I cannot believe I am writing my final blog post. It feels as though my semester abroad—the extraordinary adventures, friendships, and memories—passed in the blink of an eye. I could not have had a better experience. Maastricht has become my second home, and I will forever treasure each day I was so fortunate to spend here. Perhaps the most profound part of my experience was the lessons I have learned about myself and how to make a foreign place thousands of miles become a second home. Therefore, as a final farewell, I wish to share a few of the lessons.
Studying abroad is what you make of it
I remember waking up in Maastricht after my first night in the Guesthouse. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have…anything. I didn’t have a long list of to-do items, no packed Google Calendar, no student group meetings to attend, and no leadership positions to worry about. In fact, I didn’t even have a friend; I only knew one person in the entire country. I remember asking myself, “What am I doing?” In that moment, I learned I have the opportunity to create the life I want to live—a blank slate. That day, I went to the local gym and purchased a membership, sought a church community, began meeting friends, and searched for travel destinations with my new friends the following weekend. I created a bit of structure in my life and communities of fitness, faith, and travel. Without these communities, I would not have had such an extraordinary experience.
Lifelong friendships will be formed
A semester exchange is required for Maastricht University business students, so hundreds of exchange students are present at the university in regular students’ place each semester. I was fortunate to meet many exchange students from around the world. We cooked meals together, traveled together, studied together, comforted one another in times of home sickness, and were family to one another. This rare situation led to the quick formation of deep, lasting friendships. I have no doubt I will remain close to many of my exchange friends for years to come.
It is okay to simply “be,” not “do”
As with many students, my life at my home university is a whirlwind of studying, student groups, leadership positions, and planning for the future. My life revolved around my Google Calendar—“doing.” My time in Maastricht, in contrast, allowed me to simply “be.” My level of commitments was low, and my opportunities to adventure and enjoy the communities I had joined were high. I got to know a new side of myself—one focused on simply being.
Maastricht University’s “Leading in Learning” lives out in the classroom
Upon selecting a university to do my exchange, I noticed many of Maastricht University’s marketing materials said “Leading in Learning.” Though I didn’t think much of it at the time, I now understand the truth behind the statement. The Problem-Based Learning system challenges students to utilize course materials and his or her peers to develop a deep knowledge of the subject. Students truly are the drivers of their own education in Maastricht; they are “Leading in Learning.” I am grateful for this classroom style, as I have grown confident in my ability personally lead my learning in complex subjects.
As part of my final farewell to the Netherlands, I would like to express my sincerest thank you. Thank you to my parents for their endless support in my great adventure. Thank you to the International Student Network for helping Maastricht feel like home. Thank you to the Carlson School Global Institute’s extraordinary staff for supporting me in my journey to Maastricht. Thank you to Micky for reciprocating the Carlson School’s Buddy Program here in Maastricht. Thank you to my hall mates for being my family away from home. Thank you to my new friends for countless adventures and laughs. Thank you to my Maastricht church community and the MAC Gym community. Most importantly, thank you to Maastricht University and its wonderful exchange student programming. I will forever treasure this extraordinary chapter in my life.
Tot Ziens, Maastricht. I’ll be back.