Amazing April

Time flies, I’ve been living in Maastricht for 88 days! I was busy in preparing exam, paper and Pecha Kucha in the first week of April. It took me a day to plan and submit my Pecha Kucha, which is a 20×20 simple presentation format where I show 20 images, each for 20 seconds. The PPT will play automatically with my narration from the background. I would suggest you to prepare earlier if you have the same assignment style! Though I have tons of reading per course, learning more knowledge related to marketing findings make me fulfilled. (Tip: library was always packed during exam period in the morning. You can easily find a spot at SBE!)

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(Maastricht)

I’ve seen typical gloomy and rainy Dutch weather in Feb and March. The weather in the beginning of April is amazing! I see cherry blossom everywhere in Maastricht, even on my way to take my final exam at Mecc. Studying in such a sunny weather make me feel loved. I always crave for food while I was studying. Guess what, it has been shown that brain needs more glucose since it’s consuming energy. In turn, I go to gym roughly three times a week. (Plus, summer is coming! Whoop Whoop)!

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(@Cafe Zondag)

After the exam, I went to Rotterdam for a day. Spontaneous travel makes me feel relaxed and good weather is a BIG plus. I visited cube houses and Erasmus bridge. More interestingly, it was the event day for Marathon Rotterdam #RUN 010 RUN, I can feel the passion and vigour of youth in Rotterdam.

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I tried to make best of my vacation, so me and two other girls decide to explore Scandinavian countries – Stockholm and Copenhagen for four days! In Stockholm, you can see trend-setting design, historic museums, and well-connected bridges. The gloomy weather and coldness steal the beauty of the atmosphere. I always join the city tour whenever I travel, it’s an enriching experience to know the story of each place. The guide told us the meaning of IKEA and how prince Daniel and princess Victoria met and fell in love with each other. If you are interested to know the story, feel free to comment or message me. 🙂 Walking along the cobbled lane of the old town, Gamla Stan, you will see Storkyrkan, and the Swedish parliament building. We also went to Drottningholms Slottsteater (look at my featured image!) and The Royal Palace. Another fun fact is that fake marble paint has been used for saving money in both the palace and the theatre in 17th century.

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Finally, on the last day of Stockholm, we got sunshine! Thus, we took tons of pictures and explored the subway metro art thoroughly. Did I mention it was snowing the day before?IMG_6726.JPG.jpeg

The bus departed from Stockholm to Copenhagen via Oresund Bridge. The Øresund bridge connected the Danish capital of Copenhagen to the Swedish of Malmo. When I woke up in the morning and felt the sunshine on my face, I saw the stunning view through the glass. An array of windmills was surrounded by the deeper blue glistening sea.

After 7 hours of overnight bus, we reached Denmark’s capital – Copenhagen! It has long been famous for its design, fashion and innovation. Besides Copenhagen’s Nyhavn and Langelinje Pier, I like the star-shaped fortress – Kastellet. The little mermaid sculpture  is inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s beloved fairytale can also be spotted at the pier. It’s such unforgettable journey to visit the fortress. It make me feel like a princess who grew up from this fairy-tale scene.

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(@Nyhavn)

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(@Kastellet Fortress)

I took Marketing Innovation Management and Managers@Work for the upcoming period. We played marshmellow challenge at the beginning of the tutorial as the picture shown. Don’t forget to check out the TED talk by Tom Wujec who used marshmellow challenge to show the finding of creativity and teamwork.https://www.ted.com/talks/tom_wujec_build_a_tower

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(Marsh mellow challenge)

Reunion on KINGSDAY!!! 

This is the most exciting moment that I was looking  for the past few months! It’s so nice to see MIBers in person in Amsterdam. I miss my friends from Queens so much. We hug, talk, laugh and just reminds me of those days in Kingston. We were in Oranje and embraced the Dutch culture. 🍺🍺Hope to see them again in Canada!

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(@Vondelpark)

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(@Amsterdam)

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After staying in Maastricht for 57 days…

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I have been staying in Maastricht for 57 days. It’s been rainy heavily during carnival break, but I was surprised that people were going wild day and night with their drinks. You have to check it out their costumes if this is your first time being here.

“¡Hola!”

During the break, I visited Barcelona and Madrid in Spain. I love tapas, sunny weather, and people there! Barcelona is known for the magnificnet Sagrada Familia church, Casa Batllo and Park Guell and other landmarks designed by Antoni Gaudi. I am intrigued about the history and humanistic culture of this city.

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I’m an Atletico Madrid fan. I was so excited to visit Vicente Calderon Stadium and watched the game! I feel part of this city when the whole crowd was singing for “Atleti”. At 9th minute, the fans all start singing for Fernando Torres to welcome him. I finally feel the unconditioned love to El Nino. Torres also came to support his teammates despite he just suffered from traumatic brain injury from the last match. After all, the boys have played an amazing game! 3-0!!! My dream has finally come to be true!

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“Study”

Maastricht University puts lots of effort in developing study atmosphere. I usually study at SBE during the day and Inner City Library after class. One of the most facilities I like is the smartphone charge station. Locking up your phone is the smartest decisions when you want to focus on your study.  Moreover, I’m getting used to PBL sessions already. Reading literature, learning from peers and preparing for facilitations have become my routine. I have taken Cognitive thinking and Customer Analysis in Period 5. Exploring human behaviour from a cognitive perspective and apply it in marketing aspect is the key.

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It’s also convenient to print at SBE or library here. Tapping my UM card rather than type my account name to print really saves lots of time.

If you are interesting in cognitive thinking or intrigued by human behaviour, I would like to recommend two books for you.

Charles Duhigg – Smaller, faster, better 

Dan Ariely – Predictably Irrational

“YODO not YOLO”

Besides studying and travelling, I also try to attend ambassador lecturer series events in SBE. Jay Shetty: Build a Life, Not a Resume is one of them. I like how Jay started his speech in a humours way. It’s difficult to catch everyone’s attention at 7pm honestly.

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“TEFAF”

I have also been to TEFAF Maastricht which is widely regarded as the world’s premier fair for art, antiques and design.

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“It’s not possible”

I’ve been to China, Canada, Spain, Switzerland, US. When I have a request to their customer services,  they always say “sorry” or “unfortunately” first and try to find alternative ways of solving it. However, I feel uncomfortable when people here just tell me “It’s not possible to do that”. I’m not sure if it’s the culture or language barrier that conveys the message inappropriately. What do you think?

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Overall, I like my program and its academic atmosphere. And thank god the weather has been quite nice these days. Looking forward to meeting new friends and learning more from Period 5! Last but not least, miss my friends lots and lots…..

Follow me @zanecai16 on Instagram!

 

Bungee Jumping and Christmas Markets

Drinking Glühwein at Cologne’s Christmas Market

We’re down to the last month, and as I enter my final few weeks in Europe, I can’t help but feel bittersweet about returning to the US. During our Introduction Days, Philip Vergauwen, the Dean of SBE, discussed the diversity of the student body and Maastricht University’s commitment to creating an international community. After 3½ months here, I’ve found his words to be true, and I’ve been very lucky to meet many people from all over the world.

Some of the people who came to our Thanksgiving Potluck

Thanksgiving, one of my favorite American holidays, was on November 24th this year. The first one was celebrated in October 1621, and was celebrated by both the Pilgrims and the Native Americans after their first harvest. Now, it is a holiday to give thanks and enjoy a delicious dinner with others. My floor thought it would be a great idea to introduce this celebration to our European friends, so each of us invited a few friends to join us for a Thanksgiving potluck. The turnout was much larger than expected (~30 people), and as a result, all of us had a lot of leftovers to sustain us for the next few days.

Dumpling making party

As a part of ISN’s Social Dinners program, my group members and I took turns sharing traditional dinners from our respective families. Previously, we went to our Dutch friend’s house, who served us Dutch pannekoekens with stroopwafel ice cream! :9 For my turn, I invited them over to the Guesthouse to make dumplings from scratch and watch Christmas movies. Although we had a few accidents in the beginning, our dumplings still came out well!

Post-bungee jumping in the Hague

Our next adventure was taking the train up north to the Hague to bungee jump off of Scheveningen Pier! My go-to fun fact is that I’ve bungee jumped 33 times, so this getaway made it #34! We got to the beach at around 5 PM, so we were able to leap off the pier during sunset. To celebrate our adrenaline-filled evenings, our friend introduced us to Oliebollen, which is now my new favorite Dutch pastry.

Christmas Markets

Maastricht

Magisch Maastricht

During the month of December, Maastricht’s Vrijthof transforms into a festive bazaar where you can go ice skating, ride the Ferris wheel, or explore the many souvenir or food booths in the center. ISN held an ice skating event there, and we got 3 tickets for drinks to spend as we wanted. It’s been a while since any of us ice skated, so we wiped out consecutively within the first 10 minutes. Despite these initial incidents, we eventually became somewhat more coordinated by the end of the night.

ISN Ice Skating

Cologne and Aachen

Glühwein is always more enjoyable with friends

Yesterday, my friends and I went to the Christmas markets in Cologne and Aachen, a must-see if you are in Maastricht during the holiday season. Personally, I used this excursion as an excuse to drink glühwein, try as many delicious foods as I could, and shop for Christmas presents. Since we had two Germans in our group, we were able to try all the best foods in both cities! :^)

Something delicious with a dark chocolate drizzle

I was surprised to find out that Cologne had six Christmas markets, and we explored five of them before heading to Aachen for dinner. My favorite one was the “Markt der Engel,” or Angel Christmas Market, because of how beautiful the lights looked after sundown. 

Markt der Engel

In the 4 months that I’ve been here, I’ve travelled to 9 countries and 28 cities, and I’ve made some friendships that I know will last, even if we are in different countries or continents. Thank you, Maastricht University, for one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had.

Hope to see you again soon,

Caroline (Instagram: @oh.deeeng)

Previous Posts:

 

Café Crawl, or alternatives to the Library

Happy November, and happy early Thanksgiving to all my fellow Americans! :^) My time abroad has flown by, and it still hasn’t hit me that I only have one month left. My last blog post was mainly travel-oriented, with a small mention of our Cafe Crawl that I wanted to pick up on for this month’s post.

I previously discovered that Maastricht has the highest café density in the Netherlands, with 1 café for every 350 inhabitants, compared to the 1-per-900 national average. Given a personal obsession with cafe/coffee culture, and mainly an aversion to and an inability to study in my room or at the library (if I am in UM’s library, you know I am in trouble), I have been exploring Maastricht’s cafe scene for alternative study spots.

Some things that I look for in a study spot include: 1) free wifi, 2) caffeinated beverages to keep me going throughout the day, and 3) an attention to aesthetic.

Alley Cat Bikes & Coffee

This cafe is a place I would describe as quintessentially Dutch. Not only do they serve coffee and act as a study space during the day, but they also provide bike repair services and sell bike equipment. As of now, this is the only cafe I have found that serves Matcha Lattes.

The Livin’ Room

After hearing positive opinions about this place from a floormate, some friends and I decided to check this place out. While their drinks are a little bit pricier than places like Coffeelovers, they have smoothie bowls, healthy wraps, an outdoor garden, and comfortable couches in the front if you are lucky enough to grab a spot. Every time I come here, I download Shazam (music listening app) because their entire playlist is amazing and features a lot of Elvis Presley.

Furniture & Cafe

This was a place that I discovered by accident, but this furniture store x cafe gives you a complementary mini-stroopwafel with each beverage that you buy. Their Tea Quiero tea line is delicious as well. While they don’t serve pastries, they have an eclectic mix of furniture styles all over the store.

Teazone

During the warmer months, Teazone opens up its outdoor rooftop lounge, with plenty of comfortable couches and chairs. It also has a designated study room for students, as well as many delicious pastries. Inside, it combines both rustic elements with some quirky, hippie-culture inspired pieces which makes for a fun environment to study or to catch up with friends.

Koffie

Koffie is one of the most popular places for UM students to study. It doubles both a concept/clothing store and as a coffeehouse. Its interior has a very modern, minimalist vibe—almost the opposite of Teazone’s. My friends are very partial to their pastries, and if you are craving more solid food, Koffie and Cato by Cato (a cheap, international deli across the street) supposedly have an agreement where you can bring food from Cato by Cato into Koffie.

Boekhandel Dominicanen

Boekhandel Dominicanen is featured on a Buzzfeed article highlighting “bookstores that will literally change your life.” It is regarded as one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, since it is located in a 700-year-old Gothic church. As one of Maastricht’s main tourist attractions, the Coffeelovers cafe inside the bookstore can get crowded, but it still makes for a solid study spot.

SSC Coffeelovers

Located inside the Student Services Centre, this Coffeelovers is usually crowded. While it is not my favorite place for this reason, it is very convenient when going to and from class, since it is very close to the SBE.

UM Sports

During Maastricht University’s Welcome Week, they offered free Try-5 fitness passes to the UM Sports Gym. Although studying at the gym may not sound particularly appealing, they have study spaces on the second floor and a bar/cafe on the first floor which may help make cramming for tutorials go by more quickly.

Deli Belge

While Deli Belge is more of a sandwich/food shop than a cafe, it provides free wifi and some window seating, and is located conveniently across from the SBE building.

Hopefully these cafés were a good starting point for anybody interested in exploring more of Maastricht (or for those who just need a break from the library)!

Until next time,

Caroline (Instagram: @oh.deeeng)

September Blog Post

October Blog Post

 

So close, yet so foreign…

After about five weeks of experiencing the Problem Based Learning system in Maastricht, I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to travel a little bit. A few classes had to be missed, but in the end I was able to free up about 12 days to explore Belgium and France.

My girlfriend (Tania) arrived on Sunday the 28th of September and we spent the first two days in Maastricht as I had to attend one last class on the Monday night before we could leave. We had booked accommodation at all of the destinations, but decided to figure out the transportation arrangements as needed. We visited the train station in Maastricht and asked the lady behind the counter what the cheapest way was to get to Ghent (Belgium). I appreciated her sense of humour as she casually replied: “Walking”. The cheapest train ticket turned out to be €21 pp. She advised us to book online as it could be cheaper. We ended up buying tickets to Vise (the first Belgian city across the border) for €3.40 and tickets to Ghent from Vise for €6. Amazing what a bit of googling can accomplish…

We spent the Tuesday afternoon and evening in Ghent, soaking up the culture and all of the beer we could get our lips on (and afford). Before my departure for Europe, my mother told me that she had visited Bruges when she was younger and that it was a must-see. We decided to leave for Bruges early on the Wednesday and I have to admit that it didn’t disappoint. Tania and I spent some time at a market in the city centre before taking a tour of Bruges on a boat in the canals (definitely one of my top three experiences of the trip). Having spent quite a bit of money earlier the day buying a Go Pass 10 ticket (10 train rides between any two cities in Belgium for €51), we decided to get a typical student lunch at a super market – chips on bread. Being in Belgium, we decided to get a beer to go with our bread and chips and this is where we met Jupiler who became an instant friend of ours. Jupiler is by no way the best beer in the world, but going at a rate of €1.40 for a 75cl (750ml) bottle we certainly weren’t going to complain. We visited a couple of Beer houses and headed back to Ghent. The next day was spent in Antwerp, which was very modern in comparison to Bruges and with massive screens against the buildings in the main street, it seemed more like New York than a city in Belgium.

On Friday morning we packed our backpacks and headed to Dampoort station where we caught a Eurolines bus to Paris. The trip was about three and a half hours long. We were actually headed towards Tours (a town in France) so upon our arrival in Paris we took the underground (I don’t understand why every city in the world doesn’t have this) to a certain station where we would meet our lift to Tours. We found a lift using BlaBlaCar – an app (and website) that puts you in touch with people driving between a ‘From’ city and a ‘To’ city. Using BlaBlaCar to Tours and back actually saved Tania and me about €200 in total when compared to the TGV. We lived in a very cute little house next to the La Loire River. Tania and I decided to go for dinner at a spot suggested to us by our host. We saw pizzeria and decided that it would be a safe bet and we sat down. The menus handed to us were in French and we asked for English menus. They looked at us with a certain disbelief and said (gestured) that there weren’t any. We could figure out that one of the items on the menu was a plate with an assortment of cheeses and we decided to go for that and a pizza. The cheese platter arrived and it was accompanied by a basket of bread. We asked for butter and got one of the most confused looks I have ever received. After using hand gestures and different pronunciations for about 2 minutes we gave up. Biting on the dry piece of bread made me realise something that lead to the title of this blog post.

In South Africa (and the rest of Africa I would presume), Europe is synonymous with western civilisation. Since Great Britain forms part of the European continent, the general feeling is that English comes from Europe. Although I am very aware of languages like French, German, Spanish, etc., I thought that those languages are similar to Xhosa and Afrikaans in South Africa. In South Africa, we have 11 official languages which all come from different tribes that make up the so called “Rainbow Nation”. However, the majority of South Africans can have a conversation in English (albeit a bit broken at times). Coming to Europe, I expected the same. I thought that conversations between different nationalities would take place in English and that local conversations would take place in the official language of that country. I soon came to realise that almost all countries in Europe have got their own language. Netherlands has got Dutch, Germany has got German, France has got French, Italy has got Italian, Spain has got Spanish, and the list continues. Every single country in Europe, irrespective of how small, has got its own identity and pride. If you take they train for one day, you could probably experience 5 different countries with 5 different cultures. Sure, some of the infrastructure might be similar, but the diet and the culture of all of those 5 countries would be extremely different and unique. This also explains why most of the European students that I have met are so well travelled. Every time they cross a boarder, it’s as if they experience a new continent. I’m getting side tracked…

After our dining experience with a pinch of Pictionary, Tania and I decided to download the offline French language package which turned out to be one of the most helpful things on the planet. The next day we took the train to Chinon – a MUST if you are ever in that part of the France. The landscape is breath-taking and we visited an old castle which was more fun than you would expect. Our last day in Tours was spent bicycling to Villandry on bikes that we rented. It was definitely a highlight of the trip (the second experience to make it into my top three). They trip was about 40 km in total (20 there and 20 back) and the path was next to a beautiful river the whole way. That evening we left for Paris (using BlaBlaCar again) and arrived just after 20h00.

The first day in Paris was referred to as our recon mission. There are many things to see in Paris and many ways to get to them so we needed to plan our next two days. We visited the Eiffel tower for some pictures and to find out how to get tickets. We also looked at various options to decide what the best way would be to see all the sites the next day. We went to bed with a clear strategy for the next day: Get BatoBus tickets (the hop on hop off boats on the river) and then just follow their route. Everything went according to plan for the first 3 hours, but then I realised that I had made the biggest mistake a tourist could make – I didn’t charge my camera’s battery…and what made it worse is that we had just put our lock on the Love Lock Bridge and we took about 5 pictures when the battery died. We rushed back to the house to charge it for about half an hour and to grab a bite. Unfortunately this meant that there wouldn’t be enough time to go to the Eiffel tower so we decided to postpone that to our last day. Luckily we could still see the Louvre and the highlight of the day (and maybe even the trip) was the Arc de Triomphe. By the way, you can visit the Arc de Triomphe for free if you show your Dutch residence permit. We got there just after sunset and the view was breathtaking!

The next day we decided to see what Notre Dame looks like from the inside and decided to go have a look at Moulin Rouge (not that impressive). We finally got to visit the Eiffel tower – which was way higher than I ever expected! On our way back we went for a drink in Belleville and prepared for our journey to Brussels – the last stop.

We enjoyed the time in Brussels, although it was a bit overshadowed by the fact that it was to be the last two days that Tania and I were together before the last stretch of 11 weeks. We went to the market place (VERY beautiful) and spent quite some time at “The Big Game” – a pub with a ‘happy hour’ from 11h00-24h00. The last hiccup was getting to the airport and not being able to find the right bus stop (did I forget to mention that Brussels is also French). As we sat on the bus Tania and I reflected on our trip and it was undeniably an unforgettable experience and definitely worth missing a couple of classes for.

The PBL System… from a Canadian’s point of view

Aren’t we all thrilled that block 1 exams are finally over?! While some of my UCM and Law roommates were enjoying travel throughout Stockholm, as a business student I remained dedicated to the library until last Friday. I was certainly envious that other faculties offered a break period in between block 1’s final exams and the beginning of block 2 courses, but nonetheless, additional study time is always useful. I wrote the Management of Organizations exam last Thursday, which went well, and Operations Management on Friday, which I found difficult:

Let’s hope this is not how I feel when I receive my Operations results…

Before I discuss my thoughts on the PBL system here at Maastricht University, let me introduce myself. My name is Emma Harris, and I’m a 21 year old business and psychology student from The University of Western Ontario, located in London (Ontario!), which is about 2 hours from Toronto. Although born there, my family moved to a smaller city about 30 minutes west when I was around 3 years old; bigger family = more space. I have a younger brother (19) and a younger sister (17), and am also a proud owner of two Labrador Retrievers. Before moving away from home for university, I was an avid horseback rider, and spent the majority of my free time competing in national showjumping competitions with my horses. Other than riding, I love to run, read, write, and travel!

As a business student, I am hoping to embark on a career in micro-finance. I am passionate about issues affecting women in business, as well as recent advancements in the process of democratizing education. One day, I hope to be able to enter a field of work that grants disadvantaged women access to “free” education, allowing them to pursue their educational and/or career interests via micro loans. In fact, in May 2012 I received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live in Nicaragua and learn about their micro-finance economy. At this time, I started a personal blogging project, Culturecopia, to document my travels in Nicaragua and my upcoming exchange (www.culturecopia.wordpress.com).

As a blogger representing the SBE  exchange students, I am looking forward to discussing topics that may be of interest to you. I welcome any type of feedback, whether or not you agree with my views and/or opinions!

The topic of today’s post is the PBL system in effect here at Maastricht University. Based on what I’ve heard from my peers, students either love it… or hate it. I think a lot of factors play into which category you fall into:

  1. Your personality – If you are a natural extrovert and truthfully enjoy offering your opinion (no matter how insane it seems to others), then speaking in front a group of people comes naturally, and can even be enjoyable. Introverts, who are typically a bit quieter and more reserved by nature, can find the pressure to speak up in class to be uncomfortable.
  2. Your native language – Classes here are in English. Speaking up can be more difficult for students who speak a different language at home. Although, considering 70% of the SBE consists of German students, most people here speak English good :P… I mean, well.
  3. Your educational background – Some students come from a system where interaction was the norm, whereas others come from a total lecture-based background.

 

These are only 3 factors of a list that can probably contain many more, but you get the idea. Speaking on my own behalf, I personally enjoyed the PBL system, but I come from a system that encouraged me to speak up, am a native English speaker, and love to give my opinion when anyone is willing to listen.

On a related note, how did you feel about only dedicating your time to two courses at once? If this is how your university runs their system back home, then you’re indifferent – coming from a system that forces five simultaneous courses upon you, this was a change I embraced. I loved the content in my Management class, but did not share the same feelings toward my Operations class (although I made some great friends!). The PBL system offered me the best of both worlds, because I was able to focus a lot of my effort and attention on Management, and although I had to do so for Operations as well, I finished the entire course in 8 weeks! Since you are only asked to focus on two courses at once, I think that the rapid pace is fitting. And, if you don’t like a particular course (ahem… Operations), you’re done in 8 weeks! That course would have been dragged on for four months back home. Since we are asked to deal with five courses at once, the content is covered at a slower pace. This system is beneficial in some respects, but if you’re not into your course, you better prepare for a loooong four months! I also found that the final exam period is much less stressful and much more manageable when you are only dealing with 2 courses.

The rapid pace of course turnover also keeps us more engaged, I think. Today we start our block 2 courses, which allows us to dive into brand new content and learn with (mostly?) new students. This dynamic learning atmosphere promotes attention and interest, at least at the beginning! And if that attention levels off… well, there’s only a few more weeks to go!

As a year-long exchange student, I am looking forward to finishing my last year of my Bachelor here with the PBL system at Maastricht.

What do you think?

Feel free to check out my personal blog (www.culturecopia.wordpress.com) for more personal content detailing my exchange experience! 🙂 I typically post 3-4 times per week, and love hearing your comments!

-Emma