A Few Final Words of Advice

It’s day #109 in Maastricht. I will back on the other side of the pond in exactly 17 days. Back to my routine, my regular university work, my “same old, same old” way of living. And oh man do I ever dislike the sound of that! I want to continue this journey, my story here in Maastricht for at least a few more months… I really cannot believe how quickly it has come and gone. I remember talking to my family back in September saying things like “I still have 3 months to go!” and “another 14 weeks and I’ll be home, haha!” When I said this, I could have never imagined how quickly the time would pass. So for my final post, I thought that I would share with you my last few words of advice. In no particular order.

Second period was definitely less stressful in terms of school work than the first period was. Global Supply Chain was a breeze and I definitely recommend taking it if you have the chance! Also, Social and Environmental Entrepreneurship was very interesting and very practical! Neither had a final exam 😉

Cantus is a must! No question. I only made it to the last one in December; Christmas edition. And I wish that I could have attended all four! It was one of the best nights here. Singing at the top of your lungs, chugging your beers in one go, seeing others getting “punished” on stage for not following the rules… what crazy memories!!! And if you do it right, you can even avoid the inevitable hangover the next day.

Eat/drink/study at Kafethea. I love this cafe with a passion! Great atmosphere for studying or just hanging out. I spend entire afternoons here on a weekly basis.

Check out the Christmas Market at Vrijthof! It’s crazy beautiful with all the booths and lights and xmas music playing. And the skating rink is lots of fun too! I could spend a few hours there easily. There was even a Canadian booth there with maple syrup and apple cider. YUM!

I’ve heard that the Aachen Christmas Market is also a must see. It’s super close to Maastricht by bus and it’s supposedly the #1 Christmas Market to go and experience. Haven’t been there yet, but I’m definitely going to check it out this week.

If you’re into burritos, eat at “With Love Burritos” and not “Bomb Ass Burritos”. The first is such a better bang for your buck (or euro) and tastes 10 000 times better! Also the latter is all the way across the river while the first is in Markt Square. It’s really a no-brainer.

Going out on Tuesdays is something that I never really got into, although it’s a big thing here for exchange students. Most of the time, it’s the night to go out. ISN hosts pre drinks at Atlas every Tuesday so that’s helpful! I went out for my first Tuesday last week and it was really different than I had expected. There wasn’t much of a crowd at Complex, basically just our group. But I don’t think that is the norm. And the music there… I had no idea that Complex was all about deep house/techno music. Not one of my preferences but I can’t say no to a chance to dance! What I’m trying to say, in a very long winded way, is that you should definitely experience a Tuesday night out on the town with your fellow exchangers! I will definitely be cashing in my two Tuesday nights that I have left in this wonderful city to experience it all over again!

Although I’m uberly excited to head home for Christmas, this ending is unbelievably bittersweet. This is hands down one of the best European cities that I’ve travelled to this semester and I’m so glad that I got to call it home for the past four months. So long for now Maastricht… this won’t be the last time I see you!

Until next time,

Tay

Advertisements

Bitten by the travel bug!

Since the last time I wrote, so much has happened. The final weeks of classes were very stressful for me. All of a sudden, everything was due. I had presentations, reports, and exams to worry about all at once. I only had one exam and although I was super nervous going into it, I think I did pretty well. Still haven’t got the results back yet – cross your fingers for me!

We wrote exams in the MECC – quite the bike ride to get there. The exam set up was very similar to back home at Queen’s University. A huge gymnasium filled with rows of desks and for a variety of subjects. The weird thing was that they assigned your seat to you instead of just sitting in a specific section for your class. I think it was a good way to organize it.

Right after my exam, my parents came across the pond to visit! I stayed in their hotel with them and we explored Maastricht for a few days together. So nice to see them! I got to see Maastricht from a different perspective than the usual “on a student budget” perspective. When they were here, we toured the caves of Fort St. Pieter. The caves are a total “must see”.  They are a short bike ride from the Guesthouse. You can do the fort tour or the just the underground cave tour or a combination of them both. I did both for about 10 euro and it was fantastic! The guides are knowledgeable, engaging, and so much fun! It’s a great way to get to know a little bit of the history behind this beautiful city.

Following this, I travelled like nuts for the next 2.5 weeks. Right after the first visit with my parents, I went to Madrid, Spain with two friends – one of which is from Madrid – so we got to stay at his house and really feel the city from a local perspective. And THAT IS THE WAY TO DO IT!! Seeing a city with a local is my new favourite way of travelling. You get to see things and experience things that you would never be able to see or do if you stayed in a hostel and visited the super touristy places. There is so much history here too meaning lots of historical sites to see. Best part of the trip was the weather for one (28 Celsius and sunny even at the end of October!) and most importantly the food. Best food of my entire life; not even exaggerating a little. If you visit this marvelous city, you will not leave hungry.

On Monday the second period began and after the opening lectures concluded, my parents picked me up in a rented car and we went on a mini getaway to Ghent, Belgium for a few days. A place known for the neat architecture, the chocolate, and the beer! And we tried it all! A lot cooler weather than Madrid though!

After Ghent was Prague. We stayed for a week. A little too long but if I were to overstay a visit in any city, I’m glad that it was Prague. This was hands down the most stunning city I’ve ever been to. The language there – Czech – is similar to Dutch in the sense that it’s nearly impossible to pick up. Still not sure how to say hello in Czech…

I had one day of classes and then left that night for Paris. Just got back tonight. I have been travelling none stop but I think the first few weeks of a new period is the time to do that if you want to. For the next two weeks, I’m staying here to get back into the grove of school and remind myself of what Maastricht really feels like. I have missed the convenience of biking everywhere. I’ve missed going to the awesome food market on Wednesdays and Fridays to get my fruits and veggies for the week. And I’ve even missed hearing the language even though I still do not understand a word of it! I can’t wait to know more about this wonderful city.

Time flies…

In a blink of an eye another month has come and gone. School has definitely picked up in terms of workload; but I suppose that is because it’s nearly exam period… WHOA. That’s crazy! The PBL system has become a lot easier for me. I find it easier to speak up in class which is what it is all about. I think the PBL system helps me retain more information which is great for exams.

I cannot believe how great the weather has been for the past week. It has hardly rained (a real difference from the first month here) and the blue skies just keep on coming! It’s really warm too; nothing like October in Canada!

Oktoberfest was probably the best weekend I’ve had here so far! I did the trip with ISN and it was absolutely incredible – ISN offers the best deal for what you get! The bus ride there was about 10 hours which was pretty tough but 100% worth it. Wear a dirndl/lederhosen if you can! I wore a really cheap dirndl from Action (7 Euro) and even though you could totally tell that I was a tourist, it was really fun getting into the Oktoberfest spirit! My favourite part of the day was when the band came on stage about halfway through the day and played traditional German music! Wonderful! People singing and dancing everywhere and standing on the tables downing their steins was quite the sight to see! 10/10 weekend! Glad I can check it off my bucket list!

Another trip I did was The Hauge, Rotterdam, and Kinderdijk over 2 days. The Hague was really beautiful and so many things were going on in the city on the weekend we went. The day we went to The Hauge it happened to be the “International Day of Peace” and there was a rally and walk through the streets that began at the Peace Palace. We joined in the walk for a little bit which was a cool experience. The Hague is an international government hub and both the International Court of Arbitration and the International Court of Justice are located in the city. I would definitely recommend the free tour of the Peace Palace! Very interesting! Rotterdam was an odd city – more modern than old European feel. Something new! Kinderdijk was neat to see but a big effort to get out to and back. It’s really in the middle of nowhere. Be prepared and plan your transportation before you make the hike out to the windmills or risk missing your way back as my friends and I nearly did!

Pro tip: if you go somewhere for the weekend and take the train, DO NOT leave your bike at the train station. Chances are it will not be there when you get back. 100% of my friends that have left their bikes at the train station while they travel have had it stolen. Those odds are not good. Walk or take the bus! It’s not that far from Guesthouse.

Travelling is an important part of exchange but an even more important part (in my opinion) is getting to know the people you live with! My floor had our first floor dinner this past month and it was wonderful! We all brought something to the dinner, some of us made traditional food from our home countries. I tried new food and listened to music from all over the world. It was a really fantastic experience. We are now planning our next floor dinner and I cannot wait!

My goal for the next couple of weeks is to get to know the place I have called home for the past 2 months. Travelling has made me realize just how beautiful and lively this city really is and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to explore every nook and cranny. Plus, my parents are coming to visit next week and I want to be their tour-guide and show them the best places to eat, see, and shop! There is so much to do in this city, I find something new every time I venture out of the Guesthouse. IMG_1397DSCF0430DSCF0443

Until next time,
Taylor

 

First 26 Days in Maastricht

“Hallo! Hoe gaat het?” That’s about the only Dutch that I have picked up so far… I never realized how difficult this language actually is. The language is just so… bouncy! It’s super fun to listen to as you walk down the winding cobble stone roads of the city. Get this: there is a street close to the Guesthouse called “Bradenburgerplein”. How fantastically amusing is that to say over and over again?!

So really quickly, let me introduce myself: my name is Taylor and I’m from Canada, about an hour north of Toronto. I study business at Queen’s University and am currently in my third year of the program. The international exchange program at Queen’s was one of the biggest reasons that I chose to study there. And now that exchange is finally happening, I can hardly believe it! What’s more, I can hardly believe that I have already been here for 26 days! It’s easy to understand how this four month adventure will come to an end before I know it – making the most of this experience in every way possible is the only goal I have while I’m here.

When my plane touched down in Amsterdam the very first thing I noticed was how green the airport was – there was grass everywhere! You would never see that in Toronto, I love it!

I wasn’t able to take advantage of the free pick up service from the airport because I arrived on a Thursday. The train system was easy to navigate and super fast so not a big deal if you arrive on days that the pickup service isn’t offered on.

I arrived a week before the mandatory introduction days began. The first few days were a little difficult because I had no idea where ANYTHING was or how to get anywhere. Plus, I didn’t have my support network of friends/family to lean on. When I wanted to buy tape to hang some photos in my room, I sat on my computer for 1/2 hour googling phrases like “the equivalent of the Dollar Store in the Netherlands”. I needed cheap tape and I had no idea where to find it. It’s doing the little things like this that you forget about when you live in one place for your entire life. Turns out, you can get tape in Jumbo (one of the groceries here) or Hema (kind of like an everything-but-groceries store). You can most likely buy tape at a bunch of other places too that I still haven’t figured out yet. It’s a constant learning cycle over here in the life of an exchange student.

I bought the Culture Package offered by ISN and overall I would give it a rating of satisfactory. There were 3 parts to it: Dutch dinner and a museum trip, culture night, and movie night which were spread throughout arrival week. I enjoyed the first event the most (FYI the Dutch love potatoes!) while the others were just “meh”. In my opinion, the best part of arrival week was the party held at the very end of it called “Summer Memories”. It was at Complex and it was an absolute banger! Go if you have the chance!

After arrival week, there are a few parties here and there. One of the parties called 90’s Trash Night at Complex was absolutely spectacular. I 100% recommend it to anyone that was born wearing dancing shoes like myself. I danced so much my Crocs fell off. I ‘m not kidding you.

Did you know that there are more bicycles in the Netherlands than there are people? That’s impressive! And the biking culture here is like no other! There is no question that buying your own bike is an essential part to experiencing the Dutch culture. But beware: biking is a serious activity here and you can easily cause a transportation kerfuffle if you aren’t in the zone while riding! If your bicycling signals are a little rusty, dust them off before you start zigzagging around the city.

Aside from the biking culture, the Dutch have a huge affinity for cafes and patios! I absolutely adore the cafe culture here. There are cute cafes with tons of coffee, tea, and pastries on every street you venture down. I’m warning you now: even the strongest of will powers will not be able to resist the alluring smell of these cafes and their homemade pastries.

And all of these cafes have patios too. Everyone still sits outside while they eat – and its the end of September! Patios are crazy busy ALL OF THE TIME – it’s wonderful! In Maastricht especially, everyone is always out and about. Sitting on the patio of the cafe is a must here!

As for the city life, its very hustle bustle here, but for students that’s awesome! There is something to explore around every corner and lots of “wow” picture moments. I bring my go pro everywhere, and although it makes me look like a total tourist, I’m okay with that. I already stick out as it is because my fashion sense simply cannot compete with the fashion sense of the Dutch.

One thing I’ve noticed is how insanely small the drinks are here – mainly the beers and waters. AND … you have to pay for water at restaurants! That’s unheard of back home. You can always get tap water for free no questions asked.

One of the most “whoa” moments I’ve had so far is realizing when Spanish people eat their dinner. In my perspective, eating a meal at 10pm is something I would refer to as a “midnight snack” but the Spanish call it dinner! Needless to say, most of the time I’m not eating my meals at the same time they are. Sometimes our meal times do overlap though; their late lunch could be my early dinner! Interesting that something as simple as “normal” eating times can be so different depending on the country that you are from.

Now a quick tidbit about the academic life here. School is really different and somewhat more challenging than it is back home. Problem based learning is not something that I’m used to but I’m adjusting. There is a lot of prep for class and participation is mandatory. It gets easier I promise. Positivity is essential in situations like this.

I haven’t travelled a whole lot yet but the plans are definitely in the works. Oktoberfest is this weekend and I’m pumped about seeing “normal” beer sizes FINALLY! Other than travel, my hands down favourite part of being here so far has been meeting all the people that I’ve met. On a regular basis I get to hang out with people from Spain, Ireland, Peru, Australia, Columbia, USA – and those are just my corridor mates! How cheesy, I know. But you know what they say: pizza isn’t pizza without all that cheesy cheese on top!

Until next time folks!

DCIM100GOPROG0021928.JPG
DCIM100GOPROG0021928.JPG
DCIM100GOPROG0021392.JPG
DCIM100GOPROG0021392.JPG