First month in Maastricht: Things I wished I knew before coming

Traditional Dutch costumes (Hope it’s easy to spot me with blue hair)

Checked out the iconic windmills✔️, took photos with traditional Dutch costumes✔️, tried out raw herring with pickles✔️ (and absolutely loving it!) – It’s safe to say that I’ve experienced the best of Holland 😍
It’s been nearly a month since I arrived in Maastricht and I’m glad that I made the decision to go on exchange 🙂

Let me introduce myself. My name is Amy Nguyen, major in Finance and Information Systems at Queensland University of Technology, Australia (AH YEAH 25 HOURS FLIGHTS to Amsterdam, not even kidding) I’m originally Vietnamese, who moved to Australia 5 years ago and was in the same situation as I am today. Stepping out of my comfort zone, living in a different country help me grow into a better person and become independent. So this year I decided to experience it all again, and what a better place to be than in the heart of Europe- Maastricht!

A church in Maastricht

Learning from past experience, I thought I was well-prepared before I came but sometimes, reality does catch me off-guard. So below are the THINGS I WISHED I KNEW BEFORE COMING  (disclaimer: it’s never too late to know though 😉) :

  • Bring cash $$$, or at least travel card Okay, so I actually exchange €150 and hope that it would be magically enough for 2 weeks (rookie mistake) or until I get a bank account here for a refund from UM. But nah ah! there was so much to spend on and I thought my visa/MasterCard credit card would do the trick. BUT most of the place I’ve been to in the Netherlands only accept Maestro card and some don’t even accept cash (e.g. buses in Maastricht). Consequently, I’m in the position to spend as little as possible and longing for my bank card to arrive!! This lead to the next one…
  • Book an appointment with the bank in advance if you are intended to open a bank account. The process is to book an appointment (preferably ING bank), wait patiently, open an account, wait patiently, receive 4 to 5 mails and card and revisit the bank to activate.
    Not everything works instantly in the Netherlands, due to strict regulations, requirements and long processing time. Also because of this, credit card (master/visa) are rarely used here (So believe it or not, after nearly 1 month in Maastricht, I still haven’t received my bank card 😃 😃 )
  • Long distance travel with train is cheaper in Group (of >4p.p.) in Holland. The price from Amsterdam Schiphol airport to Maastricht was €27pp but only €32/ group of 4. Technically, it is €8pp, hence it can be even cheaper with more people. Tickets can be bought online
  • ISN Maastricht and ESN card – the key to an unforgettable  experience . I loveeeee to meet people and gain knowledge from people with different background, fortunately, ISN- International Student Network’s members have been wonderful in assisting new-comers in my first few weeks in Maastricht. I got to make friends with people from all around the world in ISN’s events, who becomes my travel partners in recent trips. Make sure to check them out!
New friends- Geny, Alina, Elisa on our trip to Rotterdam
  • The legendary Study drive! A student online portal to share anything course related. So far, I used the pdf textbook from the portal and save the cost of buying a full-priced one. It is a great source of studying if you have trouble understanding the required reading. However, make sure to not overuse it!
  • The famous Problem Based Learning is more time-demanding than I thought 😥. Honestly, because it is Europe, I would expect to spend any given time off class to travel (for me are 5 days per week :D). But I came to realize after a week that PBL is challenging and requires a lot of extensive reading and strong understandings of the topic before class, especially with Finance courses. Therefore, I decide to spend weekends traveling and other days to study. Moreover, I recommend traveling more at the start of the period rather than at the ends as it gets more challenging from time to time.
  • Cafe and coffee shop:  Cafe is where you buy NORMAL COFFEE and coffee shop, well you’d better figure this out yourself 🤭

Overall, I have been having a pleasant time in Maastricht. SBE (school of Business and Economics) welcomed us well with two days of necessary information, intriguing stories and arrays of Dutch food and drink, or BEER to be precise (Ikr, BEER ON CAMPUSSS, yessss my host university is better than yours!!!!). I must admit that STROOPWAFELS have become my favorite Dutch snacks since

I guess my first post should end here or else I could end up with a whole 100-page report 🤭 . Stay tuned for my next post about my adventures in different European countries!