It’s hard to believe that in exactly two weeks, I’ll be back at home seeing my family for the first time since August and celebrating Christmas together. My four-month exchange program is quickly coming to a close and I’ve never had such mixed feelings about anything. I’m counting down the days until I’m reunited with my family and friends but the thought of leaving this beautiful city and my new best friends has me wishing I could extend my program at Maastricht University. I’ve seen Maastricht through every season, traveled around to other countries, met incredible new friends, played tour guide for my friends from home, and had the opportunity to take fun classes at an amazing University – it’s safe to say that I’ve tried to make the most out of this semester.
As I’m writing this, Maastricht is having its first real snowfall of the winter and the city has never looked more beautiful. Yes it’s freezing, but the pretty snowfall on the cute Dutch houses and the magical Christmas market makes it so worth it! Reflecting back on the last four months has me feeling extremely grateful that I even had this once in a lifetime opportunity to live and study halfway across the world and is bringing back all my favorite memories. I’m sure most exchange students have similar feelings about leaving Maastricht but pretty soon we’ll all be heading back to our own corners of the world. There is so much that I’m going to miss about Maastricht and living in Europe in general, but who knows, maybe I’ll be back sooner than I think!
My bike – It’ll be hard to part ways with my bike in the next few days! I didn’t think I would love the cycling culture as much as I do when I first arrived in the Netherlands. Coming from a town that you absolutely need a car to get from place to place, biking everywhere wasn’t very natural. Thankfully, Maastricht is a pretty flat city so it hasn’t been too difficult. The simplicity and independence of biking everywhere will definitely be something that I’m going to miss, not to mention how much better it is for the environment and my health. Even though it’s close to freezing temperatures, I’m taking advantage of my final days with my trusty bike and taking in as much of the city as I can!
European Espresso – As a coffee lover, one thing I’ll desperately miss is all the amazing coffee that’s right around every corner. I’ve definitely been spoiled with the amazing cafe and bakeries in Maastricht. My last blog post was all about my favorite cafes in Maastricht and believe it or not, I’m going to miss my cozy study spots and the places that my friends and I would go to catch up over a warm cup of coffee.
The Guesthouse – I’m surprised that I’m saying this but it will be hard to part ways with the Guesthouse. Despite the small-ish living spaces and shared bathroom, nothing beats being surrounded with fun, like-minded, international people who are trying to make the most of their exchange semesters. I was lucky enough to live on a hall with some amazing people so it made for the best semester! It was comforting to be able to leave your door open and just pop in to say hello to your hallmates! Living just a few feet away from my best friends made for eventful nights and the absolute best memories!
Location – Some of the best days were the ones where we planned last-minute day trips and just hopped on a train for an adventure. Maastricht is in such a great location – being so close to Belgium, Germany, and France and makes it a great city to live in for anyone with major wanderlust. My favorite day trips were Brugge, Ghent, and Aachen and weekend trips to Amsterdam and Paris. For anyone coming to Maastricht for the next period, I highly suggest taking advantage of the weekends when you don’t have a heavy workload and explore the surrounding areas. If you go with a larger group, tickets are usually discounted. There are a ton of very small, underrated cities that are extremely accessible and definitely worth the day trip!
European Standard of Living – Coming from the US, I immediately noticed a difference in the standard of living that most Europeans have. It’s hard to describe but my best explanation would be that it’s a lot slower. People, in general, seem to be less stressed and happier in their day to day lives. On the weekends, most places of business open later so that you can have relaxed family time during the week. In comparison to the students at my home university who worry about school work, internships, and part time jobs, the local students that I’ve met here are mostly just prioritize studying and traveling. It’ll be tough to transition back to my ‘normal’ life where I have to think about much more than just my weekly assignments.
Friends turned Family – There’s no doubt that I wouldn’t have been able to survive these four months abroad with the friends that I’ve met here than now feel like family. It’s hard to believe that we only just met but when you go through the experiences that we’ve had while abroad, it’s basically impossible to not get extremely close with each other. Saying goodby to my friends will no doubt be harder than I thought but we’ve already begun planning a reunion in the summer. I’m eternally thankful to have met the most incredible people during this experience and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s future journeys and accomplishments next time we meet.
Thank you Maastricht for letting me call you home for the past four months and for the unforgettable memories I’ve made here. I’m sure I’ll be back sooner than I expect, but until then…this is goodbye!