Glad that Period is over…

So I must admit, I haven’t posted here in awhile because I just went through the most challenging subjects I’ve done to date. Those who are mathematically minded will probably think I’m being a wuss, but I found myself having to study more to understand different aspects of statistics, a new software system to complete our assignments based on statistical methods and endure a Friday evening class of statistics. It feels like all I’ve been doing is eating, breathing and dreaming about statistics.

Despite feeling overwhelmed with my constant travels between university and home, I did manage to get out and experience new things. Maastricht recently opened up their Christmas markets and it looks like something from a movie, it is full of good food, Christmas trinkets and an ice-skating rink! Needless to say, watching the city transform in to a festive hub has been truly remarkable.

We also received snow due to a cold snap we had two weeks ago, but unfortunately it melted. A student who will be visiting QUT under the same program as I’m in gave me some good advice when it comes to riding through the snow – “the kids here are crazy and ride their bikes up the gutters, so be careful when riding that you don’t get caught in their tracks and stack it up the gutter”. So , for the few days we had snow, I rode with absolute precision.

My balcony.

Now, exams and coursework are over, meaning most of the friends I have made here are travelling back home or moving on to grander things. Only a few will be around for a short two-week skills block in January, so the goodbye process is extremely drawn out. I’ll be kicking off my three week tour around Germany, UK and France tomorrow, so with the sadness of saying goodbye to a lot of interesting and fun people comes a sense of excitement of what is to come.

In parting, I’ll say Merry Christmas, have a safe new year and enjoy that sun!

 

Exam time…

Firstly, I feel like I have to apologise for my lack activity. The last two weeks have been INSANE! This leads me on to my topic, the one which everyone has been waiting for, what the learning system is like over here.

Ok, so you have two periods in a semester and a total of four subjects (obviously two subjects per period). These are done over seven or eight weeks, depending on the subject, and two classes per subject a week. It sounds easy to focus on two subjects at a time, but the speed which you have to learn doubles and it takes a lot of self-control to keep up with the content (party, travel or study…hmmm?).

The Problem-Based Learning System is not without its benefits – for example, you know how you’re in a tutorial and you might never talk to someone or interact with the tutor? Well that definitely wouldn’t happen here. The classes during the week are all tutorials which require you to put forward your opinions and to politely criticise other student’s assumptions. For people who know me, I always have an opinion, however in this situation it is a little intimidating to open your mouth unless you have a solid argument about your position. The way I write it makes it sound horrible, but I think I have learnt more from these discussions than I have from the required readings.

Maastricht is definitely not a place for slackers, you must be diligent in your readings and have the motivation to learn. I admit, I struggled for the first few weeks to understand what is required of me but the student community is so strong and we all do our best to help each other through the tough workloads. Plus, the international office is super friendly and will go to lengths to provide support.

I have an exam in 45 minutes which I am going to completely own (confidence is key) based on consumer behaviour and statistics (which Mr Paltridge, our International Director, kindly guided me through before my departure), so I’ll need to leave it here. Until next time!

 

An eventful start to the semester…

Let me start by saying – whilst what you read may sound like I have had a horrible time so far, I have persevered and can now look back with fondness (ok, maybe not all of it).

I planned to post an entry last week on how I find the “PBL” system but when I woke up Saturday morning (15/09) not being able to see and struggling to breathe, I was somewhat mildly concerned. So, doing what any sane person would do, I tried to find a doctor that was open. Now, if you’ve read my other post, you would recall that the Dutch people enjoy their downtime – unfortunately this includes doctors. Consequently, I had to walk 45 minutes to the hospital to see a doctor. I think things could have been a lot worse if I wasn’t armed with my little Dutch book and sunglasses to hide my sickly eyes.

After the trek and ill attempts at pronouncing Dutch words, I saw the doctor for a total of 5 minutes – just enough for her to tell me it was a virus and there is nothing I can do but return to my apartment and rest. Lets just say, I was a little disappointed after the arduous journey to be told that I should have stayed home. But fear not, I am alive and fighting fit! I returned home, bought some fresh mandarins from the market (for vitamin c) and rested for countless hours.

While it was a pretty horrible situation to be in, I have to say, it has done wonders for my Dutch. Being forced to adapt to the language has helped boost my confidence and understanding of the area and language (it is a little amusing to see the faces of locals when I say Dutch words in an Australian accent). While I don’t recommend walking around foreign cities half blind and coughing, I do challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone and soak up as much of the surrounding culture as possible. You may be surprised with what you find.

“The only source of knowledge is experience”. And while it may have been a crazy experience – Einstein, you are right again.

 

First week so far…

What a ride. I think I can honestly say that I have felt almost the entire spectrum of human emotions in just a week.

It turns out I misjudged how long I would have to wait in airports, making my trip a total of 36 hours. As you can imagine, sitting down to even eat a meal made me wonder whether I’d spontaneously combust. But alas, I am here and settled in to my little apartment. I was lucky in picking my accommodation because I am right next to the market square where the beautiful town hall of Maastricht is located.

The centre of market square – Maastricht

Maastricht University’s School of Business and Economics had their introductory days on Thursday and Friday last week. Not only was it valuable to find your way around campus and meet some fellow students, but the introduction to the Dutch lifestyle really helped to provide an insight in to some interesting observations I have made.

1. There are so many people out and about at all hours of the day. Do these people have jobs?
Answer: Turns out the Dutch aren’t lazy. According to one of the doctors from the university, the Dutch just value their leisure time.

2. Maastricht has more bicycles than people, but why aren’t they riding fancy bikes?
Answer:  The Dutch love sturdy, old bikes. The older your bike is and still functioning relatively well, the better your bike is perceived to be. If only we had a similar mindset in Australia, then I’d be very popular with my car.

3. There seems to be no clearly visible authoritative figure, what the?
Answer: Don’t get me wrong, there are many police visible on the streets, but the Dutch are very strong in their belief of everybody being equal – there is no clear class differentiation and no boasting of political power. This belief seems to work because everyone is respectful and conscientious of one another.

These observations I found very interesting and sometimes uncomfortable. I will report in once I kick off my classes this week under the “Problem Based Learning” system, where the students take control whilst the tutor merely guides the class. It should be… interesting.

It begins…

Prepared
adjective

1. made ready or fit or suitable beforehand
2. having made preparations
3. equipped or prepared with necessary intellectual resources

As I am sitting here on my day of departure, I am looking at this definition and realising this does not apply to me. Being a typical young male, I left my run a little late with organising flights, visa and my accommodation for my semester abroad in Maastricht. I packed this morning, organised my flights roughly 4 weeks ago and applied for my visa weeks ago – and I have known about my exchange for months. But despite having majority of it organised now, I still feel like I don’t meet the definition of prepared.

So as I stumble my way through the strategic marketing course in the Netherlands using the PBL learning system, I hope you guys can learn and laugh with me. The first joke is on me – I have roughly 29 hours of travel to get there thanks to my late run. Please feel free to comment and make suggestions for what I should do on my travels.

Lesson one: If you’re going international, be prepared as early as possible!