After months of researching and applying to universities, I was finally accepted to attend the School of Business and Economics (SBE) at Maastricht University. Maastricht ticked off all my personal requirements for going on exchange –
✔️ Located in Europe
✔️ English is widely spoken
✔️ Strong support system (academically and socially)
✔️ Relatively inexpensive (in European terms).
The main reason I wanted to go on exchange was to experience a new culture, meet new people, become more independent and of course study in a different environment. Before I arrived in Maastricht I did not know anyone, but luckily living at the Guesthouse C-building allowed me to meet new people immediately, and make new friends.
Maastricht is a town located in the South-East corner of the Netherlands and is the capital of the Limburg Provence. It is claimed to be the oldest town in the Netherlands, with one of the main bridges in town, Sint Sevaasbrug, erected in the 13th century. There is a lively vibe, being predominately a student town. Maastricht is also known for its shopping with markets held in the two main squares (Vrijthof and Markt), in addition the cobblestone shopping streets which host many international brands such as H&M, Zara, Bershka, Lush and Hollister.
Maastricht has a different system to UTS. The semester is split in half, where you study two subjects per period. You have two tutorials for each subject per week. The tutorials are also very different from UTS, as the maximum class size is 15 students, where everyone is forced to participate, which means a lot of preparation before class. Maastricht is ‘stricht’ with attendance and workload, but its results have proven it to be an effective method of learning, especially in regards to retention rates of course content.
PARTYING AND EVENTS
The ESN (https://www.facebook.com/ESNMaastrichtNL) organises many events for exchange students. In arrival week, there was at least one event on a day allowing students to meet each other and expand networks. The events in the first week included city tours, a pub crawl, neon party, semester kick-off party, dinners, cultural night and a hangover breakfast. This was when I learnt that it is extremely rare to go out to a party before midnight! The ESN organises parties and events every week with different themes. One of my favourite ESN events so far was Cantus. Cantus is an event revolved around singing songs and drinking beer in accordance with various rules. For example, at the completion of each song a glass of beer must be skulled, drunk until told to stop, or sipped.
It is pretty easy to find another party going on, whether it be at the guesthouse or in town. Facebook lists all the happenings if you know where to look. As they say, ‘study hard, party harder’.
The Netherlands is known for bikes, and if you ever have the experience to live here, you will need a bike. A bike will allow you to get to any where in Maastricht in a maximum of fifteen minutes. Luckily the Netherlands countryside is quite flat which makes riding pleasant. There are dedicated bike lanes which are shared with electric scooters and mobility scooters, so even those who are not the most experienced at riding can feel comfortable. Although coming from Australia, it did take some getting used to riding on the opposite side of the road.
I purchased my bike from the ESN in arrival week, but there are many places to buy bikes, just do not buy one off someone in the street as it is likely that it has just been stolen. Bike theft is pretty common, so getting a good quality bike lock is necessary. I am enjoying riding my bike and getting to class in a few minutes, compared to travelling an hour via bus into the Sydney CBD. What is more, the task of riding your bike back to the Guesthouse after a night out can be a little challenging, but also creates some lasting memories!
In addition to studying I have been lucky to do some travel. In the first four weeks of my exchange, I visited four countries (it helps that the Belgium border is 15 minutes away, and the German border is 30 minutes away). My first trip was to Cologne, Germany with my new South African friends. Cologne was less than a two-hour trip away from Maastricht. The next trip was in the second half of Carnival week (a week off university for parades, costumes, drinking and recovering) where I went to Lille, France. I have also visited Belgium a few times via train, and by bike to visit friends.
Luckily I have more time off class coming up for Easter, and several long weekends in April and May to do some travel. So far, I have booked a trip to Helsinki to visit some old friends and a trip to Berlin with a new friend.
There is one thing that I have learnt that every exchange student could do more with – sleep! There is so much to do in a day, and finding time for everything from studying, grocery shopping, washing, planning travels and socialising, it can be at times difficult. However, this has meant my time management skills have drastically improved, and no doubt will be utilised in my future.
Lara Wallis 11694902