The Journey Begins:
Venturing to Maastricht, Netherlands is the first time I have been to Europe and the furthest I’ve been from home. When I arrived, I didn’t know what my dorm was called, how my phone was going to work abroad (if at all), if my credit card was going to be accepted, and much more. It was a huge shock as soon as the plane landed, but figuring out how to manage in the Netherlands was a blast!
Maastricht is the best home base for studying abroad because of its central location in Europe, the size of the city, and the beautiful sights. The central location is easy to prove by just looking at a map and recognizing that Maastricht is in the middle of Europe, which makes traveling very convenient. However, one of my favorite parts of the city is its size. It is a relatively small city with about 200,000 citizens and is 23 square miles in area. Biking is the preferred mode of transportation and almost everything in the city is within biking distance. Despite the small size, there is plenty to see and do. There are many beautiful churches, libraries, parks, castles, a river, plazas, statues, bars, and restaurants to explore. Maastricht has just enough to do without being overwhelming and is a great place to call home.
During our school’s orientation, we had a presenter inform us about Dutch culture. He told us the Dutch are very direct. He was right. They do not sugar coat their words or try to phrase things in the most polite way. I’ve personally experienced this directness during school discussions in the classroom. One Dutch student disagreed with me and looked me in the eye and said “you are wrong and do not understand the material.” We actually get along fine, but he never hesitates to say what is on his mind. However, one great thing about the Dutch is that most of them speak English. I thoroughly enjoy being able to communicate without having to worry about a language barrier.
The International Students:
One of the great things about Maastricht University is the amount of international students who attend the University. About half of the students at the University come from abroad and many of those international students are studying abroad for only one semester. I am also staying at the University of Maastricht Guesthouse, which is a dorm for international students. The Guesthouse is actually located inside of a hospital, so I see patients in the halls on my way out of the building. At first it seemed really weird living in a hospital, but I got used to it pretty quickly. The dorms are in separate wings from the hospital rooms too, so I don’t have to worry about catching any illnesses. I would highly recommend living in the Guesthouse to anyone interested in studying abroad in the Netherlands. Although it is a bit expensive, I have enjoyed meeting students from all over the world. So far, most of my friends are from Spain, but I have made friends with students from every continent except Antarctica. I love learning about the other students’ hobbies, eating habits, and culture.
I am studying at the School of Business and Economics or SBE. The actual buildings of Maastricht University are spread throughout the city, so there is no congregated campus like at Texas A&M University. SBE is about an 8-minute bike ride from the international guesthouse where I am staying. The actual building is extremely old and part of it is actually a church. While the outside of the building is extremely antiquated, the inside is very modern. The builders did a great job of making a very modern facility without ruining the original architecture of the old building.
Instead of normal classes where students listen to a lecture, SBE uses a learning process called problem based learning or PBL. This approach is much different from a lecture because students are responsible for learning the material prior to class. Class time is lead by a student discussion leader who moderates a discussion of the material and sets learning goals for the next class. The learning method has many benefits, but I am still a fan of traditional lectures too. For studying abroad, I definitely love the PBL approach because it is another opportunity to see how students from different countries think.
I wanted to share a background on what life is like in Maastricht for this entry and will delve into more specific stories in my next post. Thanks for reading!