Dutch Directness

I have wanted to write something about “Dutch Directness” for a while, the phrase was introduced to us at orientation week and I hadn’t taken it too seriously until I witnessed it first hand. It has been one of the biggest adjustments for me.  Students are encouraged (and given grades) on expressing their opinions and judgements on other student’s work.  Maastricht University takes “constructive criticism” to a whole new level.  To give you a background on how the classes work, students are put into groups and every week you make a presentation in front of your class.

When a QUT student is presenting, questions and feedback are generally light hearted and supportive, after all they are being assessed there is enough pressure and nerves without fellow students adding to it. At Maastricht it is a dog eat dog world, questions are flung at the student presenters with no mercy, “Why didn’t you address this theory?”, “I don’t think your idea is feasible”, “Well, at least your English is improving”, “I didn’t like the colour of PowerPoint slides” (I make no exaggeration theses are all statements made in my class).  As the type of person who doesn’t enjoy confrontation, I found this really difficult to deal with and at times upsetting.  I was lucky enough to not be on the receiving end of these attacks, I had generally received good feedback and minimal criticism on my work, that was until Monday…  Now I can officially say it is not the nicest feeling in the world.

While I think the idea behind this “honesty” is to prepare students for the “real world” where clients will criticise, the problem with this in a classroom setting is it doesn’t allow a positive learning environment where students can feel free to make mistakes and ask questions, and trust me it does nothing for building comradery between students.

To those students coming to Maastricht, you had better grow some thick skin!  For any European students coming to QUT, you might want to ease up on the “feedback” if you intend on making any friends…. Just being direct;)

‘Dutch Drano’

So I would think of myself as rather independent and self-sufficient (I know if my parents are reading this they will be shaking their heads)… however when it comes to ‘fixing things’ I lack certain skills.  So when the basin in my room clogged this week I simply stood staring, wishing it away.  Unfortunately the local Aldi doesn’t stock Drano (at least I have no idea what that would translate to in Dutch).  So my roommate and I swallowed our pride and went to ask the security guard at our complex for assistance.

He stood plunging for a few minutes, then poured pretty much a whole bottle of ‘Dutch Drano’ down the sink (please note this is not advised), then finally he took the whole thing apart and put it back together!  I’m unsure if he himself had any idea what he was doing.  However as I cleaned my teeth tonight and the water ran seamlessly down the sink, I am very grateful to Mark the security guard!

While being on exchange teaches you many lessons in becoming truly independent, remember you can always ask for help. Whether it is to unclog the sink, directions around town, or letting someone know that you are struggling, I think it is always worth the reward of getting a solution!


Once upon a Time…

It’s how all great fairytales start and the experience I have had so far has been nothing less than that. It’s day three of my student exchange at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands. I have spent the past six weeks in Fulda, Germany attending the International Summer University. It was FANTASTIC!!! I met some amazing people and have made life long friends. We had a group of 65, with 22 different nationalities- needless to say the class I took in Intercultural Communication was very useful.

The experience is one that I will never forget and could not recommend enough to other students. The program runs for a month, you take part in a selection of seminars and German language classes. I didn’t know any German before I arrived (and to be honest I’m hardly bilingual now) because Fulda is a smaller town the advice “don’t worry, everyone speaks English” was flawed at times, but hey that’s half the fun! I really felt at home by the end of the program and was so sad to leave. I’ve attached the link for the ISU program if anyone is interested in attending http://www.isu-hessen.de/front_content.php?client=17&idcat=0&idart=0&lang=16&error=1.

Like all fairytales, things go wrong along the way. For me that was my accommodation here in Maastricht! It is hard to know what you are in for sitting at a computer half way around the world. I unfortunately left my accommodation until the last minute and ended up a long walk from the city centre and university. Thankfully my prince in shining armour (aka maastrichthousing.com) came to my rescue and I’m much closer to everything now.

Orientation starts tomorrow, hopefully it will be Happily Ever After.