Prism

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I was doing the dishes.

It was one of the first days here in Maastricht and I was awkwardly standing in a kitchen that wasn’t mine, as always trying to express my love and my gratitude with some soap and a beat up sponge. Next to me, in front of an overflowing sink, there was an Australian guy that was judging my dish-washing skills.

We were having a conversation, I don’t remember what it was about, but one thing that I do remember is that I said I was curious. I was curious to see who these people we were meeting were gonna end up being, who was going to be my new best friend and who was just going to be an acquaintance. To me, all these new people, all these new faces, all these new handshakes, felt like a bunch of dust floating around and I was just waiting to see where it was going to settle.

But one thing I didn’t know back then, as I was looking for a towel in that towel-less kitchen was that there was one piece of dust that I had to pay more attention to, and that piece of dust was me.

The truth is that the person I am today is definitely not the person I was a month ago.

I remember the first time I was alone here in Maastricht. It was right after the haze of the first week and I was scared and nervous. I went to this really cool cafè, pulled out my laptop and ordered a chai latte that I ended up spilling. I tried to occupy myself by coding a couple lines. I was hoping that immersing myself into that world of colored letters and square parenthesis was going make me feel calmer, but the whole time it was like there was a big yellow triangle on the top of my head that kept flashing ‘Error error. That’s not what you’re supposed to do. You should be with someone, you shouldn’t be alone’. And then flash forward not even two weeks later to me laying under the Brighton stars completely alone, fiddling with a seashell, feeling happy. I have a record of the waves of that night and I can’t listen to it because it still makes my heart tremble.

And when I think back about this month there are so many snippets of myself in so many different situations that I struggle to believe they’re all starring the same person, but they are.

I am the girl getting pierced in London. I am the girl leaving the library at 10 pm feeling tired but accomplished. I am the girl waking up at 3 pm with the makeup of the night before still on. I am the girl eating waffles in Belgium. I am the girl that was called ‘Peachy’ at a random concert in Utrecht. I am the girl dropping her cacti vase on the floor and then waiting until the next morning to clean it up. I am the girl dressed as a unicorn with glitter on her face for Carnival. I am the girl preparing her last presentation using the wi-fi of five different Starbucks in five different cities. I am the girl rolling down a hill in Luxemburg.

I am a party animal. I have ants in my pants. I am a night owl. I am a busy bee. I am a bookworm. I am an early bird. Damn, I am the whole zoo.

I feel like a prism. I feel like every new experience I have is carving a new face into my surface. A new face that will bounce a primary colored square in a different direction when the sun will finally hit me. Right now I’m really scared and excited to see what’s gonna happen in the next three months and who I am going to become. How many faces am I going to have? Am I going to end up being round again, just a ball of glass letting the light slip right trough me? Or am I just gonna end up being a floating piece of diamond dust?

I guess only time will be able to tell.

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You’ll get used to Maastricht

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Ok so, let’s say you’ve just got here, in Maastricht.

Let’s say that you’re half an hour late on your timetable because you forgot and sat in the wrong coach on the train from Amsterdam and so you had to get down at Eindhoven and wait for the next one (it happens to the best of us).

Let’s say that you’re standing in front of the station, tugging at your sweater’s sleeves because it’s much colder (or warmer, depending on where you are from) that you’ve anticipated.

Let’s say that you look around.

And let’s also say that you’re terrified.

It makes sense, nothing looks familiar. The voices, the signs, the people. Even the sky looks a tiny bit more Dutch than what you’re used to. But don’t worry: you’ll get used to it.

You’ll get used to the fact that you’re a kid from Stranger Things now and the only vehicle you will ever use is a bike. Just like you’ll get used to the fact that car drivers here are like unicorns, not only incredibly rare but also magically nice, stopping miles before you even approach the lines to let you cross the street.

You’ll get used to the fact that pushing a man’s buttons here doesn’t make him red angry, but actually turns him green. At least when it comes to traffic lights.

You’ll get used to Maastricht at 7 pm. The cobbled streets glowing under splashes of neon lights, like you were in some sorts of DC movie.

You’ll get used to the fact that waffles here are readily available, incredibly cheap and dangerously delicious. Just like beer.

You’ll get used to the sound of clinking glasses slowly turning into one of clinking heels at 4 am. Hold my arms ‘cause I’m stumbling. Boy talk knows no nationality.

You’ll get used to the ‘They speak Dutch here?’ jokes and no, you won’t learn Dutch. At all.

You’ll get used to looking into eyes that weren’t even in your same hemisphere a few of days ago.

You’ll fall in love with smiles and accents you’ve never known before.

You’ll get used to talking to kids that never felt the water of your sea with their toes, but that were playing Yugi-Oh with their brothers just like you, even if under different skies.

You’ll get so used to going to the gym in a church, and having drinks in a church, and taking notes in a church and getting coffee in a church that the one day you’ll actually walk into a proper church it’ll feel weird.

You’ll get used to looking into the warm windows, consciously lighten up, to show a glimpse of somebody’s life. Voyeuristic privacy.

The words ‘de Alla’ will have a meaning for you. Which meaning depends on the night and the number of drinks you had.

If you’re not already, you’ll get used to making Powerpoint presentations.

You’ll get used to the failed attempts at pronouncing street names that always start out so promising until nonsense sounds start rolling off your tongue like a tumbleweed in a western film.

You’ll get used to that random sock in the hall of your apartment that at first was stressing you out but now it’s like a weird pet and you’ll feel weird if it’d ever disappeared.

You’ll even get used to the nonsense that is the myPrint account.

You’ll get used to Maastricht. And, in the meantime, you’ll fall in love with it.

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New journey begins @Maastricht

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New journey begins @Maastricht

A Marvellous Journey

I’m an international student from China, but I’ve been studying and living in Canada for more than 6 years. I guess it’s a smart decision to escape Canada from the snowy season in Feb (I still love Canada!).  I’m in Master of International Business at Queen’s Smith Business School, and currently doing my master exchange at Maastricht University.

After celebrating Spring Festival with my parents in Jan, I was busy in packing and preparing for my Euro Trip. It took me more than 30 hours to fly from Da Lian, China to Amsterdam, Netherlands (long story). Then I took train to Maastricht right after my flight for 2.5 hrs. (Tip: I would recommend you in asking the staff to print out your schedule, thus you know when to transfer.) I cannot imagine me with two 23kg luggages would survive without the pick-up service from ISN. (Thanks Sebastian from ISN!).

Introduction Day

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I received my student card & admission letter in the morning. All exchange students receive warm welcome from Dean of SBE, Dr. W.H. Gijselaers, and last but not least politie. (Tip: You may also ask for the letter which is one of the documents you would need from Student Services Centre in order to open a Dutch bank account.) In the afternoon, everyone was assigned to a group of people for taking a city tour. It’s a cozy city which has decent number of supermarkets, shopping stores and restaurants. I enjoyed it though my feet disagree with it.

Welcome drinks * 8

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I signed up the Pub Crawl event hosted by ISN on Feb 2nd. More than 400 people show up in the Markt at 8:30pm and waiting to be surprised by checking out 6 clubs till midnight. It’s an amazing experience since you could meet groups of people from all around the world, you name it, and yes we got lots of shots. I’m also glad that most of people I’ve met speak English here. On the other day, we had PBL simulation and learned how tutors would facilitate the session. And 2 more welcome drinks awaits!

What’s more? 

On a sunny day, a lady came to me and ask if she could take a picture of me. Guess what, I got featured by Humans of Maastricht!

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(Photo Credit to V @Humans of Maastricht)

So did I have any difficulties along the way?

Of course. It’s challenging to study and live abroad, though this is my second time. But I believe that as long as I have an open and optimistic mind, I will be fine. I would like show my gratitude to the nicest driver – Nacho, lovely Buddy – Caroline, omniscient knowledgeable friend – Eric, new friend – Guo Ai, and sweet MIB classmates from Queens. Thank you for helping me to figure out where I can buy travel adapter, the most convenient way to purchase a train ticket, and where I could have delicious Asian food….Dankuwel! Looking forward to my exchange journey!

Stay tuned.

Feb 10th, 2017

Jane Cai

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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

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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)

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