Welcome to my blog posts where I’ll be sharing my exciting yet strange experiences during my time abroad. My name is Rachana Pillamari and I am a 21-year-old Indian from Dubai. The first thought that comes to everyone’s head when they hear “Dubai” is that I probably roll around in a Lamborghini back home while I pet my tiger. Well, I am just an average Indian expatriate who was born and brought up in Dubai (there are a lot of Indians in Dubai) and I have had the opportunity to experience a wide range of cultures.
I am currently studying at the American University of Sharjah with a Major in Finance and a Minor in Theatre and Actuarial Math (yeah I know, it’s a strange combination). I am in my 4th year and I will be studying at Maastricht University’s School of Business and Economics as a part of my exchange program. I had decided to embark on this exchange experience to challenge myself and discover what the world had to offer. Since I had already been to places in America and Asia, my options were narrowed down to the ones in Europe. Moreover, I found the Problem Based Learning system at Maastricht University very intriguing, and just as nerdy it may sound, that’s what made me decide on coming to Maastricht. The whole decision to study abroad was a big life decision since I had never been away from home for so long, and excitement, anxiety and nervousness were the only emotions I could feel up until the time I left from Dubai.
I had to take a flight to Amsterdam and then catch the train from the Schipol Airport to Maastricht. I had a stopover in Turkey, so my entire journey was about 9 hours. Taking a train from Amsterdam with a ginormous 30 kg suitcase was quite the challenge since it would barely fit through the aisles in the train. After I arrived at Maastricht Central Station, I met with a couple of students from the ISN who were providing a shuttle service from the station to the UM Guesthouse. I was going to be staying in the P-building. I managed to get myself a bicycle on my second day at Maastricht and I went around exploring the city.
During my first few days at Maastricht, I was keen on exploring the city and finding good spots for purchasing my groceries and other necessities. My friend and I would ride our bicycles to the city centre and check out the stores there. I learnt about the Market that happens every Wednesday and Friday in the city centre where they sell fresh produce at inexpensive rates. I even went to a couple of grocery stores to figure out which of them had the best prices, considering that I am a student living on a budget. So far, Jumbo and Aldi seem like promising spots for inexpensive groceries.
I found it fascinating as to how many people use a bicycle as a means of getting around. Initially, I found the transition strange, since I was very used to driving a car around, but with time I managed to get used to that lifestyle and now every time I go out I am always looking for the perfect pole or gate to lock my bicycle too. I found carrying my groceries on my bicycle a hassle (and my basket was not enough to hold all my things), but I have managed to figure out the art of carrying my groceries in a tote bag on my shoulder and cycling at the same time. Another thing I really loved was how most of the local people have pet dogs, and as a fellow dog-lover and dog-owner, the sight of the little dogs on the streets remind me of home.
Upon my arrival, I was fascinated (and a little overwhelmed) with the newfound independence and responsibility I was feeling in Maastricht and I am looking forward to the many adventures I am yet to experience during my semester abroad. I am in awe of the natural beauty that Maastricht has to offer and I can’t wait to explore more of the city.
Until next time,