How I’ve been spending my last weeks in Maastricht

 

If I had thought that period 4 ended very fast, this past month passed faster than ever. I knew it was going to feel that way so I was already determined to make the most of the time I had left in Maastricht in order to go back home without any regrets. And I’m very happy to say that I accomplished all my goals and even overcame some fears.

 

Practicing languages while having fun

I studied French for 11 years at school but didn’t practice since I started to go to university so I was gradually forgetting the language and I was feeling really bad about this. This is also one of the reasons I chose to have my exchange here in Maastricht. I knew that there were a lot of French speaking students and I hoped I would be able to practice that language here. In fact, I was very lucky to be matched with a Belgian buddy when I registered for the MyBuddy program. She’s been helping me practice French while I help her improve her Spanish, since she will be soon going to Peru to have her exchange semester in my university.

I really recommend joining the MyBuddy program. My buddy contacted me even before I arrived in Maastricht and gave me a lot of tips to ensure I had a good start. We met during the first week of class and introduced me some of her friends as well as their buddies, with whom I’ve been able to share a lot of nice experiences during these past months: from going out to try new restaurants from time to time, to sharing our knowledge in different languages like Spanish, French, Italian and Thai, and joining the “Walking Shot” event organized by the Mybuddy Program.

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Travelling

One of the advantages of living in Maastricht is that you can travel to many places without spending neither a lot of money nor time as you can easily go on day trips to very nice places in The Netherlands or Belgium.

One of my most memorable trips was to a village in Belgium. A friend who is doing her exchange in Prague came to Maastricht and convinced me and another friend to go visit Chateau Miranda, a 19th century abandoned castle. I was skeptical at first since we were going to do a 3-hour trip just to see that castle and we weren’t even sure if we were going to be able to enter the building. I started to regret having gone there once we arrived to that little village that was literally in the middle of nowhere and was almost as empty as the castle we were going to see. To top it off, we realized that we would have to climb some hills and walk a lot of kilometers in the woods in order to reach that castle. I’ve never liked adventure sports, let alone in this kind of isolated places, but we had already gone all the way to that place and my friend was so excited to see that castle that I just couldn´t back. All I could do is go with them and hope we could come back home safe and sound (I didn´t want to wait for them by myself in the middle of nowhere, neither 😅).

We ended up all covered in mud and with some little scratches in our hands but we enjoyed looking at the beautiful scenery and really made it to the castle! It had already been too much adrenaline for one day so I didn’t dare to go up the tower, but my friends did and had a great view of the village from there. Overall, I think it was a great experience. Even though I think I wouldn’t do something like this ever again, I’m somehow happy that I went there with them and that I now have these unforgettable memories.

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Participating in an international competition

I think one of the reasons time seemed to pass faster is that I’ve been busier this period. A couple of friends and I have been participating in the SSE Finance Challenge competition organized by the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga since April, and we had to meet several times to work on the tasks together. It was sometimes very tough because the three of us had different schedules and the weeks we had to compete happened to be also the weeks where we had presentations or had to hand in reports in the courses we were taking. However, we managed to do well in both our courses and the competition and even ranked first in the preliminary rounds! 😃 We now have to go to the finals in Riga at the end of this month and hope we can keep it up 😋.

PD: If you also like Finance, I really recommend you to participate if you do your exchange in the Spring semester. The registration period is in March and the competition starts in April.

 

And last but not least I wanted to thank you for reading my posts. I read a lot of posts myself before coming to Maastricht and I found them very useful so I hope I could help you somehow as well.

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A summary of period 4

I can’t believe it’s already mid-April and we’ve already started period 5 😮. Time really flies! And this is especially true when you’re learning a lot and, of course, also having lots of fun 😋.

The academic year at my home university isn’t composed of 4 periods but of only 2 semesters, so having shorter terms here made me feel like period 4 was over in the blink of an eye.

Period 4 was very challenging, but I’m happy to say that I overcame all those challenges 😀. First of all, the PBL system is completely different to the teaching method at my university. The students in my university hardly never participate or give their opinion during class, and we just seat and listen to the teacher for 2 hours. This made it very difficult for me to speak during the first tutorials even though I had read the materials and knew the answers, just because I wasn’t used to participating in class. Fortunately, it didn’t take me too long to get used to speaking up, not only because I didn’t want to get a poor grade for class participation, but because the tutors would create a friendly atmosphere in each tutorial. The tutors in the two courses I was taking were very comprehensive since the beginning and would always encourage everyone to participate. I really appreciated that.

Another difference with my home university is that we hardly never give presentations or facilitate sessions, and I have to confess that I was really scared when I heard that I had to give an individual presentation and speak for 20 minutes in my Strategy course. During all my university years (and that’s a lot because I’m a senior year student, and we study 5 years to earn a bachelor’s degree in Peru), I’ve only had very short presentations and they were so few I can count them on one hand, so this was a big deal, not only because I really don’t like speaking in public, let alone for such a long time, but also because this was the first time I was giving a presentation in English. Nevertheless, I wanted to do a great job, so I put a lot of effort on it, and as I’m a perfectionist, it took me more than 3 days to get my slides and presentation done but it was totally worth it. I managed to give a good presentation and it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it was going to be, in part because everyone in my tutorial was very friendly and it was very easy to speak in front of them.

After my individual presentation, it was way much easier to prepare for the group presentations and facilitations in my two courses. Everything went smoothly, everyone was proactive and it was very easy to coordinate with my teammates. None of us felt that was put aside and all our ideas were taken into consideration. This is especially important for me as an exchange student. Some of my exchange student friends told me they didn’t have much luck with their groups and were either a little bit disregarded when they worked with regular students or had teammates that wouldn’t do absolutely anything, leaving all the work to them 😕. However, I think there will always be a possibility to encounter people that aren’t as cooperative as we would want them to be, be it at school or at work, and even if it’s impossible to stop thinking that this is unfair to us, we can also try to make things better and rather than keep complaining about that, we can also think of it as an opportunity to learn how to deal with different kinds of people.

The travel experiences of a food lover

Hi there! hope you are all doing well 😀

It’s only been a bit more than a month since I arrived to Maastricht and I feel like I’ve done a lot of things, especially since the Carnival week.

I was lucky I was in Maastricht during the carnival season as this city is known as the Carnival capital of the Netherlands. Once a year, the whole city escapes their daily routine and all the streets become the party venue for the carnival celebrations. You can see people of all ages drinking, dancing and singing in the streets, and entire families with members from different generations dressed in matching colorful outfits. There’s a huge parade and live marching bands that literally play music all day and all night (and I know this very well because I live in Markt, were most of the celebrations take part, and I wasn’t able to sleep for 2 days thanks to the bands that would pass by from time to time 😐). The bars and restaurants were also crowded, and there were long queues in front of restaurants and food trucks, so I thought this could be a good time to start discovering new food and try the famous French fries from Reitz I had read a lot about. I ordered the classic fries, with just mayo as a topping and I liked it.

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Lively atmosphere during carnival week

We had a one-week carnival break at the university so I traveled during this days, as most of the students did. The first place I went to was Liège in Belgium. We went in the morning and came back in the evening as it takes only 30 minutes to get there by train and the city is not that big. We took my Belgian buddy’s advice and went to “La Frite” to have lunch. We ordered meatballs and the classic frites with “sauce lapin” which literally translates into rabbit sauce even though the recipe changed and it’s not made with rabbit anymore.

We headed to different tourist attractions after lunch but the one I liked the most was “Montagne de Bueren”, which is actually a 374-step long staircase. I usually don’t exercise, so I was exhausted when we reached the top but was rewarded with an amazing view of the city and the Meuse river. After burning some (or maybe lots of) calories while climbing the stairs, we rewarded ourselves again with waffles from Pollux, which is said to have the best Liège waffles in town.

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The spectacular view from Montagne de Bueren

My second destination during Carnival week was London. I went there with a friend because the plane tickets were very cheap. The Ryanair flight from Eindhoven to London Stansted airport was only €10 and we were also able to discover a bit of Eindhoven as we took an early morning train from Maastricht and our flight was at 10pm.

That was my first time in London and I really enjoyed the trip. Not only because I got to visit a lot of attractions and even other places like Stonehenge and the city of Bath but also because I’m a food lover and here I was able to try lots of new food. I asked a friend of mine for some recommendations for places to eat traditional English food and got to try many dishes, from the classic fish and chips in Poppies (which is also rated as one of the best places to have this dish in London) to the more curious jellied eels and ginger beer in the same restaurant. When it comes to international food, I had a nice Japanese ramen soup in Ippudo for £10. Here you can also request for an extra serving of noodles for £1.5 as long as you have enough soup, but I didn’t ask for it because I was already full with my order 😄.

I have a sweet tooth and enjoy trying desserts from different countries so I couldn’t miss this in my trip to London😋. My friend had recommended me to try the sticky toffee pudding so I looked up the best places to have it and that’s how we ended up in the Holborn Dining Room, an elegant brasserie with good music and a stunning atmosphere that serves traditional British cuisine. As we were three, each of us ordered a different dessert and not only tried the Sticky Toffee Pudding but also a Yorkshire Rhubarb & Ginger Trifle, and a Glazed Lemon Tart. All of them were fantastic but the sticky toffee pudding was our favorite 😛.

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From left to right: Yorkshire Rhubarb & Ginger Trifle, Sticky Toffee Pudding and Glazed Lemon Tart

But my dessert hunting didn’t finish here… I came back to Maastricht via Brussels and had 5 hours before our bus to Maastricht departed so we took the opportunity to find the best place to have a Belgian waffle, which is different than the Liège waffle because is lighter and has a rectangular appearance. We found Maison Dandoy and, as we expected, had to queue because it was crowded.

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Belgian Waffle at Maison Dandoy

Thank you for reading and see you soon!

Mily

First week in Maastricht: expectations vs reality

 

Hello everyone! My name is Milagros and I’m a student from Universidad del Pacifico in Lima, Peru. I will be sharing my experiences during this semester and I hope they can be useful for both current and future exchange students 😄

 

Arrival and getting settled in Maastricht

I stayed for a month with my family in Madrid and it took me less than 3 hours to get to Amsterdam so I wasn’t tired at all. After picking up my luggage, I went to buy the train ticket to Maastricht and here’s were I started to realize that all the previous information I had found on internet wasn’t completely true…

I had done a lot of research on credit card use in Maastricht and was a bit worried because it seems like the Netherlands is not a credit card friendly country and I didn’t like the idea of bringing a lot of cash with me. For example, I read it was indeed possible to pay the train tickets with credit card but only on some specific ticket machine. However, I was actually able to pay with my visa credit card at the counters because it had a chip on it.  I paid € 26.85 (€ 26.6+ € 0.25 surcharge for using a credit card) for a single trip from Amsterdam Shiphol to Maastricht that includes one stop in Utrecht to change trains.

Tip #1: Don’t buy a ticket from Amsterdam to Utrecht Central because you will then have to buy another one from Utrecht to Maastricht and you will have to pay more 😮

Single trip ticket from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to Maastricht Central Station
Single trip ticket from Amsterdam Schiphol                  Airport to Maastricht Central Station

 

After buying the ticket, I went to the platforms downstairs. I was getting stressed because I think the information wasn’t clear enough and I wasn’t sure which train I had to catch. Besides, I wanted to ask the station staff but I didn’t find anyone on the platform and I definitely didn’t want to go upstairs again with a 25kg suitcase, a backpack and a heavy tote. Luckily, I found one guy that was also going to Maastricht and was in the same situation as me. I felt relieved because, at least, I wasn’t the only one having a hard time there and I wasn’t alone anymore.

I think we missed 2 trains but fortunately, we found a nice Syrian guy that offered to look up the train schedules on his phone and then told us he was also going to Utrecht! Once we arrived to Utrecht, he showed us the way to the other platform and even made sure we got on the right train before he left!! I guess I was very lucky that day. 😃

2 hours from Utrecht passed by very quickly, as I had a new friend to chat with, and getting off the train was way much easier this time as Maastricht is the last station. We had registered for the pick up service and there were two ISN members holding an ISN flag just at the end of the platform. Then, two other girls joined us and another ISN member drove us to the main guesthouse to sign our contracts and pick up our room keys. As I don’t live in the main guesthouse, they drove me there after I was done with the check-in procedures.

I rented a studio at Markt in the city center so the first thing I did was leave my bags at the room and go to the supermarket. Luckily there was one shopping mall called “Mosea Forum” nearby so it took me less than 5 minutes to get to the Jumbo supermarket… and here’s where I proved again that some internet reviews on credit cards are wrong. I had read on the internet that supermarkets only accept cash or debit cards but this time I was able to use an Amex card and, again, the condition was that the card had to have a chip on it.

After being able to pay with credit cards at both the train station and the supermarket despite the internet said I wouldn’t be able to, I also tried at some other places and sadly didn’t manage to pay with them but it doesn’t matter because at least I know I won’t die of hunger if I run out of cash 😋

Jumbo Supermarket in Mosea Forum
Jumbo Supermarket in Mosea Forum

 

Birthday dinner

This is probably the first year that I don’t spend my birthday with my family or close friends. I wasn’t expecting that much because my birthday was before classes started and, as I wasn’t going to live in the main guesthouse, I thought I wouldn’t make many friends by the time my birthday came but I was totally wrong!! I met a group of friends after a dutch dinner organized by ISN the day before my birthday. We went to the Markt for a stroll after dinner and they told me to go to the main guesthouse to have dinner with them the next day.

It was very, very fun night! One of my friends brought a rice cooker all the way from Hong Kong and we were making fun of this saying that he could start a business here in Maastricht and rent his rice cooker for € 1 per use because there was a strong demand for it.

Super useful small rice cooker from Hong Kong
Super useful small rice cooker from Hong Kong

 

I also proved my culinary skills and prepared Lomo Saltado, which is one of the most popular dishes in Peru, and they liked it 😄

Lomo Saltado, a famous Peruvian dish
Lomo Saltado, a famous Peruvian dish

 

Last but not least, I need to mention that they gave me a big surprise just before I left! One of them went to the kitchen for a moment and came back with cake! 🍰

 

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Thank you for reading and see you later!

Mily 😀