead, I decided to write a blog post while cramming stroopwaffel (look it up, it’s AMAZING) in my mouth and listening to modern talking (yes, I know it’s weird).

Where do I start?

I’ve done both of my facilitations in Strategic Management. I was very, very nervous before the first one, cause one of our experienced group members got sick and I felt that I would have really needed all the support I could get for the first one. But, against all odds, everything went fine. I managed not to stutter at all, but I did sweat like a sinner in church. The second one was a bit more problematic: Even though we put in much more work, I thought we did a worse job that the previous time. However, our tutor didn’t give us much negative feedback (God bless his sweet soul), so there is still hope that my grade will be all right at the end. 🙂

I also joined LaunchBase Pre-Incubation, a very fascinating entrepreneurship program “for beginners”. So far we pitched ourselves and our business ideas, had a speed business-dating and a presentation on innovation. My biggest concern is that the 6 hours (plus occasional extra work) it takes away from my already limited time will exhaust me even more and keep me from finishing my work for the uni. Anyway, I was very surprised how many of the participants already have established businesses, and some of them are simply amazing. This one girl founded a company to provide small solar panels in Tanzania that are capable of providing a house with electricity. Another person programmed and designed a web platform for sharing study materials. I think I might just be the least experienced member of the group, but such a small obstacle shall not hold me back. I already had some promising ideas and I am getting really excited by the whole entrepreneurship-thing. Constantly having to do something with it mad my brain adjust and ideas come to me more easily than before. I am really curious how the program will go and wether I can actually pursue one of my ideas.

I must admit that the PBL system is less fun for me at this moment than I anticipated. It is quite hard to constantly prepare, and reading the articles is often not enough, you have tons of group work and assignments every week. It takes some time to really adjust to this system, maybe next period I can manage my time better. Last weekend I took a trip to Switzerland so finally I was forced not to learn (I still managed to get some work, though), but sadly that cost me quite a lot of money. It is bad to be addicted to coffee and pay 5(!!!!) euros AT LEAST (!!!!) for every cup. Hopefully nobody will unfriend me in Facebook die to the fact that I haven’t been to a party in 2 weeks (Mom and Dad, I hope you read this and this time you really believe me that I am actually learning).

 Ain’t nobody got time fo more blogging, so see you next time.
Hortenzia

3 weeks’ experience

Soooo it’s 0:05 on a very, very early Monday morning and I decided to write another blog post because you know, sleep is way too overrated (I’m being sarcastic here).

3 weeks had passed since I started my studies here at the UM. By now I am able to offer you some information about my courses, which I hope you will find somewhat helpful, however not too boring.

A semester here is actually not a semester, the academic term is divided into six 8-week periods. This can be confusing when you are new to the system, I am still in this „academic jet-lag” thinking there are several weeks left until the exams, but in reality, by the end of next Friday, half of the period will already be over.

About my courses: my home university allowed me to choose from any Bachelor degree course, maximum 2 in one period and at most 50% of them are allowed to be non-business related, and one language course could be accredited. I don’t have any specializations yet (my study program is general business and economics) and I have no opportunities to choose what courses I would like to study (duh, would my university answer, we allowed you to choose 1 whole subject worth 2 credit points, y u mad?). So, to get to the point, I was enjoying the freedom of selection and and the variety of the offers, and ended up with Strategic Marketing, Brand Marketing, Marketing Management and Birthing New Ventures (I know, lots of marketing there), and a Dutch course.

In the first period, one of my subjects is Strategic Marketing (which is why I am awake rn). Well, the name of the course is pretty accurate and covers the content well, no surprises there. We had two lectures so far, and two PBL sessions per week. Our tutor is very chill, so usually we finish early. So far, we always discussed chapters from the course book and some scientific articles, which are usually interesting. From next week, however, facilitations start: we must prepare case studies in small groups and basically hold a PBL session to our fellow students, where we discuss the case and the possible solutions while involving them in the process. This actually sounds a bit scary, since I haven’t done anything similar before (tbh haven’t even solved a case study), however I must do well since facilitations (there will be another one) make up 40% of the final grade. But I have trust in my capabilities and in our tutor that he will stay chill.

My other course is Birthing New Ventures, which is about entrepreneurship. Originally, I chose this because the grading is mostly based on a long (ca. 25 pages) assignment, and since at my home university I never get to practice writing assignments (man, I hope nobody from there reads this 😀 ), I thought of this as a good preparation opportunity for my Bachelor thesis. I was so wrong! This course is the one course to rule them all! Sorry, I am so tired. Bottom line is, the course is awesome. The professor is a very cool business hippie (yes), and has some skills in how to motivate and maintain interest. The weekly schedule consists of two PBL sessions, the first is a regular one where we talk about some articles, the seconds one is a case study discussion, for which you need to prepare and hand in a small assignment every week, in which you answer a few questions based on the articles used in previous sessions. There is reading list as long as the late Khal Drogo’s magnificent hair, but the articles are amazing. The final assignment is to apply verything you talk about and learn from the course on the case of an actual entrepreneur (by reading his/her biography) and evaluate your findings. This course really got me into entrepreneurship, I even applied to the pre-incubation program of LaunchBase, which is an association that offers weekly workshops and networking events in order to help you come up with an idea and create a business plan.

All in all, this learning system fits me very well. I always found it hard to keep my motivation high during the semester, but here you have so many impulses that it is impossible to be bored. Also, since you are in small groups, you don’t want to let the others down by not being able to participate, after all we are supposed to learn from each other. I noticed real effort from the uni to try to make the courses interesting for the students, and feedback is always welcome.  This is a perfect place for a creative mind to prosper (and for a scattered mind too, in my case 🙂 ).

I love this place so much, I decided to apply here for my master studies (there is even a master’s program in entrepreneurship, which is very tempting!). The programs only go for one year (don’t ask me how can they do that). I will write down some info about the master programs some another time, after I gathered enough info to share with you.

Sorry for the many bad jokes, I am just so tired.

Until next time! 🙂
Hortenzia

 

PBL&Introduction

Hello again!

So as promised, this post will be about the happenings of the introduction week and the PBL system, which could be interesting and/or helpful for potential future students. 🙂

So, let’s start at the beginning.

There were actually two introduction events for the incoming students: the official (and compulsory) university intro days and the intro week organized by ISN (which is like ESN but for all internationals rather than only for erasmus students).
From the 29th August until the 4th September, students were encouraged to take part in many activities organized by the university and ISN. Sadly, I still had an exam to take back at my home University in Germany, and I missed most of the programs (I was particularly devastated concerning the pubcrawl).

ON TUESDAY, the official introduction days began. It was really impressive, how well prepared the university was: upon arriving, we all registered and got a little envelope with the student ID, the certificate of arrival and a small card with all necessary phone numbers in case of emergency. Students who requested special documents (e.g. for BAföG), found these inside the envelopes as well. Afterwards we all took seats in a big lecture hall, and found a little orange messenger bag with the university logo waiting for each student, which contained a few very useful guides (how to connect to the wifi, how to use printers at the uni, some documents on PBL and essay writing) and a pre-paid sim card! This was a very thoughtful and pleasant surprise (but also I really wish I hadn’t already bough a sim card two days prior to that). In the following two hours, we were greeted by the decan, were told about the learning system and how we would need to work to achieve our goals, listened to the police on general rules and got a taste of the Dutch culture. All in all those lectures were all pretty entertaining (especially one prof, he made me laugh so hard I nearly cried), but slowly we all got quite hungry. After the lectures, we were randomly grouped and headed to the cafeteria to have lunch (praise the Lord for that). After inhaling our food, we got to know each other better and we embarked upon our joyous journey together to discover the city center and the other uni buildings, including the library. In the evening, I was keen to join my fellow exchange students on the international night. This party takes place every Thursday, actually, and the bar is very close to the guest house (and luckily, to our flat). The place isn’t so spacious, so it was just crammed, and half the students were just standing in front of it rather than going inside. Still it was  nice evening.

ON FRIDAY, we stayed in the groups from the day before, and we were lectured on PBL or problem based learning. This is a system that is applied to most of the courses (save for those needing a more mathematical approach). In this system, instead of participating passively in lectures, students are encouraged to engage themselves and learn from each other, under a vague guidance from the professor and tutors. The courses consist of only one or two lectures, and a lots of problem sessions. Normally, these sessions take place twice a week. You need to prepare for the first appointment by reading certain articles or chapters from a book. Then you get a problem or case study and talk it through during the session. Then you will need to do even more reading until the second session to have a solution outline for the given problem. It is expected to spend more or less 20 hours per week on one course (you can take 2 courses per period at most, which is not so surprising anymore after you get that piece of information), and to work closely with your teammates. This way of learning fosters creativity and challenges your intelligence: you should read books, articles and scientific papers just for the sake of knowledge, and at the end, there is no right or wrong answer, but there are several possible ways to approach and solve a conflict. Participation is compulsory, for obvious reasons. The degree of engagement is also graded. Besides this, you often need to write some essays or hold presentations. Your final grade is made up of all those components together.
About grading: there is a scale of 1.0 to 10, based on which every student is rated. You pass with an 5.5. On the other hand, it was made clear that you basically can never get a 10 or a 9, and you need to be very brilliant and do your very best work to get an 8. In the Netherlands, grades don’t really matter (or so I’ve heard): it is more important to have practical knowledge and experience, and as long as you fulfill those criteria, you are fine with just a passing grade. As happy as I am for the Dutchies, I need good grades in Germany (e.g. for Master studies application), so the grading system makes me feel kind of uneasy, again, for obvious reasons.
Long story short, our sample PBL session went a bit awkwardly. Since nobody has a similar system at their home unis, none of us was really confortable with discussing something completely and on our own, but this will definitely (hopefully?) get better after a few sessions and the group will slowly change into a team.
After all the hard work we did that morning, we enjoyed our well-deserved little student party in the afternoon. We had beer, wine (perfect excuse for daytime drinking), french fries, music, and a lots of fun people, so it was a very enjoyable little gathering. That was it for me on Friday. I went home after the student party and enjoyed a good book and a big mug of hot tea in the company of my little dog, of course. 🙂

ON SATURDAY, there were several programs organized by ISN, for example a bike workshop and a second-hand clothes sale with breakfast, but I decided not to attend them and raher do something individually. So I took my dog and boyfriend and the three of us discovered the whole city and until we were completely exhausted from the walking. I managed to get some last-minute tickets for the ISN Kick-off party for the same evening. Before going to the party, we went over to some of my new acquintances, and then headed to the party together. I had a great night with lots of dancing, I actually ended up going to bed at 5 in the morning.

Therefore, I have nothing to tell you about my Sunday, since I slept throughthe whole day. And let me tell you, it was great!

Hortenzia

 

Life in Maastricht (first impressions)

Hello everyone! 🙂

Two days ago I started a new adventure by moving to Maastricht for my exchange semester. This place is going to be my new home for the next few months, and I’d like to introduce you to my everyday life here.

In my first post, I will talk about the city itself to provide a general idea about life in Maastricht.

The city is located in the very Southern part of the country, really close to the German and the Belgian border as well (it takes roughly 20 minutes to Aachen or to Liège by car), which means you can do fun weekends or day-trips to a lots cool places nearby, and not only in the Netherlands. A semester abroad is always a great opportunity to get familiar with other cultures and visit new places!
Maastricht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands. The Meuse river flows through the middle and divides it in two parts: the left side is the old town with the city center and the university, and the right part is supposed to be a somewhat less pretty industrial neighborhood (I’ve haven’t checked myself yet, though).

Here on the left side everything looks like a fairytale. The atmosphere is really something special: narrow streets with tall, brick-walled houses, cozy cafés and crazy bikers. Most of the houses have huge windows, but strange as it may sound, barely anyone uses curtains. So I guess people always need to make sure that they didn’t leave their towel and clothes in another room if they go to take a shower. 🙂

Also, everything is very neat and clean, people tend to decorate their windows with little statues, and put out a lots of flowers on their front porch or balcony. The streets are kept well, too, but it disturbs me that you can hardly find garbage cans (this is particularly a problem for me since I have a dog and after she does her business I need to walk around with a bag of dogsh unpleasant content for quite a few minutes before I can throw it out).
Taking out trash generally is also something that takes time to get used to:  residual waste will be picked up from your apartment every week if you live in a big building with lots of flats (which is not so common), otherwise only every two weeks. For this you need to buy special bags at special stores. I find this system far from optimal, especially in summer, cause the trash will start to smell very soon and VERY badly. Everything else you need to gather separately and bring it to waste containers (hopefully somewhere close to your place). Except for the smell of old trash, I found it refreshing that people care so much about recycling. For this reason, I don’t even mind bringing everything to the containers, and this says a lot cause I’m a very lazy person. 🙂

Housing is a somewhat problematic topic in the city, or at least for students. The university actually has a guest house (about which my university has no knowledge apparently), where you can have a room and share a big kitchen and bathroom with 15 people. It’s nice to live there because you will get to know a lots of people and you can always find something to do with someone. However personally I found it a bit expensive compared to private room. For flat/room hunting, you can use various Facebook pages. There are a lots of offerings, however the number of people who are looking for a place is even higher. You need to be quick to contact the person who put up the ad. It was especially hard to find something with my dog. I was told that the old buildings are often under monument protection so pets are usually not welcome in most places (which is really surprising given that the city is full of dogs!). Prices are a bit higher than in Germany, you can hardly find anything under 400€. Most buildings are generally in a good condition. You should try to find a place close to the center to be able to attend all the university parties courses.
But even if you don’t find a place in the center you need not to worry, since bikes will get you everywhere in only a few minutes. Bikes are basically an essential need for living. Sadly, lots of them get stolen, so after buying a bike make sure to buy a big, sturdy lock as well, otherwise you might as well throw your money out the window. When searching, try to make sure to look for a trustworthy place so you don’t end up with a stolen bike!

There are various bars and clubs around the city. The university parties are usually quite good and you can get cheap beer and meet other (exchange) students. There’s an international night every Thursday near the guest house. The you won’t meet Dutch students, though. There’s a buddy program you can sign up for, and you get a Dutch student to be your guide and help you get familiar with Maastricht. There are also parties for the participants on a weekly basis, I think. At non-uni parties, alcohol can get very pricy, but you can always buy some beer at a supermarket. However, if you go out, keep in mind: drinking in public places is not allowed, and you can get a fine for drunken behavior.
If someone says Netherlands, coffee shops is probably something that pops into most people’s minds first. Here in the South the rules are strict: the locals got fed up with all the people coming from Germany and Belgium just to smoke weed, and nowadays not even Dutch citizens from other cities are allowed to buy here. You need to be a registered citizen of Maastricht and your ID will be scanned upon entering a coffee shop. However, smoking weed in public places is also illegal. Also, watch out for dealers on the street. It’s illegal as well and you can never know what you are actually buying!

So this was my very first try at blogging, I tried not to fail miserably at it.
I plan to write about the introduction days and the PBL system soon, and I will gather the first impressions about my courses as well.

Hortenzia