I’ve finished my final exam, I have one more night in Maastricht, two weeks visiting friends in the UK, and then I head home for some much needed sunshine! In the last 6+ months I’ve met people from all over the world, caught up with old friends, experienced the student life in Europe, and managed to squish in some extra travel. As this is my final blog post I will try to fill it up with some useful information for anyone planning their trip!
So, Maastricht is in between Belgium and Germany, and there are plenty of options for day trips. Aachen, Germany, is just a short bus trip away and full of markets over Christmas. For day trips in the Netherlands, of course Amsterdam is a fun place, but you must also visit Rotterdam! It was one of my favourite cities – good night life and quite artsy (check out the cube houses, market hall and the Kunsthal art gallery). Gouda was also a nice little town. The city centre of Maastricht is small but lovely, and looks beautiful in Autumn – especially around Jekerstraat (the student area). In my last month I stumbled across a deer park right next to the city library! Through November and December they cover the streets in Christmas lights and decorations and set up Christmas markets. When it comes to night life, there are only a few clubs to choose from – there’s the Alla (a bit trashy but cheap drinks and fun with the right company), Complex (good DJs and events, cool venue but expensive drinks and usually tickets/entry fee) and Muziekgieterij (good music venue, slightly expensive drinks and usually ticketed). Keep your eye on Facebook for any upcoming events! There are also tonnes of bars all over the city – my favourite was definitely Zondag.
At Maastricht University (UM), the semester is split in to three periods; the first two periods are both eight weeks long and include two intensive courses each. Generally, you will finish period one and start period two the following week, with only the weekend as your break. Sometimes a course will have several assignments or in-class presentations, sometimes just one assignment or exam worth 100% of the grade, or sometimes a mixture of the two. The exams are often based on the required readings rather than on lecture content.
The third, and last, period is only four weeks long – in my final week I had my last class on the Tuesday and then the exam two days later! The PBL (Problem Based Learning) system at Maastricht has been interesting – every week a different student plays the role of ‘discussion leader’ while another is the scribe. On the one hand you have very little contact hours at the University (which means more time to socialise and explore Europe!) but on the other hand the ‘self guided’ study load for each course can be extensive, so you need to use your time wisely so it’s not all spent studying. This was my experience with Psychology, but every faculty at UM has a different style of curriculum and everyone adapts to it differently.
To summarise – Maastricht is a cute little town, roughly two hours outside of Amsterdam. It’s perfect for day trips around Europe, but a bit tricky to fly out of (train to Amsterdam/Brussels and fly from there). The atmosphere is quite relaxed, but there is always some sort of student event on, however tickets can be pricey and sell out quickly, so keep your ear out for parties or throw your own! I took a little while to get used to the PBL system – some love it, some hate it – but all in all, I enjoyed my time in Maastricht. Once you learn about the cheaper grocery stores, restaurants and bars, it’s not too hard to save money, but I would suggest saving as much as you can so that your travels and experiences are not restricted when you get here. And get your readings out of the way early so you can enjoy the rest of your time bar hopping and travelling!
If you have any questions about accommodation, choosing subjects, buying a bike, travelling around Europe and the UK, or absolutely anything at all – feel free to ask me 🙂
See you soon Adelaide! x
Melissa Sims, Bachelor of Psychological Science student, Semester 2 2016 exchange at Maastricht University, the Netherlands