Getting to my exchange in Maastricht, Netherlands, was months of planning and lots of last minute hoping that it would not be canceled due to the current pandemic. As Natsuki knows, since my first of many visits to her office, going on exchange was always part of my plan and there was no way I was going to let this opportunity slip me by. Although I must say that it was a lot of luck and help from others that allowed me to arrive safely in Maastricht. I count myself lucky that my program continued despite the pandemic, knowing that may others did not have the same outcome.
When I landed in the Schriphol airport in Amsterdam all the cheesy signage saying things like “Your journey starts here” and “Welcome to below sea level” made me beyond giddy. I knew that this exchange would be a different experience than what I originally expected, but I am still very excited for what may come of my time here.
First things first, quarantine. Unfortunately, I had to spend my first ten days in Europe in a private hotel room, but it did give me the time to purchase a sim card, set up a European bank account, read a book, and learn a few Dutch phrases. When you come to Maastricht it is essential right away to get a Dutch phone number and European bank account, to make life easier and avoid large fees from your US bank and phone carrier. I ended up getting a sim card from Lebara and setting up an online bank account with N26, although there are several other good options to choose from such as bunq and Knab. I would recommend any student coming to the Netherlands for an exchange to choose an online bank account, because the typically Dutch bank, ING, takes several weeks to get an appointment with and requires you to first register with the municipality and receive a BSN (social security number, issued upon registration with your local municipality), which takes quite some time. Whereas an online bank account only requires a European phone number and took just a few minutes to set up.
Once I got out of quarantine, I immediately went exploring. Maastricht has the charm and ease of a small town, while still feeling like a little city. After just a day or two you can figure out how to get anywhere in Maastricht, as everything is easily assessable by foot or bike and there are several landmarks that guide the way. As one of the oldest cities in Europe, Maastricht has many historical monuments, churches, parks, a fortress, and neighborhoods to explore. Just make sure to be in a waterproof coat as you never know when it will start raining or when the Dutch might be washing their windows.
Then reality set in and school started. Although classes are currently online, I must say I really have been enjoying the education system at Maastricht University (UM). The semesters here are broken into two periods, so you only take two classes at a time but at a much quicker pace. In one way it is really nice to be able to truly focus on your subjects, rather than being split between five classes like at A&M, but on the other hand the quick pace makes it easy to fall behind if you procrastinate or have trouble with a concept. Keeping up with the preparation and readings is key! What I enjoy most about UM is the problem based learning system, which means that class time is devoted to case studies, application, and discussion. We barely spend any time in lectures. I enjoy this method a lot for more qualitative classes, like my strategy course, but for more quantitative classes, such as my international financial management course, I wonder if more instructional time would be more beneficial.
Overall, I am so excited for the rest of my time living in Maastricht, studying with a new learning approach, and hopefully exploring more of Europe when the travel restrictions ease up.
Categories: 2021, Reciprocal Exchange, The Netherlands