The Netherlands | Reciprocal Exchanges Blog

Due to Covid, my original country of choice got canceled, within two months I planned everything to study in Maastricht. To be honest I did not know Maastricht even existed before deciding to study here because it is a small town about the size of College Station. Finding housing was quite difficult with the housing crisis in Maastricht, but I managed to find housing within a 10-minute bike ride to the business school. At A&M there is a decent amount of students who bike to campus, however in The Netherlands everyone bikes and it is the main type of transportation. Whether it is going to the grocery store, campus, the city center, or the park you go by bike. Riding a bike brings me to the part where the unexpected happened early on in my time here.

Long story short, I thought I bruised my tailbone from not being used to riding a bike, but it turns out I had a cyst that had to be surgically removed. My first week here, having only known a couple of people for a week now and I am in the hospital needing surgery on my first day of class. Thankfully 87% of people in the Netherlands speak English so there were no language barriers when the doctors had to explain the procedure to me. I have been recovering very quickly from the surgery and am even able to ride the bike again. I did have to miss the first week of class but was able to go on campus the next week.

One thing that is very different about Maastricht Univerisity and A&M is the learning structure of classes. In The Netherlands, they use a teaching style called Problem Based Learning (PBL). My classes consist of only 15 students with a Tutor that helps guide the conversation. The Professor may post lectures, but mainly you are responsible for coming to class prepared by doing the necessary readings. Students work in small groups to teach and facilitate. The time of each class is two hours long, however it goes by fast with everyone contributing to the discussion. One thing I love about Maastricht University is how international its campus is with students coming from countries all over the world. I have been able to meet students from Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Brazil, Vietnam, Georgia, Canada, Pakistan, Poland, Austria, Finland, Hungary, and so many other countries. I have been able to enhance my Global Mindset here being surrounded by people from all over the world.

Although, I did not have a culture shock because the culture in The Netherlands is much like southern hospitality in the US. The Dutch people are very nice and willing to help if you need to ask for directions (I know from personal experience). The weather is rainy and cold, but there are still sunny and 75 days here. I have enjoyed my first couple of weeks in the beautiful city of Maastricht and cannot wait to see what is to come.

Categories: 2021, Reciprocal Exchange, The Netherlands

To say the least, this semester was not what I expected. While covid restrictions altered what I thought my exchange would look like everything exceeded my highest hopes.

Maastricht was such a lovely city to call home and thanks to the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) at the University I found new friends to call family. If you go on an exchange, I highly recommend connecting with the Erasmus Student Network or another similar student organization to help you connect with people and find your way around.

Because of travel restrictions, my first excursion was a Dutch road trip. I went with a few other exchange students that I met through ESN and we spent the whole weekend exploring the Netherlands. We visited Rotterdam, The Hague, Delft, Utrecht, and the Keukenhof Garden. In Rotterdam we picnic’d on the beach, walked the pier, and saw the parliamentary buildings, but the best part of the whole trip had to be the Keukenhof Garden. The Keukenhof Garden is one of the most famous spots in the Netherlands to see Tulips and it is definitely worth it! Pro-tip, you have to pay to get inside the Keukenhof Garden, but there are plenty of fields outside that are free to explore.

In addition to the cute city and new friends that contributed to my positive experience, the learning system at Maastricht University was so different from A&M and really challenged me as a student and professional. The problem-based learning system at Maastricht puts a lot of the responsibility of learning on the students. Instead of sitting in a professor’s lecture and taking notes, students take turns leading their peers in discussions, problems, and case studies. I found that this method allowed me to take ownership of the material and gave me the confidence that I was learning and understood the course. From my time in Maastricht University, I can truly say that I gained more confidence in my major and presentation skills.

Maastricht University was a great choice for my semester exchange and I would recommend it to everyone!

Categories: 2021, Reciprocal Exchange, The Netherlands

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.

Lights at the Vrijthof.

 

View of the Maas and the city. (P.S. Kaas croissants are the best!)

 

Arrived in Maastricht!

 

The town hall built during the 17th century.

 

Night view of the old bridge.

 

Belgium waffles with my friend, Carolin.

 

Tulips from the Markt and Flaming Hot Cheetos, the only necessities.

Categories: 2021, Reciprocal Exchange, The Netherlands

To even begin at an attempt to fully convey the ineffable experiences I have lived through during the first 30 days of being in Europe would fall but a little short of insanity. I have gone through literal life times of experiences as I venture into territories and realms that up until this point have been hidden from me on the outside of a bubble most people I know live in called America.

Upon my arrival, things were immediately different. My surroundings, friends, language, food, societal norms, mode of transportation, and laws all completely changed the moment my foot stepped off of that plane. The day before, while being both excited and nervous simultaneously, I did not have a single expectation in my mind. I quite literally had no idea what to expect but knew one thing- this is my life and it is my journey that I will be the writer of. Studying abroad allowed this story to evolve into something that no other person has experienced or will ever experience. The things that have happened to me each and every day while here have been unique and special to me to the extent that I can say that with certainty.

I think a lot of this has to be because of the mindset that I came here with. If you have ever sat by a river and found yourself deep into contemplation, you might notice a piece of wood or draft would pinned between a boulder and the excruciating force of the current. I like to think of a lot of people as logs stuck to a boulder that they think will be their final position in life. However, it indeed is possible to train yourself to let go of that boulder, allowing a relief of all that force as you flow with the stream of life. When I came here I knew that a lot of things would be upside down from what I am used to, but I also knew that I have to ability to go along with whatever comes my way, going with the flow as I say. I have never stood by something so strongly: life is about the journey not the destination, everybody dies but most hardly live.

With this mindset, my experiences here have me been something I will say is the essence of what living is about. Creating and sharing memories and great moments with friends, all connected by love. It has yet to be a full month here and I have gone to more countries than I have gone to in my whole life combined, made friends that I would consider family and will continue to travel and enjoy life with for years to come. One of my favorite things about being in a place like this, in the circumstances that I am in, is that if you treat things like a video game, where you have a main mission for the day, but on the way to complete the main mission, countless side objectives that are all completely unique and unexpected each day will be created for you. The only way to ensure these side adventures come up is to like I said, “go with the flow” and be alert of how you can interact with locals.

The easiest (and sometimes necessary) way of going about this is using the google tactic. Yes I just made that term up, but hear me out as I have been effectively using it this whole time. So you have a problem or situation that would require some form of external help to resolve. This would for most people be google by default. After all, what can’t you find on the internet… right. Something google can not do however is continue the conversation with additional suggestions, stories, advice , and adventures to go on. This were it all ties together. Without the ability to get a SIM card over here until I sorted out an issue with my existing service provider, the internet was not an option. I was forced to ask countless strangers countless questions that have lead to countless new experiences and even friends. As I sit here writing this on the bus from Germany back to the Netherlands, I can not help but mention that this tactic might not go as smoothly with the Germans, as they were not the bunch to befriend strangers or even have the decency to not be rude about rejecting an honest interaction. Nevertheless, the Netherlands happens to be the exact polar opposite of Germany in regard to their people, as I have not had even a single mediocre interaction with a local. Yes, not only has each person been some of the most friendly people I have talked to, but they go above and beyond to help you and ensure that your day is going smoothly, as they would want the same done for them in a time of need. There have been moments like the time where I was completely stranded on a train moving through Brussels, with no service or idea how to read the itinerary that was given to me in a language I could not read a word of. Determining what stop to get off was critical, as my flight to Vienna was leaving South Brussels in only a few hours. Thankfully, to my rescue came a Dutch man with two kids with him enjoying their ride into Brussels for the day. He saw me stressing and after I asked him about where I was allowed to sit on the train, he continued on to help me realize the stop that I was going to get off at was in fact extremely far from where I thought it was. When I found this out I knew I was in a bad situation as I had no idea how to correct such a situation with the limited resources I mentioned above. Without this mans persistent help for the next 30 minutes on the train, I would have never made it to Vienna. He translated the maps for me, explained how the train system ran and which stops to get off, on , back off, and back on to. After all, my goal was to get from Maastricht, Netherlands to Vienna, Austria. Nothing short of crossing an entire foreign continent while alone and with no service. After 24 hours of traveling and using the google tactic, I finally made it and could reunite with my friends. Experiences such as this simply would not be possible if I did not make the choice to live here this semester. I’m excited for the rest of my time here!

Categories: 2020, Reciprocal Exchange, The Netherlands

It’s Time to Say Goodbye

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard” – Winnie the Pooh. As my time in the Netherlands is coming to an end, I couldn’t agree more with good ole Winnie the Pooh. I feel extremely blessed to have had the opportunity to study abroad in the Netherlands and will miss the Netherlands, my friends, and my travels. It is a bittersweet time in the International Student Guesthouse since many of the exchange students are preparing to go back to their home universities. We all seem excited to see our old friends and family, but will miss our new international friends.

My main realization as the end of my study abroad experience approaches is that there is not enough time to do and see everything. My mind is constantly thinking of the many things I still want to do before I leave. I still want to travel to London, Paris, Rome, Norway, Prague, and Vienna. I also still want to do a few things in Maastricht. I want to explore the caves of Maastricht, go to the nearby indoor ski slope, and visit the Christmas market one last time. With only a week left in Maastricht and many chores/schoolwork that need attention, I will only get to do one or two of the fun things that are on my list. However, there is simply solution to this problem. I will simply come back to Europe. In fact, I want to visit Maastricht again and hopefully convince my new friends to pick a date for a study abroad reunion.

While saying goodbye is hard, I am more than ready to go home. A semester is a long time to be away from friends and family and being in a foreign country amplifies homesickness. I am tired of eating grocery food from the small nearby shop and am ready to reunite with my beloved Chick Fila, Chipotle, Layne’s, Papa Johns, Grub Burger, and especially my mom’s home cookin’! Additionally, my small dorm room that I share with my roommate Spencer seems smaller and smaller every day. I miss living in a house! There truly is no place like home.

Leaving the Netherlands also makes me a little bit nervous. Leaving reminds me of the same anxious feeling I had when first coming to the Netherlands. However, instead of opening a bank account, I need to close one. Instead of getting my residence permit, I need to retire it. Instead of checking into the dorm, I need to check out of it. There are many things on my to do list to ensure I correctly leave the Netherlands. I have found that many of these chores are just as much of a pain as they were when I was coming to the Netherlands. The chores are also difficult to accomplish because there are fewer instructions on things you need to do before leaving when compared to the instructions I received before coming to the Netherlands.

It is time for me to get back to those chores and finish studying for my final. To my international friends: I will miss you. To those back home: I will see you soon!

Categories: 2014, Reciprocal Exchange, The Netherlands

No Hair

This month my Spanish friends convinced me to shave my head. The idea came up Saturday night when they decided that someone should have the same haircut as Jan, a bald student from Czech Republic. I volunteered. Although I enjoy my new hairstyle, I picked a poor time of year to shave it since it is getting pretty cold in the Netherlands.

School’s a breeze but the GMAT is not

School has been pretty easy. I am only taking one class in the second quarter called Commercializing Science and Technology. The class is about learning how technology can be scaled and evaluating different markets for technology. I have enjoyed the class a lot! There are many unique classes at University of Maastricht to choose from, and the entrepreneurial classes are great. Two out of the three classes I have chosen to complete are in the “Entrepreneurial School” of Maastricht University, which has given me a chance to learn more about concepts related to starting a business.

Although school is fun and easy, I have been studying for the GMAT and trying to find an internship, which takes up a lot of time. I recommend studying abroad when you do not have to do any career related activities, so you can focus on making friends and travelling!

The Carnival!

I took a day off of school activities to celebrate Carnival this month. Carnival is a holiday that is celebrated mainly in the Southern Netherlands. Maastricht has one of the best Carnival celebrations in Europe in its city square called the Vrijthof. During the celebration, everyone dresses up in extravagant costumes and listens to live music while enjoying excellent drinks and food. I wore my lederhosen, the German Oktoberfest costume, to the event because I didn’t want to spend money on a new costume. There was a huge outdoor stage where different bands and dance groups would perform. All the songs were in Dutch, but many were American songs that were translated into Dutch. For example, they sang “Stay With Me” by Sam Smith but in Dutch. Of course, I sung along using the English words!

Time is running out!

I leave the Netherlands on December 21, 2014. I am fully adapted to my new home here in the Netherlands and am sad to let it go. I will miss my friends, the Dutch culture, my school, the Dutch architecture, riding my bike instead of driving a car, and of course Dutch chocolate. I am excited to reunite with my family and American friends though. Hopefully, I’ll have a few more stories to tell before I return home.

Until next time,

Brandon Knapp

Categories: 2014, Reciprocal Exchange, The Netherlands

Netherlands October Blog

 Getting in the Grove:

I’ve been in Maastricht for a little over two months now. While I feel like I have caught my grove and have my schedule down, there are still plenty of new experiences. I’ve made much better friends with the other international students and have a couple Dutch friends as well. I am starting to understand more of the Dutch culture and can also pick up on where people are from in Europe based on their accents. My friends and the Dutch have also taught me a couple lessons that have made my experience much better.

 

Lesson: Take Time

Last weekend, I went to Amsterdam on a “Men’s Trip” with 9 of my international friends. My Italian friend Tommaso would remind us to “take time guys, take time” whenever someone would try to hurry us along. Many of the Dutch also seem to understand how to “take time” and enjoy the present moment without worrying where they have to be next. There is no need to be constantly entertained. The simple phrase take time has taught me to be present throughout my Netherlands trip.

 

Lesson: Nothing goes against my plan

Another small lesson I’ve learned is to not expect things to go my way. When I go to the grocery to buy more coffee, I don’t actually expect the store to have coffee. It would be nice if there were coffee to buy, but the trip to the store itself is fun enough to make it worth getting out of my room. When I first arrived in the Netherlands, I learned that things operate “differently” here. Stores close early and have a small selection of items, finding your way can be difficult, setting up a Dutch bank account takes 6 different trips to the bank, and many more “different” things. Although I have adapted, which decreases the amount of times I mess something up, my attitude is still to expect nothing. With no expectations, life is full of pleasant surprises.

 

Study Abroad: You won’t regret it

 For those of you who are thinking of studying abroad, I can’t encourage you enough to do it. I’ve never heard of anyone who has regretted a study abroad experience, and I definitely understand why. One main reason to study abroad is to learn more how others live. In my opinion, American students are less “international” when compared with European students. Most of the European students I have met speak between two and four languages and know a lot about other countries’ cultures. I on the other hand only speak English and don’t know what language they speak in half of the European countries. However, I am learning.

Another benefit of studying abroad is learning different perspectives. For example, many students are not worried about having a plan after graduation. I stopped asking the seniors what job they wanted when they graduated because they thought it was a weird question. Many of the Dutch and other Europeans travel for a year or two after graduating. Then they might get a job or a Masters Degree or travel around the world some more. I think it is great that they are not worried about what job they will eventually apply for. It made me realize there are other paths besides attending college for four years, taking the summer off, and then going straight to work. Understanding how others live helps you better evaluate the way you want to live your life. While this may seem like a lesson any student studying abroad learns, it is particularly true for Maastricht. Living in the international dorm allows you to make friends from around the world and learn how they live. Maastricht is also considered the most culturally rich city in the Netherlands and was almost nominated as the cultural capital of Europe. Maastricht is the epitome of a cultural experience by offering both breadth and depth of cultural diversity.

 

Alcohol and Marijuana:

I’m sure many of you are curious about alcohol and marijuana use in the Netherlands. Although marijuana is legal, it is restricted to coffee shops and there is a new law that prohibits tourists from buying it in much of the country. While Amsterdam still offers weed to tourists in coffee shops, Maastricht has embraced the rule that marijuana cannot be sold to tourists. Marijuana use by locals is also pretty low when compared to other European countries. The Dutch don’t view smoking as the cool or rebellious thing to do and find that it is not necessary to have fun.

Alcohol is a different story. Alcohol is very common and the Dutch start drinking from an early age. It also seems that every social event has alcohol. During the first day of school we had welcome drinks in the business school. Also, my entrepreneurship class had free alcoholic beverages at its event. While drinking is common, the Dutch do not seem to get drunk often. They have learned how to drink in moderation quite well and look down on getting overly drunk. I hope this sheds some light on the “drug” aspect of the Netherlands.

Categories: 2014, Reciprocal Exchange, The Netherlands

My time in the Netherlands has been one of much learning, fun, and adjustment. I am studying finance in Maastricht, one of the southernmost cities in the Netherlands (and also the oldest). But I guess I’ll start from the beginning. My arrival to Europe was interesting to say the least. After an overnight flight from Houston to Amsterdam, I was bombarded by a confusion of Dutch signs and chaos at the airport. Luckily, I made it onto the train to Maastricht in no time. That was the easy part. Once I arrived in Maastricht, it took me two hours to find out where I lived and how to get there. I was sleep deprived, the wheels on both my luggage bags had fallen off from wheeling them around the rough streets, and it was the first real challenge I had. Everything was different and unfamiliar, but once I finally found the international student dorm I was staying in, it made things a lot easier. That’s the thing about going to a completely new place- every little hill you have to overcome can easily become a mountain. There’s nobody to help you adjust, and figuring things out for yourself is the only way to learn.

That story wasn’t meant to bore you, but to be an example of the many difficulties in adjusting to a new environment. Throughout the coming weeks there were more adjustments to be made, but the friends I met in Maastricht made those adjustments so much easier. Another thing I want to point out is how welcoming everyone is. I met other American exchange students the day after I arrived, and less than a week later I was on the beautiful Spanish island of Ibiza with them on an impromptu vacation before classes started. Since then, I’ve met people from over 20 different countries and still hang out with them in the international dorm we all stay at. Whenever I said I was from Texas, everybody thought that was the coolest thing and immediately struck up conversation about my cowboyish ways (obviously inaccurate). We all went out to the bars and saw the city the first week, but in the back of our minds was the looming inevitability that school, the “real” reason we were here, was right around the corner.

Maastricht University is a really cool place. The business faculty is housed in a 600 year old building, but the inside is very modern and new. The school is split up into two periods a semester, and in each period you take two classes. Most classes comprise of a day of lecture a week, and two days of tutorials. This is because of the Problem Based Learning (PBL) system of learning the university implements. Instead of having a professor lecture three times a week, the class is split up into many smaller groups of 10-15 students who are led by a tutor (typically a master’s student- the TA equivalent in the US), who sit back and moderate a conversation amongst the students about the topic. The students read before class and then teach the others in the tutorial, with assigned discussion leaders and secretaries every class. The system is dependent on each student being involved, so attendance and participation are mandatory. I can’t say I like it more than lectures (which we’ve had in the U.S. since kindergarten), but the extreme shift in learning has been a refreshing challenge. Because the classes are so short, usually 7 weeks in a period, the tutorials are 2 hours and there is a LOT of outside work.

Enough about school, I’ll talk about the city of Maastricht for a bit. It’s beautiful. It’s the oldest city in Maastricht, built by the Romans in the early 1200s, and sits right on the edge of the River Maas which makes for great views and architecture. The downtown area is vibrant and has tons of shops and markets. The city has thousands of landmarks, and the city looks so old still because they can’t change the outsides of the buildings, only the inside. This blends the old with the new, and keeps the culture and tradition of the city alive. Also, everyone rides bikes. Everyone. The city is much smaller with a bike, and the city is downright made for it. I bought an old bike and have since made the most of it, but anything with a set of wheels makes life easier. It’s also pretty cold here, with the weather ranging from 50-75 degrees since I’ve been here. I’m hoping it doesn’t get too much colder, I’m still used to Texas weather. Everyone does speak English, which is extremely helpful, but I do intend on picking up some Dutch while I’m here. The real advantage of Maastricht, however, is that it is situated right in the middle of Europe. I can ride my bike to Belgium or take a 30 minute train to Germany, and the rail systems are very reliable and easy. This means that I have the resources to do lots of traveling in different countries all over Europe, hopefully without missing too much class.

Overall, the first 6 weeks of my study abroad have been filled with adventure, friendships, and excitement. Now that I’m settled in, I have even higher hopes for the next 10 weeks. I’ve already been to Spain, Belgium, and Switzerland with trips to Germany and Austria in the works. Every country has its own unique vibe and culture, so exploring as much as possible is highly recommended.

 

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Categories: 2014, Reciprocal Exchange, The Netherlands

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!

The City:

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.

The Dutch:

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.

The School:

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.

Classes:

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!

Categories: 2014, Reciprocal Exchange, The Netherlands

I have been in Maastricht, The Netherlands for only 4 days now, but a lot has happened! When I first arrived, I was surprised to see the rural the area around Maastricht. Between Brussels, Belgium (the airport I flew in to) and the city of Maastricht, The Netherlands there is a lot of open space and small towns. Usually it is dreary and rainy here, but the weather has been awesome. It made for a beautiful drive in!

Maastricht itself has about 120,000 residents, but the city seems much smaller than that. Everywhere I have to go is 20 minutes or less by foot. Pretty much everyone here has a bike, so I am getting a second hand one in a few days (people LOVE the second hand market here for furniture, bikes, etc). I am attempting to learn my way around the city, but it’s kind of hard. There are a lot of traffic circles and old churches that all look the same! So far, I have figured out how to make it the the grocery store, some small shops, and to the school of business and economics (where I will be taking all of my classes). Hopefully the city will start to make more sense soon!

All of the exchange students in the School of Business and Economics had orientation Thursday and Friday. The school operates A LOT differently than Mays. Instead of the large lecture style that I am used to, at Maastricht University they use problem-based learning (PBL). PBL has very few lectures (sometimes only 1 per semester), and the rest is made up of small group “tutorials”. These tutorials are basically discussions of about 10-15 students that group together and use a “scientific” method to discuss the subject material. I have only had an example tutorial so far, but I think I will enjoy the different learning style. In Maastricht we only take 2 classes at a time. I’ll be in Maastricht for 2 “periods” which will equal a total of 12 hours of course work.

One of the greatest things about Maastricht University is the large number of exchange students from all over the world. Maastricht does a great job of organizing events for exchange students the week before classes start. I’ve met people from dozens of different countries, most of which live in the same building as me. It is really interesting to talk to students from different countries to see what their school/life is like back home.

The only let down so far has been the food. The Dutch aren’t exactly known for fine cuisine. I guess I will have to travel to find some good eats! Their redeeming quality though is friendliness. I can easily ask someone for directions (luckily most people speak English), so that has been very helpful.

Classes don’t start until February 3, but I am very excited! It’s all so different here, but it’s definitely a blast!

Categories: 2014, Reciprocal Exchange, The Netherlands