Beginning of the end…

Looking at my calendar now, I have slightly less than 3 weeks left in Maastricht – time has flown by so quickly on exchange! It has been a wonderful 4 months here in Maastricht and I will definitely miss this place. On the other hand, I am looking forward to travelling after my exams and before I fly back to Singapore (probably the last time in a long while I will get to travel – especially in Europe!)

On a related, more positive note, I spent more time this month exploring the Netherlands and what it has to offer – one of which is Keukenhof (which I mentioned in my previous post). It was a really nice place, my first time seeing so many flowers blooming at one location – bar the high entrance fees and a huge crowd of tourists from all over the world. But it’s no wonder that there’s so many tourists as you will be awed by the colours, the variety and the sheer quantity of flowers – definitely worth a visit you decide to come to the Netherlands for exchange during this period!

Keukenhof
Keukenhof
Flowers, and more flowers
Flowers, and more flowers

Apart from that, I also went to celebrate King’s Day in Amsterdam on the 27th of April. It was a really huge event with different music festivals held in various places all over in the Netherlands. I went to the one in the Olympic Stadium, and it was so great that I even forgot to take more photos of the place! Awesome DJ lineup (although I must admit I didn’t know of most of them), but I think one will definitely be able to find some music that you like especially given the different stages available as well. It was my first time attending such a large-scale outdoors music event (we don’t have them much in Singapore) – I guess it’s one thing off the bucket list for me.

King's Day!
King’s Day!

But besides that, another thing that has been going on for me is of course the 2 courses I am taking at SBE. Having already experienced one whole period of PBL, I think I was definitely more comfortable with the structure of the classes now in period 5 – in terms of knowing what to expect and how to prepare for class. Although I am used to presentations back in my home university, there is definitely more opportunities / presentations required here as you are required to do facilitation / group projects / research tasks, which I really feel helped me to improve my public speaking skills. And right now, it’s crunch time for me as I have two separate group reports to submit by the end of next week (although it was really interesting to work with a really international group for both of my courses).

Well, I think this marks the last post I will be making on this blog – I hope you enjoyed reading them, and it is helpful for you to consider coming to Maastricht for your exchange programme! If given another choice, I will still definitely choose to do my exchange here again! So to end off, if you do decide to come to Maastricht (and I hope you do), I wish you all the best and more importantly, enjoy the experience!

View from my room
View from my room
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Beginning of period 5 – a fresh start, 2 new courses

Time has passed really quickly since I’ve arrived in Maastricht. It seemed like yesterday that I attended my first class, but now I have already started on my 3rd and 4th courses here: EBC2045 E-supply chain management and EBC2027 International business strategy. Although I’m actually doing a finance specialization, I thought it would be cool to try something different – hence supply chain management. I’m really looking forward to this particular course, as the content is really geared to real-world issues and we actually get to analyze specific companies! And of course, the lack of a textbook required and no final exam definitely helped in my choice of this course as well 🙂

One of the few lectures I will have in Maastricht... E-supply chain management
One of the few lectures I will have in Maastricht… E-supply chain management

I’m also glad to say that I think I did okay for my exams, although the results have yet to be published (i heard it’s about 15 working days?) During the period leading up to the exam, you could really feel the tense atmosphere around the place – I guess it’s the same everywhere, Singapore/Netherlands. I’ve also observed that the libraries extended their operating hours to cater for the exams, but too bad they aren’t open 24/7. Back home, we have study areas (not libraries) that are open all day, perfect for people like me who can concentrate better in the wee hours.

Looking back on the past few weeks, the time I enjoyed the most was the period when I travelled after exams (no stress!), as I didn’t have resits and there was the Easter break. Spent 10 days in Poland (Warsaw, Zakopane, Krakow) and Czech Republic (Prague) doing almost everything – hiking, skiing, eating, sightseeing etc. Especially for someone who lives in a country with no seasons, it would probably be my last time in a long while seeing snow. Not that I miss the winter much though, Maastricht these days has really nice weather where you can just go out in a pair of t-shirt and jeans and enjoy the sun 🙂

And of course, with spring, Netherlands has one of the most amazing things that you shouldn’t miss when you’re here – the world’s second largest flower garden (Keukenhof). One of the things I knew about the Netherlands before reading up on it (besides soccer and the colour orange), was that the tulips are a must-see for anyone. I’m really looking forward to it and will be heading to Keukenhof tomorrow morning! (stay tuned for photos).

Another thing that I’m really looking forward to in the near future is King’s Day (27th April this year), a national holiday celebrating the birthday of the king. I have heard that it will be a really huge event with lots of music festivals (mostly in Amsterdam), and I’m already raring to go with my ticket already bought. Coming from a small country like Singapore, there’s not much chances for lots of people to party in the streets, and I believe it will be an amazing time (like Carnival a couple of weeks back).

Writing this blogpost made me realize that I’m already halfway through my exchange semester, and it’s only 2 1/2 months more till I fly back to Singapore in early July. I will definitely miss the people/place, and I definitely have to make the best out of the time I have left here!

Morskie Oko (Zakopane, Poland)
Morskie Oko (Zakopane, Poland)
Krakow
Krakow
Warsaw
Warsaw
Prague
Prague

More than a month in Maastricht…

So, it has been about a month and a half since I have been in Maastricht, and I’m glad to say that I have settled down well since then 😉 Well, I did promise to talk about the much-hyped problem-based learning (PBL) system that Maastricht University is apparently famous for, but fear not – it is completely manageable and in fact allows you more room to decide how you would want to study! Currently for period 4, I am doing 2 courses – EBC1018 Macroeconomics and EBC2070 International Financial Management. These 2 courses are slightly different because macroeconomics is a year 1 course here and international financial management is a year 2/3 course – which means that I have a more complete PBL experience from 2 kinds of groups! Nonetheless, they aren’t that different and I’ll summarize what I think of it so as not to bore you… Basically, what I personally perceive from the PBL system is these 3 steps:

  1. Read up on the content before the next class (most likely a textbook chapter – but I have to admit that I’m guilty of not completely reading up on the chapter – I usually just browse through the pages to just get a feel on what the topic is about)
  2. Discuss about the content in class! (I feel that this part is the most important and thankfully not foreign for me – it’s about participation and being actively involved, as long as you have something relevant to the discussion – and you will feel more confident about the content by speaking it out in your own words
  3. Find out what to read up beforehand for the next class

So, doesn’t sound that hard right? Best part is – you decide how you want to prepare for class, so you have more free time for yourself if you manage your time well!

In class...
In class…

Of course, being on exchange means it’s not all work and no play 😉 During the carnival break and the past week, I spent about a week each to go on two trips. I went to Budapest and Vienna during the carnival break and I just came back from my trip to Vilnius and Riga yesterday! Being in Europe for the first time, I think studying shouldn’t be everything during my exchange semester and there is lots to learn from interacting with people from other cultures/places. So I did it in the best way I thought possible – by couchsurfing! It’s a really new concept to me I think, especially for us Singaporeans who wouldn’t really open up our homes so readily for strangers. I really enjoyed it and I would encourage everyone that’s going on exchange to try it – or basically just try anything that you haven’t tried before! And in about 2 weeks, the exams period would be coming, so it’s time to hit the books and take a break from travelling ;( But I’m looking forward to exams because it means Easter and a long break is coming up before the next study period. So I’ll probably do up another post after that & about my new courses!

In Vilnius!
In Vilnius!
with my couchsurfing hosts in Vilnius!
with my couchsurfing hosts in Vilnius!
Riga!
Riga!
With my host in Riga!
With my host in Riga!

Coming to Maastricht, and the whirlwind of events…

Hello everyone! I’m Wen Jie, from Singapore (National University of Singapore), and I’m pleased to be given the opportunity to blog for this coming exchange semester! People just call me Wenz here… just because my chinese name is really hard for people to pronounce.

I flew from Singapore to Schiphol airport alone on 23rd January, and thankfully it wasn’t too difficult to get to Maastricht by train. Only problem though: trains were suspended due to snow and I was stuck exploring the airport for around 2-3 hours 😦

Something you don't want to see.. no trains out from Schiphol
Something you don’t want to see.. no trains out from Schiphol

To get to Maastricht, you would have to take a train from Schiphol Airport to either Amsterdam Central or Utrecht Central, where there would be a train to Maastricht after that. Make use of the free wi-fi at the airport! (Plus this very handy travel app I used: http://9292.nl/en , which helps you plan your trips in the Netherlands – timings are really accurate and updated real time!)

I stay in the main guesthouse, so after arriving at Maastricht station I took a bus right outside the train station to bring me to Sint Annalaan (the roundabout where the guesthouse is located), especially since the pick-up service only started on the 26th. By the way, I flew in early because I wanted to have some time to settle down before everything started happening (and I think I made the right choice!)

After almost ~20 hours... Maastricht!
After almost ~20 hours… Maastricht!
Screens which show the upcoming stop on buses... very useful!
Screens which show the upcoming stop on buses… very useful!
Guesthouse room in the M-building - so huge and I have it all to myself
Guesthouse room in the M-building – so huge and I have it all to myself

I really like the room I have in the guesthouse (M-building). It’s so big (double the size of the room I have back in Singapore, where I stay on campus), plus I have a great view from my window! I also got a bed package from SSH Short Stay because I was too lazy to get one myself – you should really consider this if you’re coming from a faraway place and want something nice to sleep on for your first night.

In the first few days I was here, I set off to get acquainted with the place – supermarkets, banks etc etc. Most of these you can find in this place called Brusselsepoort, which has 2 supermarkets (Jumbo and Albert Heijn), and an ING bank branch. There are also other shops such as HEMA (sells small items such as cups, small furniture etc at an affordable price), and another furniture store (forgot the name) that sells stuff like electric kettles, hair dryers, electronics etc.

After settling down, it was time for ESN’s arrival week – basically I would recommend to go for everything! (City Tour, Neon Party, Pub Crawl, Semester Kick Off Party etc.) It was a really nice way to meet new people while getting to know the place (and pubs) well! Tickets can be bought at the ESN office / at a booth on the ground floor of the guesthouse (it isn’t that expensive considering all the things that you will be doing!) It was also during these events which I found people to go to watch a football game together!

Watching a football game in Maastricht - MVV Maastricht V Roda JC
Watching a football game in Maastricht – MVV Maastricht V Roda JC

Of course, this was an eye-opening experience as the atmosphere was really heated up despite the light drizzle and cold weather – glad to be part of the home side which won 3-1 in the end! Tickets can be bought easily online (but you would have to use Google translate as the website is largely in Dutch!). If you’re a football fan and want to travel somewhere close to watch it (only 20-30minutes by bike from the guesthouse!), why not consider this?

And after this whirlwind of events that happened in a week (I barely got much sleep due to all the parties), it was time to get acquainted with the school with its compulsory orientation days. The facilities are really nice and modern, although some of the classrooms’ sizes are a bit smaller than what I would have preferred. During the 2 days of SBE’s orientation, we got to know more about the school and its PBL system (on the 2nd day!). If you’re coming from Singapore (NUS in particular), I would think that this would not be completely foreign to you! Basically it’s a combination of participating in class and reading up textbook chapters before classes to prepare yourself with the content.

However, that is only my understanding after 1 week of classes – so watch out for my next post about PBL (and of course the upcoming Carnival break – (a week long, wow!). Hope you guys enjoyed reading this so far!

Classes... officially begin
Classes… officially begin
And of course, this is me.. at the Maas.
And of course, this is me.. at the Maas.