I have been settled in Maastricht for a few months now and I love it here. I have met countless people from a range of nationalities. I am staying in the main UM guesthouse (Maastricht Housing) and sharing a room with Marina, a lovely Spanish girl! (See selfie of us). Although I have met some Dutch people, the university and the inhabitants of the town are very international, there are especially a lot of people from Belgium and Germany (Especially in Psychology).
Alongside being an excellent location for travelling, the city of Maastricht itself is very small and easy to navigate especially on a bike! Students are everywhere and there are plenty of places to go out every night. It isn’t necessary to learn Dutch, everybody speaks English, but the natives appreciate attempts – I have finally gained the courage to say ‘danke je wel’ (thank-you) at the supermarket.
Besides being the perfect location for travel, the city itself is also architecturally beautiful, I’ve heard it’s been called the ‘Vatican of the Netherlands’. There are so many churches here they have converted them into shops and clubs – stiff competition for the ‘city of churches’ (Adelaide). If you love books, a must-visit is the famous ‘Boekhandel Dominicanen’; a bookstore in a cathedral with a coffee shop! It is also SUPER convenient to get anywhere, making it easy to balance study with a social life.
Another attraction when everyone first gets their bikes is to take a ride to Belgium. It is only around 20 minutes to cross the border and is quite novel-especially for Australians! Some of the biggest culture shocks so far have been the tiny little cups and mugs used here, bikes owning the roads and people assuming my first language is Dutch (in shops). To be honest though, the city is so multicultural and the web of people that results in an environment with a level of diversity so high, cultural boundaries are a minor obstacle.
The river Meuse is beautiful and looks slightly different everyday! Down one end of it is ‘Fun Valley’ and adventure park where people sometimes swim. Even though it’s quite clean, it’s not comparable to Adelaide beaches. I also found out that Miffy is Dutch! Dutch food includes the famous stroopwafel and many fried treats such as frikandel (a sausage) and koket (fried meaty/cheesey stick). I wasn’t super impressed, probably only the kind of stuff I would eat in the midst of bad decision-making on a night out.
I only have 3 and a half months left – I’m not ready to leave!
Katie Balic is completing a Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) and undertook an exchange during S2, 2018