The true value of PBL

Dear reader,

maybe you would feel that the timing is not really right , but nevertheless  I will start my last blog with an answer I should probably give in my first blog.

One of the top 3 most frequently asked questions for exchange students is: ‘So, why did you choose Maastricht?’ It’s right after ‘What do you study?’ and ‘Where do you come from?’ and the only nice people that spare you with it are your fellow exchange students (note: a few days after writing this an exchange student made me refuse this hypothesis). There comes the answer.

I didn’t. (‘Nooo, whaaat?’)

Yeap.

I chose Tilburg.

And I was confident that I will be accepted, because there were two available positions and two applicants (one of them me, obviously). But when I came to the interview at my home international relations office I was told that the contract between the universities has been ended. Let’s panic! I don’t want to go to my second or third not-really-wishes! Thankfully the officers were understanding and checked if there were any free places left at other Dutch universities.

‘Maastricht, maybe?’

‘Uhm, sure.’

‘Make a little research at home about it and the other two universities, look if the courses match and tell us in a few days if you decide to take it.’

That was it. That is how Maasticht choose me. And the more time I spend at its University, the more I see how special it is. The PBL makes all the difference. We are probably getting boring here, always talking about it and our love-hate relationship. Because sometimes you just wish to have the old system back, the one where you can hide yourself in the crowd and remain a passive observer. The lecture type system. If you are coming to Maastricht, you can say goodbye to it. Forget about coming to the faculty a little sleepy, but eager to see what the professors have to tell you. This is a student-centred learning approach where you are the one responsible for covering all of the required literature, tasks, cases, projects, presentations – you name it. And that’s good. You might hate it, getting up at six, reading articles, reading articles, reading articles, going to sleep at midnight, not really seeing the sunlight (which is, according to the Weather App, more common than stereotypically expected in the Netherlands). And then you get used to it. You actually start to like it. Because giving presentations is not a nightmare anymore, but even a bit of fun, because you don’t have to go to the lectures of professors with unbelievable slow pace or because you can expect an interesting discussion at each and any of the tutorials.

Do you gain more knowledge with PBL than with a classical approach at the universities? I don’t know. But I know this. There is more to studying than learning facts. And PBL gives you more in the sense that it makes you active. Active as in constantly doing something for your studies, active in terms of participating in the discussions, actively seeking solutions and connections. I think that this is the most important thing I have learned during my exchange period. Do you see a problem? Think of a solution. Want to know more about the topic? There’s the library. Don’t like how something works? Change it!

Therefore I cannot say if I have learned more here than I would have at home. A book is a book. But more importantly, I have gained a new attitude towards learning, taking responsibility for my own education and stop waiting for others to do something. Take for example global warming. I am not exaggerating here. We all know it exists, we just all wait for others to do something about it. Are you feeling hot? Then join the Maastricht University Green Office and make your (not so) little contribution for a nicer world. I did, so I can tell you that you won’t regret it.

An exchange anywhere will be much more than just studying at a different university, making new friends or being more independent. It will change you. And maybe, if you let it choose you, Maastricht might just change you a bit more than other destinations. Give it a try.

Thank you for reading my blog. I wish you all the best in 2016 and in years to come.

Take care,

Monika

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Let’s go to some extra lectures!

Dear reader,

nice to see you again! I hope that everything is okay with you, as it is with me. I will dedicate my third blog to extracurricular activities here in Maastricht. If you ever find yourself studying here you will see that you can spend your much treasured free time doing various interesting things. Probably the favourite activity among exchange students is traveling, but I am sure that my fellow co-bloggers have covered that area in detail already, so I will focus more on activities the city itself has to offer.

If you are interested in sports than you will probably be very excited to hear that Maastricht University has a newly built University Sports Centre, where they offer spinning classes, group workouts or individual workout at the gym. Since I am only here for a semester, I chose the half-year sports membership for amazing 46,75 euros! With that I am able to go to activities like strength and conditioning, powerkick, club-power (working with weights), zumba, super HIIT, spinning, core and more or a wake up workout – you name it, they have it! You can also choose to be a member of the gym or a member of one ot their sports associations – there are so many of them that I am sure your favourite sport is among them (like slacklining or rugby).iMaybe you are more interesting in some additional lectures? Then Studium Generale has got you covered. You can find their agenda online or on one of the stals throughout university buildings. They organize really interesting lectures, lecture series, debates and movies. And because everybody knows that, you should make sure to buy the tickets well in advance (when there are tickets needed) or come to the lectures early. The movie screenings by them (held at the Lumiere cinema) are available for a reduced ticket price of 4 euros (compared to 6,5 student price at regular screenings), which makes movies like This changes everything, Merchands of doubt or The dark horse even more appealing. Interested in lectures on climate change, game theory or constructive conflicts? Be sure to do your tutorial preparation soon enough and not miss many of them like I did! There are also many student organizations that organize various lectures and workshops (some of them for free), but be attentive when signing up for membership. Or, I don’t know, maybe I am the only one that paid the membership for the wrong student association … My bad.

If you are more of a party type, you won’t be bored either, no worries there. But if you are more of a cooking/eating type, like I am, you will get your weekly portion of socializing beside a tasty meal as well. Make sure to check on Foodbank Maastricht on Facebook, a weekly Friday event, where you can participate as a volunteer in the making of a delicious environmentally friendly dinner for 100 people, made of daily (!) vegetable and fruit-soon-to-be-waste from the market. Volunteer – eat for free, come as soon as possible (or be left outside because of the crowd) – and pleeease contribute more than 50 cents. Why 50 cents? There are around a hundred people there every Friday that in sum give 50 eurous. You do the math and bear in mind that there are more costs in making an event like that than getting some onions. Thank you in advance 🙂

You can also learn how to cook every Tuesday at Maastricht goes vegan for only 5 euros and enjoy for example in an amazing chocolate cake like I did. But the best thing with cooking is that you are doing it in groups of 5, 10, 25 people with plenty of time to get to know new interesting people. Who knows, maybe you even fall in love? Then you can seek for some social support at the InBetween  (The Students Chaplaincy) – regardless of your faith.

If you are to come to Maastricht, you will definitely not get bored easily. Just the opposite, you might want to get away for a few hours and spend some time alone with leprechauns.

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They live in the Hoge Kempen Nationaal Park in Belgium 🙂

If you will be friendly with them, they might just give you a sit-full of chestnuts.

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Take care till next time,

Monika

Robbed and slapped – true or not?

Dear reader,

nice to see you again! As I promised in the previous post, I will tell you how I found my room, about an emergency matter with a printer and some newly gathered experiences from biking.

My hunt after a room has begun in May and lasted for several exhausting weeks. Ok, not that it would be that hard, it’s just that I’ve always done it half asleep after a long day. I’ve been through the lists of all the rooms of all the links to websites from the University’s subpage devoted to housing for incoming exchange students. And if your budget for a room is around 400 to 500 euros, you will definitely find some great looking rooms on fine locations. But if you are like me, you are looking for a room for maximum 350 euros, preferably less. And I can tell you that you can definitely find one that is actually cheap, with good looking furniture, and situated in a clean apartment with friendly housemates. Of course, there is a catch …

I’ve spend a lot of my time and energy scrolling down Facebook pages of groups like Flat hunting Maastricht, Maastricht student rooms – search/offer and Rooms/kamer/zimmer in Maastricht, but in the end I came across a website for Dutch students that had a link to https://kamernet.nl/. Facebook groups are great because they are free to join, but that also means that they are really crowded – those who offer a room get numerous responses and can actually choose who to give their room to. On the other side there are agencies whose best advantage is that whatever you choose you get, as long as you are the first to spot the gorgeous room. But you have to pay the agency a fee. A big fee. Maybe half of a month’s rent, maybe a full one. Kamernet is somewhere in between: you pay 19 euros for a 15 days continuous subscription. Fifteen days is more than enough to write to all of the landlords you are interested in (what you can’t do without the subscription), and you can continue the already started conversation with them even after you cancel the subscription. But you have to cancel it!

Otherwise the subscription goes on forever … So I cancelled the subscription on the 15th day.

And they kept on taking money from my bank account.

And they didn’t respond to my first message. Not to my second email.

Weeks went by, first payment, second, third … the bank said they can’t do anything about it, since I agreed to all of it myself … You can imagine I was getting pretty freaked out! Paying 19 euros instead of 200 or 350 to get a room is okay. Multiplying this number isn’t that fun anymore. The company finally responded and informed me that I have had a double subscription. Great. I guess you have your messages delivered by snails, huh? But I got a room. So I am still recommending the website.

Let’s just move to a happier theme. Like how a printer robbed me. I didn’t know printers had such superpowers. At least not until half an hour before a deadline for my first assignment, which had to be handed in hardcopy (and on the web). I did everything as instructed by the University: logged into RicohmyPrint website (the company is in charge of the printers you can find all around the University’s buildings), purchased printing credit, and uploaded my assignment.

35 minutes till deadline. I am at Tapijn learning spaces, happy to finish writing eeearly and with enough time to get to SBE and hand in the paper. I am walking up to the printer, a bit nervous for my first printing, but, hey, the instructions were clear, any kid could handle them. So I logged into a printer and my assignment was there. But the printer is one of those smart devices, so he knows that my assignment doesn’t have 7 pages, but 26. I don’t want to get into a fight, so I agree with him and press print – all to get my paper, it’s less than 30 minutes left and I am getting anxious. But the printer is not only smart, he is also a really funny guy. Instead of 26 pages, which I hoped would include my 7 ones, he has send me a private message on a single sheet of paper.

ERROR: undefined

You don’t say?!

Long story short, I managed to print the paper at the printing service in the Inner City Library and hand in the paper 5 minutes before the deadline. Then I returned to the Library where a Service desk is located and a nice guy figured the secret out. The printer wanted to print 19 additional pages and charged me almost 3 euros because of my last name. No kidding. One letter in the file name totally unbalanced him. Č. The guy was really surprised when he realised this and even took photos of the printer’s screen because he was sure his co-workers won’t believe him. I’m glad at least someone was having fun.

I promised to mention my palm-size bruise as well, right? As said, I got it from cycling. Or to be more precise, from crashing a few really charismatic street stone cubes. It happened because the floor was wet, my tyres smooth and I was rushing through a more than 90 degree turn. And my mind was busy giving me lessons how I should be more participative in the tutorials and stop sitting there stock-still. I was paying absolutely no attention to the obvious. Please, I encourage you to do the opposite. Participate actively in the tutorials and avoid getting a big slap from Maastricht personally.

Take care till next time,

Monika

P.s.: I got a refund from Kamernet as well as for the printing – the ICTS Servicedesk resolved the issue in less than a day, unlike Kamernet …

I’m back

Dear reader,

welcome to my new blog! My task is  to let you know what life is like in Maastricht for an exchange student. I will in fact only be here for a semester, but I obviously decided to give away my thoughts in return for a University of Maastricht hoodie. Do you think it is going to be worth it?

By the end of my writing you will probably think I am studying marketing and that this is an assignment in which I had to convince any lost soul that came across my blog to come and study in Maastricht. In that case you would get the reason wrong, but the intention right. I am a student of international economics at the Faculty of economics at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, that was dreaming of studying abroad almost ten years ago, but somehow awakened in the mean time and so had two years of student life in hometown pass me by now. That is how you will be more likely to understand why I came to Maastricht a month before the start of the semester, straight from a three-week trip in Spain and Portugal.

Yeah, yeah, you don’t believe me! I had absolutely no intention of showing this picture of a tourist wandering around School of Business and Economics with a grin from ear to ear to anyone but my worried mother, but since we are talking about a hoodie here … you get the proof.

First look at SBE

Imagine a month old puppy that sees a possible new friend for the first time. I was like that on the 3rd of August this summer. My intention was to settle in my new home, get to know the city, maybe explore the country a bit … just relax and enjoy while the end of holidays slowly approaches.

None of that happened though. Well, it did, in a way, but not in Maastricht. I came to town on Monday and left on Friday! I just woke up that day and got an urge to go home and spend the remaining three weeks with my friends and family. I was actually in a real hurry when searching for a ride home on blablacar (ridesharing website) because I had a plan to crash my brother’s eighteen birthday party (hi, David!) on Saturday. The idea basically came to my mind in the morning and three hours later I was at the train station … Besides, I took care of everything here in Maastricht, the papers, my room and of course the bike. And ooh, it was so fun to lie in ambush for my mother to come through home doors or walking up to my father and brother at the party. You should have seen their faces! Of course I didn’t tell them I was coming, what fun would that be?!

So I came back on the 26th, only a few hours before the introduction days began. Probably the most important thing of those two days was our very first session with problem based learning, Maastricht University’s best characteristic. Since talking is not quite my thing I knew that studying here will be a great opportunity to change that. I am still nervous before the tutorials start but after three weeks, I sometimes even speak without directly being asked. What an achievement!

I will give more information about how I found a room, why did a printer rob me and exactly which color my new gigantic cycling bruise is – in the post to follow.

Take care till next time,

Monika