If you choose to come to Maastricht for a spring semester, you are in luck. The Netherlands is at its best in the springtime, with the trees coming out of hiding as their leaves grow into that bright, almost shiny green, fruit trees are blooming and the birds are chatting away. Since I grew up just outside Vancouver, I am used to having four seasons during the year and out of the four, spring is my favourite. Some quick reasons why:
- People are glad that the throes of winter are behind them but have not yet begun complaining about it being too hot.
- Mother nature begins to remind us of her mastery of colour beyond the shades of black, white, grey and brown.
- The air smells of new beginnings – blossoms, baby birds, exam resit week just to name a few
- Daylight begins to stretch out and before you know it, it is 8 o’clock and you still do not need to put your bike lights on
If you come from somewhere with dry and wet as your only options, going on exchange in the Netherlands will let you these seasonal changes and you can pick for yourself which one is your favourite. Having four seasons is a small thing I took for granted in Vancouver but speaking with a few other international students reminded me not everyone gets to experience them every year.
Apart from the cool nature things that happen, spring time at the School of Business and Economics is ripe with new adventures. Before I get into these adventures, let me quickly explain the SBE system. There are two semesters a year and there are three periods within each semester. So instead of taking four courses for 13 weeks, you take two courses for seven weeks and then have a week of finals, followed by a re-sit week for those who did not pass exams in the previous period, and then you begin two new courses for seven weeks. They also have a third period where students take a two-week, condensed, skills based course.
Maastricht University uses a PBL system, which is great if you are like me and do not learn much from sitting in a lecture for an hour or two. Most courses you choose to take should instead consist of two hour tutorials twice a week, where you and your classmates discuss the readings and look at the material from a problem solving stand-point. You are in a group of 15 students max with a tutor, and this group stays the same for the entire period. Within these tutorials, each course differs depending on what it is but often you are given cases and need to present solutions on these working with a team of two or three and running the tutorial in a sort discussion leader/facilitation style to cover the important material. Everyone is expected to complete all the readings prior to the tutorial and participation is required to pass the course without having to do an extra course assignment, which I have not had to do but rumour has it, they suck. Honestly, it is also just a lot better for the group if everyone participates because it makes it more dynamic and various perspectives are brought to the table. I think the most valuable experience I have gained from my time at SBE is the number of presentations we have to do. While tutorials are small, you are practicing public speaking either in the role of facilitator or presenter and I think in total over two periods I will have done this about 8 times, give or take two per course. As daunting as PBL may sound at the beginning, I really enjoy being able to concentrate on two courses at once and learning/reading at my own pace.
Alright adventure time. So if you are a semester only exchange student, you should not have to resit an exam during the resit week, which means you get a whole week off. I also had my other exams at the beginning of exam week so in total I had about 10 days off. Like I said, lots of time for adventures. One of my good friends came and visited me so we spent a weekend in Amsterdam, I ran the Rotterdam 1/4 Marathon, then we hopped on a plane to Lisbon, Portugal (which by the way, is beautiful but April is rainy month so if you want to check it out, maybe wait until May). Once my friend left, I still had a few days so I went to the north of the Netherlands to visit family friends in Groningen and caught a soccer game between F.C. Groningen and Roda JC (not Ajax or PSV but still loads of fun).
Then it was back to the grind but after a week and a half of school, it is now time for a long weekend as April 26 is King’s Day, aka one giant orange party here in the Netherlands. Mine just happens to be extra long as I only have class Tuesdays and Fridays. Rough, I know. I am heading to Amsterdam, where some family friends will show me the ropes, however ISN also puts on an King’s Day Activity in Amsterdam and there are more than enough day festivals to check out. The night before, known as King’s Night is celebrated by more than enough people so it is also something to check out. I will update this blog post with some photos once I have some so you can see the craziness for yourself. Searching it on google or instagam should also explain it a bit…
My time in Maastricht is really flying by but thanks to spring, I getting plenty of opportunities to stop and smell the flowers.