Today is my 11th day in Maastricht, and while it has not always been the easiest settling into a foreign country, I have loved my experience so far. The city of Maastricht is not super big, making the city super walkable, leaving the opportunity to explore all that Maastricht has to offer! On arrival in the Netherlands, I had to quarantine for 5 days due to COVID, while my time alone in the hotel was frustrating, it did give me a chance to slow down and settle into this new and foreign environment–which was also made easy as most Dutch people speak English as a second language, making the transition less frightening and more friendly to the standard American.
Once I got out though, I was still not able to experience the city at its best due to COVID restrictions, meaning there was a curfew on stores, and restaurants were not allowed to open (only takeout). I was still determined to get started on a high note, so I had the opportunity to walk around the city. Maastricht has an awesome city center that is beautiful and is only within a ten-minute walk from most other points in the city, as well as being in one of the only hilly parts of the Netherlands, there are a bunch of nature trails close to the city for students to get some fresh air.
As far as Maastricht University, they have a very unique approach to learning, called PBL (problem-based learning), where students will hold their own tutorials in groups of about 15 or so. This means students are supposed to come to their tutorials prepared with all the materials and discuss the units with other students, with grading being based on participation and a final exam. I personally like this approach as it makes the school feel smaller and you get a consistent group of students to work with and learn with. In addition to this, over half of the school is international students, meaning you will definitely get to meet people from other nationalities!
These are more general first impressions I got from the city and the school, and so far they leave an awesome taste in my mouth, outside of the COVID-19 restrictions. The biggest piece of advice I would give though about coming to Maastricht would be to join some sort of student organization before arriving, as it will make your time to adjust way easier, by having a network of other incoming exchange students to be able to hook up with, rather than coming out solo with no plan.
I am so excited for my time in Maastricht to get rolling! I know that my experience will only get better and better as the semester goes along, I would encourage anyone who is looking to participate in an exchange program to at the very least consider Maastricht!