Settling into Maastricht

Rachel W., Bachelor of Business – International
Maastricht University, Netherlands (Semester 1, 2017)

As part of the Bachelor of International Business, I chose to attend Maastricht University. It had a different learning approach to my usual university learning. Instead of lectures, we had two tutorials for each subject. During these tutorials we were required to discuss, present or answer questions about the weekly readings. It really forced me to participate more (participation was 30% of my grade!), and stay on top of my readings which really did help my retention of knowledge.

At first, I was really shocked; I was surrounded by students from all around Europe who were really motivated and knowledgeable about the subjects. Luckily the tutors were very understanding of how this was such a shock for me and gave me time to adjust without it affecting my grade.

As the oldest city in the Netherlands, Maastricht is a small university city; it is usually pretty quiet and peaceful except during carnival! Everyone was really friendly and nearly everyone spoke English which helped a lot when shopping! Buying a secondhand bike is essential because nearly everyone bikes everywhere. It is a great way to keep you healthy especially with the delicious Dutch food like kroketten, frites and bitterballen which are all deep fried or their obsession with sweets (even for breakfast) such as stroopwafel and hagelslag. It rains a lot in the Netherlands and is often quite overcast but never fear, it is really light rain, more of a drizzle, just flock to your local bar or enjoy a hot coffee at one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world (it is in an old cathedral). But once the sun does decide to come out, everyone, and I mean everyone, flocks outside to soak in those precious rays. Maastricht is also very famous for its boutique shopping so if you’re into fashion you will feel right at home.

Maastricht University is spread out throughout the city, similarly to Kelvin Grove so some exploring may be necessary to find a different faculty building.

I attempted learning Dutch on my exchange, and while I was pretty good at it, it was hard to balance with all the travel and study I did.

It was definitely a challenge being so far from home but I have some tips on how to make the most of your exchange!

  1. Bring waterproof shoes! (It rains a lot in Europe and you don’t want to be the foreigner with wet feet, especially in winter)
  2. Attend as many events in your universities o-week, you may never see most people again but you might find some great friends to travel with!
  3. Youtube is your best friend. (When you are homesick and dying for some Australian culture, watching old episodes of Australian shows is the best! My favorites were Blue Water High and Thank God, You’re Here)
  4. Most of all have fun, even if you miss home you will still make some great memories

Before my exchange I had only left the country once, now I have travelled to 17! I had a great exchange experience and now I am more confident, extroverted and prepared for whatever life has to throw at me.

“Oh sorry, I don’t speak Danish!”

Savannah H, Bachelor of Business
Aarhus University, Denmark (Semester 1, 2016)

I spent 5 amazing months in Aarhus, Denmark and spent a total of 7 months abroad. As cliché as it sounds, exchange really was the best time of my life.

I studied at the Business and Social Sciences (BSS) faculty at Aarhus University. Aarhus is the second biggest city in Denmark after Copenhagen. Aarhus University was amazing, and BSS was great! BSS ran a really great introduction week, which meant I got to meet a lot of other exchange students in my first week. I lived in one of the furthest accommodations, but it still only took me about 20 minutes on bus to the campus and about 25 minutes to the city centre. The campuses were great (despite the buildings being named/numbered a bit confusingly!) The facilities were great (and it had an excellent canteen). One word I would use to describe Aarhus University and Denmark and my whole time abroad in general is “chill”. Everything was so chill.

Aarhus City Centre

Aarhus University, unlike QUT, only has final exams that count towards your grade. So no mid-sem’s. Which had its benefits and its drawbacks. One benefit being, I was able to travel throughout the semester without having to worry about assessment. The main drawback was I was pretty stressed in the last month with 3 exams all worth 100%, but overall it was fine, and let’s just say, that all you need to do on exchange is pass.

Aarhus BSS

Living in Aarhus was amazing! It is such a student city and due to the amazing introduction week, I was able to meet and constantly catch up with so many friends! I found that cost of living in Aarhus was pretty similar to Australia. I paid about $600 a month for my accommodation (private studio apartment with kitchen and bathroom located about 25 minutes by bus to the city centre). Groceries were comparable to Australia and I got a phone plan for $20 a month!

Kapsejladsen (Northern Europe’s biggest Student Party) held at Aarhus University

I found Denmark to be culturally pretty similar to Australia, but they do drink a lot of beer! People were nice, but sometimes seemed a bit standoffish, but as I learned, they just wanted to give you your own space. However, as soon as you asked for help or said “oh, sorry! I don’t speak Danish”, they couldn’t have helped you faster! I personally didn’t experience any culture shock or homesickness, but I know a few who did, I think to help avoid this, it’s really great if you can find a group of really close friends and try to be really active and see lots of both your host city and do a lot of travel!

Aarhus, a classic Danish scene: grey skies, a bike and colourful houses

I travelled a lot! I mean a lot a lot! Any long weekend I got, I was gone! I ended up visiting 20 countries and 36 cities. Skyscanner and RyanAir were basically my hobbies. The longest flight I took was from Billund (middle of Denmark) to Malta (small island south of Italy), and even this was only about 3 hours and we literally flew north to south over Europe! Flights were so cheap as were buses and trains and hostels! A quick tip: If you want to travel through central Europe (France, Germany, UK, Austria, etc) do so in their Winter, hostels are almost a third cheaper than travelling in their Summer. In Summer, I tried to travel though Eastern Europe where things are generally cheaper anyway. However, I did do Italy and Greece in Summer (bye money, but 100% worth it!).

Nyhavn, Copenhagen

My Maastricht Journey in the Netherlands

Weining K., School of Business and Economics
Maastricht University, Netherlands (Semester 1, 2016)

In Semester 1, 2016, I spent my time studying in Maastricht, one of the most historical cities in the Netherlands. Although Maastricht is a small city, it buzzes with life and energy, which gave me lots of great memories living there.

Maastricht city center during winter – majority of the population are able to communicate in English.

 

Reflecting on my journey, I am proud of myself for overcoming my fears and working towards becoming a better person in terms of personal development and also academic experience in an unfamiliar setting. I would like to share you some key reasons why I choose Maastricht University (UM) as my exchange destination.

Orientation Week: Maastricht University School of Business and Economics.

 

  1. Problem-Based Learning (PBL) system

The PBL system offered by UM was very intriguing when I was applying for exchange as I had never heard about this learning method. This learning method requires students to take the initiation for their own study outcomes. Instead of attending usual lectures delivered by professors, students have to prepare all the assigned materials before attending class and are to contribute their thoughts and ideas to the group discussion. This involves approximately 15 -20 students in the tutorial and each person will be assigned as a discussion leader on a scheduled date. First of all, the discussion leader will lead the group to review the required materials and follow up by addressing the potential problems and an appropriate solution will be formed within the group. Most of time, we had to analyze the problem and figure out the possible solutions by ourselves and the tutor only acted as an assisting role if there are issues to be clarified, allowing us to be really engaged and proactive in our problem solving skills.

My experience of the first tutorial, I did not speak for whole class because I had no idea how to start the discussion topic. But I had to present my finding and learning thoughts in class in order to get a mark for class performance. Luckily, our tutor and local students were very patient and friendly guiding me through the process and listened to my ideas as well as giving me some helpful feedback. At the end of my exchange, I can proudly say that I have gained more confidence in my public speaking skills.

  1. International Environment

Maastricht University is one of the most internationally renowned universities in Netherlands and most of the courses are taught in English. As 90-93% of Dutch population are able to speak in English and almost half of the students come from abroad, English is the official language on the campus, therefore, I didn’t need to worry about learning a new language from scratch, which made my transition and experience abroad a seamless one.

In terms of accommodation, I chose a guesthouse which was recommended by the university. This provided so many opportunities to meet new friends from all over the world and share our experiences. We had Friday night ‘international dinners’ where we took turns cooking cuisines from our home countries which was a memorable experience.

  1. Great Location to travel

Maastricht is a Dutch city that is located southeast in the Netherlands, it is far away from its other main cities like Amsterdam. Usually it takes 3 hours from Maastricht to Amsterdam by train. However, it is an easier location for travelling to other neighboring countries like Germany and Belgium. It only takes 45 minutes by bus to cross German and Belgian borders, making these countries convenient destinations for weekend visits. The Eindhoven airport, which is an hour commute by train from Maastricht is the most convenient airport to take the planes to other European countries. Most of them providing budget airline carriers such as Ryanair, Easyjet and Transavia.

Ryanair offers great deals and discounts for your travelling needs within Europe!

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It must be noted however that tickets for public transport are quite expensive in the Netherlands. For example, it costs €27 one-way ticket from Schiphol airport to Maastricht. In order to save, I always bought NS group return tickets, which work for people who are traveling together for that day. Good thing about this group ticket is that I do not need to travel with other group members and the lowest fare is €7 for return tickets if there are maximum 10 passengers. Students in the Netherlands usually pool the tickets through a Facebook group if they are travelling to the same destinations on the same day. I highly recommend future exchange students to find out the group ticket information if you plan to go any cities in the Netherlands.

 

Students can coordinate group discounts through Facebook groups and save big!

 

During my exchange, I have traveled to nearly 10 countries in Europe and experienced different cultures and food. Some countries in EU do not use euro as their official currency and sometimes it is hard to estimate the amount of money needed during the trip. Personally, I have created a local ING bank account with a debit card while staying in the Netherlands. I can use debit card in all EU countries and withdraw money from the local ATM whenever I want. Therefore, I didn’t need to take risk of bringing cash when traveling from one city to another. One credit card from home is required because many of online purchase like flight tickets only allow for credit card transactions.

 

Going on exchange was one of the best things in my life. Being abroad and meeting different people has made a significant impact on how I see the world today. I became more open-minded to accept other people’s perspectives and respect their different opinions. Although there were many challenges throughout the exchange journey, I have gained self-confidence by tackling and resolving them and learned a lot about myself during those hard times. I strongly encourage everyone who is dreaming to see different parts of the world by applying to Outbound Exchange Program. You only live once and do not regret missing this great opportunity when you have the chance. If you get the chance, go for it. Finally, I would like to say thank QUT and International Student Mobility Office for all the support through my whole journey.

 

Rotterdam: The best city you’ve never heard of

Chris, M., Bachelor of Business
Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands  (Semester 1, 2018)

In the last few days of 2017 I embarked on what would be the experience of a lifetime. After saying goodbye with mixed emotions and spending over 24 hours travelling, I finally arrived in the city that would become my home for the next 6 months – Rotterdam. The first thing you notice when you step off a plane on the other side of the world is that the weather is the complete opposite. No matter how prepared I thought I was, coming from 35C summer days in Brisbane to a Dutch winter which hovers just above the 0C mark was a shock. Fortunately, this weather did not last the entire 6 months, and seeing the temperature gradually warm into a Dutch summer was something special.

After settling into my accommodation and making my first few friends there, I already had a foot in the door. Many amazing experiences followed over the next 6 months, but I’ll save you the trouble and just tell you about the things you need to know if you’re thinking that Rotterdam might be the exchange destination for you.

The Netherlands

There’s not many things that the Dutch don’t do better than Australia and the rest of the world. Between public transport that has made me fear my return to Queensland Rail, and a 95% English literacy rate (which is even higher than Canada) that meant most Dutch natives spoke better English than I did, they’re definitely doing something right.

I chose Rotterdam in the first place because I was looking for somewhere that had a culture different from Australia but also spoke English to the degree that I wouldn’t be forced to buy a premium Duolingo subscription. The Netherlands fit this criteria perfectly, and after assessing the possible universities available, I decided that Rotterdam would be the ideal host city. Although it is a modern city with everything you could ask for (being rebuilt after World War 2 makes it quite different to other traditional Dutch cities), it is still small enough that you could travel from one side to the other via bike in half an hour. The city has an arty hipster scene reminiscent of Berlin, but also a thriving business district and extensive shopping areas. It’s a bustling city and there is always something to do.

Even though Dutch culture has many similarities to that of Australia, Dutch people can be quite dry and serious on the surface. However, once you get to know them they’re very friendly. When around other Dutch people they will often speak Dutch, but don’t be alarmed as they quickly switch back to English to speak to those who don’t.

Being a small country, it is quite easy to hop on a train and travel to the next city over (or even next country) for a day trip. You’ll find yourself going to Amsterdam every few weeks, but although it is a nice tourist city, it can’t compare to the livability of Rotterdam. The infrastructure in Rotterdam is amazing, with buses, trams, trains, and a subway (the Metro) to help you get across the city with ease. On top of this, there are dedicated bike lanes all over the city which mean most people opt to ride instead of drive. Unlike Brisbane, there’s no need to fear for your life when riding a bike in the Netherlands! You still need to be careful as a pedestrian to look twice when crossing the street.

University

Sometimes you forget that this is the reason you’re here. Fortunately for me, the quality of Erasmus University Rotterdam matches the quality of the city. The Rotterdam School of Management (the faculty where I completed my studies) is one of the top 10 business schools in Europe.

The structure here is somewhat different to QUT. Each faculty has a different number of blocks (i.e. semesters), lasting different durations. At RSM, we had three 10-week blocks over the year. For me, that meant that my semester 1 was composed of two trimesters over here (January to March and April to June). Due to the academic year starting at a different time, these were their trimesters 2 and 3. The difference in timelines for each faculty can complicate doing units from outside of RSM, but it is still definitely possible if you research the duration and start dates of the units you’re interested in.

Each of the two trimesters I was here, I was enrolled in 3 or 4 RSM units. Each unit had only had one class a week; normally a lecture but sometimes a tutorial instead. This meant I was normally only in for two half days a week, allowing for a lot of free time. Since lectures are usually not recorded like they are at QUT, it was a good idea to go to most of my classes since I had so little contact time (provided I was in the city).

The assessment was comparable to QUT in relevance and difficulty. The exams were often MCQ, and the assignments were heavily team based with almost every unit having a team assignment involved. A grading scale from 1 to 10 is used here, with a 5.5 being a passing grade. The way it was marked meant getting a passing grade was comparable to QUT but achieving a top grade (10) was much harder.

The campus is a relatively large and even has space for on-campus accommodation. It’s 10-15 minutes outside of the city centre by either bike or public transport, meaning it is very accessible. Although there is little activity outside in the cold winter weather, everyone comes outside from the indoor study spaces and university bar to soak up the sun when summer arrives. During summer the campus comes alive, as does the rest of the city. Fun Fact: It took me 3 months before I saw a single pair of shorts being worn in the Netherlands.

An organisation called the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) organises many amazing trips and activities throughout the year. It is mainly focused towards exchange students and is a great way to meet new people and enjoy new experiences. Twice a year they host an ‘Intro Days’ program which I highly recommend. It’s three days full of fun activities and is one of the main ways you’ll meet many of your friends for the 6 months. Some of the highlights from ESN throughout the year include boat rides through the canals of Amsterdam on King’s Day (Dutch national holiday), a week-long trip to Berlin, Day trips to Belgium, and an outdoor cinema by the university lake.

Living

Unfortunately for me I missed out on a spot in the university accommodation on-campus. Although I recommend that everyone should try to get in as early as possible to get a spot on-campus, missing out is not the end of the world. The room I eventually found was on the other side of the city in an area called Schiedam. Fortunately, due to the amazing public transport and the relatively small size of the city, I was able to go door to door from accommodation to class room in 35 minutes despite the distance. When the weather was good I even found myself riding my bike to university, which also took 35-40 minutes. It may sound like the Tour de France, but the ride is relatively easy due to how flat the ground is. The public transport runs until 12:30AM on weekdays and until 1:30AM on Friday and Saturday, which means there’s never any problem getting to and from home if I’m hanging out at campus until late.

The on-campus accommodation is three individual rooms with a shared kitchen and bathroom. The average cost of rent is about 500 Euro ($850 AUD) per month, and ranges from 450-600 Euro depending on size and location. It is important to budget while on exchange. The cost of living is quite similar to Australia, but maybe a little more expensive. Some things are cheaper like alcohol (much cheaper), while others such as public transport can be quite expensive. If you eat in and cook for yourself, you can live off 150 Euro per month for food. However, eating out and enjoying yourself (as you should) quickly changes this.

One of the best parts about the Netherlands being so central in Europe is that you’re able to easily travel to different countries. Budget airlines and an amazing system of trains and busses makes it both cheap and easy to travel to any country across the continent. Booking in advanced (2 months) makes it even more affordable, but even last-minute flights aren’t too bad if they aren’t booked in peak tourist season (May-August).

Challenges

While exchange truly lives up to the high expectations of the amazing stories you hear, it does come with hardship. Although people don’t talk about it very often, going to a completely different country without knowing anyone can be daunting, and when the initial excitement wears off it can be scary. Whether it comes in the form of culture shock or homesickness, everyone experiences it to an extent. Being away from my family and girlfriend for the first time for such a long period was quite difficult, but there were many ways to help me overcome it. Keeping in contact with friends and family back home as well as having a support network in your new home country is key when integrating into a new lifestyle. You’ll find that a lot of other exchange students will be going through the same thing, so don’t be afraid to talk to them about it too. Especially if you’re experiencing culture shock, walking around your local area and seeing something new every day will help you adjust. Before you know it, you’ll be feeling at home!

Having a different time zone to back home can be quite tough but finding regular times to Skype or FaceTime friends and family can make it a little easier. Especially if you have a partner back home, sharing what you’re up to on exchange to make them feel involved and informed is important. But don’t forget that hearing about their day is equally important. If you’re lucky like I was, they might even get a chance to come over and visit you!

Don’t let any of this scare you off though; it’s a completely normal phase of the adjustment process and in the end, it’ll only make your experiences richer!

Overall

Going on exchange is a life-changing opportunity. Although I highly recommend Rotterdam as your university of choice, wherever you end up you shouldn’t be disappointed – it’s the people you meet and the friendships you make as much as the destination. On top of the incredible memories you’ll make, going on exchange also pushes you to grow as a person. Studying in an international environment and creating a global network dramatically increases your employability – it gives you far more experience than a line on your CV can justify. For those of you who are currently working through all the paper work in hopes of making it on exchange, let me tell you that its all worth it. For those who are still considering it, all I can say is to take the leap – you won’t regret it.

Fun in the Netherlands

Erika R., Bachelor of Design
University of TU Delft, Netherlands (Semester 1, 2018)

Life at TU Delft is a student’s dream in my opinion. The university covers a significant portion of the small town of Delft in the Netherlands. This means majority of the people are students. The faculty of Architecture, which is where I was, is full of motivated students. The students treat university like a full-time job, as they roll into faculty at 9am and leave by 6pm. I was lucky enough to have my classes in the model hall, which is a huge, light-filled atrium space filled with students model-making all day long. After a big day, the architecture faculty has its own bar, open Tuesday and Thursday evenings which is a great way to end a hard-working day.Academic culture at TU Delft involves constant hard working ethic. For my course assessment was in groups, this made the motivation drive to become stronger within the group. Class time was an informal environment. Studio time is a very social atmosphere, a place to express ideas and reflect. This was also the same when meeting with tutors. It was a very comfortable environment. In my opinion having informal class time is a positive. It strengthens my ability to express design ideas and overall become more confident in public speaking.

TU Delft provided me with student accommodation, this was perfect as home was only a 3 minute cycle from class. Having the opportunity to live on campus along with many other international students has been the best experience and my highlight. I shared a floor level with 6 other internationals and will be friends I will remember forever.

Living in the Netherlands has been both challenging and exciting in so many ways. Being such a small county in Europe getting to destinations was not hard. Being able to cycle around town and to surrounding cities was a lot of fun, something I will respect about the Dutch. I have absolutely loved cycling everywhere, in the rail, hail and snow! However, one aspect I did find a challenge was the lack of sunshine and never-ending rainfall. Although it has definitely made me appreciate the Australian sun, which I am forever grateful for.

Having the opportunity to go on exchange has being one of the best decisions. Not only have I made many more friends, I respect the hard-working culture they have in the Netherlands and I am grateful for what I have learnt from studying at TU Delft.

Everything you need to know about studying in Maastricht!

Kellie Amos
Maastricht University, Netherlands (Semester 1, 2017)

Applying to Maastricht University (UM)

Getting accepted into an exchange program is, naturally, quite a process. There’s a lot of different applications that need to be completed, and you spend equal amounts of time waiting for the approval of these as you do submitting them. Although, for the most part, both QUT and UM were quite prompt in getting back to me, I did have some issues with receiving official acceptance from UM.

Initially, I received confirmation of my registration not long after submitting my application, but this didn’t count as official acceptance. QUT requires a letter from the overseas university stating your acceptance before they can confirm your enrolment and start organising other elements of your exchange. Consequently, a few weeks went by and I started to receive information about visas and classes from UM, but still no official letter of acceptance. It was only after I asked for it directly that I was sent an appropriate form of acceptance to forward to QUT.

So if, like me, a few weeks go by and you’re getting emails about visas and enrolment – but still no acceptance – it’s worth contacting the uni’s International Relations Office (or likewise relative department) for official confirmation. Of course, I don’t know if this is a usual problem with UM, but you’ll want to receive your official acceptance as soon as possible so you can get your visa sorted.

Maastricht Housing & Guesthouse UM

All student housing for UM is organised by a third-party organisation called Maastricht Housing. As the official agency, it’s recommended you find accommodation through them, and after reading some horror stories online, I decided it was worth the €35 registration fee.

Under Maastricht Housing, the UM Guesthouse is the main provider of housing for UM students and has a lot of different buildings/properties to choose from. The main building where you pick up your keys, sign your contract, etc. is actually a hospital where the majority of the complex has been converted to dorms. A lot of the friends I ended up making stayed here, as it’s one of the cheapest options the Guesthouse offers. I decided on pricier accommodation at one of the Guesthouse’s buildings in the centre called Heilige Geest 7B instead.

For me, this was a perfect place to be as I came to know the city extremely well, and my studio apartment felt more like a home, as opposed to a temporary stay. I was also lucky enough to become close friends with the Finnish girl who lived above me and the other people on my floor. In general though, Heilige Geest has no shared or communal areas, so in the early weeks I felt like I’d made the wrong choice given everyone was making friends and hanging out at the Guesthouse. After a while, that all changed as I grew closer to the people in my building and heard about all the issues my other friends were having at the Guesthouse (mostly gross communal areas and unpleasant staff). I paid more for my apartment, but for me and the experience I wanted, I felt it was worth every extra penny!

Maastricht birthplace of the European Union

A beautiful medieval city, Maastricht is home to a large international student population – particularly from the neighbouring countries Belgium and Germany. People from all over the world come to study at the university and improve their English. Given the large student population there’s rarely a time where something isn’t going on in one of the city squares, the Vrijthof and the Markt, especially in the summer. The student organisation ISN regularly puts on events and trips for exchange students, and you can’t miss their infamous CANTUS nights (think karaoke meets Oktoberfest) or their ‘Discover’ weekend trips.

Aside from being full of places to eat, drink, and dance, Maastricht is popular among locals within the region for its shopping. You could easily spend hours checking out all the cute boutiques tucked away in all the winding streets of Dutch houses. There’s also a lot of beautiful parks, and my friends and I would often sit on part of the old city walls overlooking them as we ate our lunch.

In addition to being such a beautiful place to live, Maastricht is also extremely close to other European countries. I walked and biked to Belgium with my friends on many occasions, and catching trains across the border was just as easy. You can catch trains and buses to Germany, France, and Luxembourg with just as much ease but if you’re travelling via the NS (Netherlands railway company) use Facebook groups to find others so you can buy cheaper tickets for €7 (see links at the end of this blog). The closest airport is Eindhoven, which offers really cheap flights, and you can also get some incredibly good value flights from Brussels’ airports.

  Dutch Culture and Carnaval!

In terms of culture, you get a very authentic taste of Dutch life living in Maastricht. The locals in this region love to drink, sing, and dance – as evidenced by the incredible festival Carnaval (not to be confused with the South American Carnival). Although I could never get any one person to tell me exactly what the festival was for, it essentially started as a tradition in the southern parts of Belgium, Netherlands, and Germany where people would fill the streets in elaborate costumes (often gender bended) and drink and eat for 3 days. If you’re planning on going to Maastricht for exchange, you have to go during first semester. Carnaval takes place in March and is truly a sight to behold!

This is the event where I really bonded with my friends and came to know the city, in all its colour. It also introduced me to a fundamental characteristic of the Dutch culture – you can be and do whatever you want, so long as it doesn’t harm anyone else. The neutrality of this mindset is something I truly came to admire about the Netherlands.

O-Week & Making Friends

As part of your exchange, UM requires you to participate in a compulsory 3-day introduction to the campus and system of teaching called Problem-based Learning (PBL). In addition to that, ISN runs a series of events throughout the week for you to meet people and introduce yourself to the Dutch culture, including city tours, bike classes, food tastings, and pub crawls. I attended a few of these events, and at the pub crawl met some people who eventually formed my group of closest friends on exchange. It was awkward putting myself out there but all the other students are in the same boat and everyone is extremely friendly. After the first week, most people had found a solid collection of friends and groups began to form. This is why it’s so important to be there for first week and go to as many of the ISN events as you can. By the end of exchange, my friends were like my family, as we had made so many wonderful memories together. Exchange would mean half of what it does if I hadn’t of met them, so take the time to talk to people and I guarantee you’ll form friendships unlike any other.

Cost of Living

For my exchange, I used a Velocity Global Wallet Card, which allows you to load AUD on to it and exchange it into several other currencies, including the Euro and Pound. It works like a normal visa debit card and has no fees for electronic transactions, just a small dollar fee for cash withdrawals. Being a small city, many of the establishments in Maastricht don’t accept traditional credit card providers like visa, so I did have to use cash quite often.

Overall, Maastricht isn’t an overly expensive city if you know where to go! With such a large student population, there are a number of cheap places to eat and groceries were largely cheaper than what you pay in Australia. I went overseas with around $12,000AUD spending money, which was more than enough for 6 months of living and travelling in Europe, leaving me with over a grand leftover. With rent for accommodation, I needed an extra $5,000AUD, so depending on how much travel you do and where you choose to stay in Maastricht, I’d say you should budget between $15,000-20,000AUD for 6 months.

Some Final Advice…

In the span of your lifetime, 6 months might not equate to much, but an exchange feels like you’ve just lived an entire years worth of experiences in half the amount of time. It’s pretty amazing how quickly you can put down roots in another part of the world. I don’t have any regrets about my exchange and I could spend hours telling you more about the things I was able to see, do, and live thanks to this opportunity. Instead, the last piece of advice I give you is to find some way to remember it – whether that’s photos, a journal, a blog, collecting souvenirs, or a combination of all those – I can guarantee you’ll want some kind of physical evidence it wasn’t just a dream.

Exchange isn’t easy, you will have lows along with the highs, but it is so worth your time and effort! Here are some extra links to help—

Facebook group for NS Group Tickets: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1472379199695327/

Facebook group for Second-hand Bikes: https://www.facebook.com/groups/216524551852144/

Facebook group for Bikes and Furniture: https://www.facebook.com/groups/zarurahusam/

 

Two Weeks in Amsterdam

Christopher Atkins, Bachelor of Design

Short-term program: Amsterdam Uni of Applies Sciences “Amsterdam Summer School”

Netherlands (July 2018)

I completed a 2 week summer course in Amsterdam, Netherlands at Amsterdam University of Applied Science. The course was called “Urban Scan” and was aimed at looking into what makes Amsterdam, Amsterdam. How the city was built and how it has changed over time. I found this a helpful course as I am studying Landscape Architecture and some aspects were quite informative.

The other students in my class were from all different disciplines and the course could be taken by anyone from any discipline. The other students were great and I met people from all over the world. We shared many afternoons socialising after class in Amsterdam. The University is close to the city so it was easy to access. The accommodation however, I wouldn’t recommend. I got the accommodation through the Uni and it was a 4 bedroom shared unit with other Dutch students. The place was a mess and some of the house mates had left for home for their Summer. The bathroom clogged and water was everywhere through the unit. The internet was never working and the area was far from the city and didn’t feel too safe at night. I would recommend finding alternate accommodation in or closer to the city/University instead.

Amsterdam city, canals.

 The country itself was amazing, I had been to the Netherlands before so I knew what I was getting into. The locals in Amsterdam all speak perfect English so it is easy to get around. The city itself is a maze! All the streets blend into one and are very similar, with canals everywhere, it’s all part of the fun of Amsterdam I guess. It’s a lot easier if you can get a bike to ride around with, the city is fairly small so if you have a bike you can’t anywhere within 15/20min. The sun is also up till 11PM at night so there is plenty of time to explore the city after class finishes at 5PM.

Amsterdam city, canals.

 The highlight of my trip was probably the bike ride we did with our class. It was a 2 hour trip North of Amsterdam but it went through the countryside, past windmills and old farm houses. We arrived at a lighthouse and had lunch then made our way back to Amsterdam. The whole course was really fun and the teacher was amazing. Most days we’d stop in the afternoon for a drink and some Dutch cheese somewhere in the city, with our teacher explaining Dutch culture and everyone else trading stories from their home country. I really learnt a lot not just about Amsterdam but other parts of the world through my class mates.

View from the bike ride hours North of Amsterdam.

I would highly advise taking this summer course. It was fun, informative, exciting, eye opening and I made new friends. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough…. Just book your own accommodation.

Studying in the Heart of Amsterdam

Natasha Phillips, Bachelor of Behavioural Science (Psychology)/Laws

Short-term program: Amsterdam Uni of Applies Sciences ‘Amsterdam Summer School’

Netherlands (July 2018)

My name is Natasha and when I participated in my short term exchange I was half way through my third year of a dual degree of Law and Psychology at QUT. My exchange program was in Amsterdam, The Netherlands and after reflection I can happily say it was one of the best experiences of my life.

I got to explore the history and culture of Amsterdam by studying there.

I studied an architecture course, this is something which is completely different to my degree at QUT but I am so glad I decided to study this course. Studying architecture in an old city like Amsterdam was incredible because by studying the architecture, I got to study the history and culture of the city and explore the city itself. The program and teaching style was very relaxed compared to my classes at QUT but I thought this was brilliant for a course which was so interactive. Each day we would have class in the morning and then in the afternoon we would go out and explore a different area of the city which was related to our morning class. The campus was based in the heart of the city and this was amazing because before and after class we got the opportunity to explore the city and take in the sights and sounds of Amsterdam. The campus was very modern and the support staff were kind, welcoming and helpful.

This program gave us the opportunity to explore the city after classes.

Amsterdam is a beautiful city and by being an exchange student for two weeks, we got the chance to explore the tourist spots like Anne Frank’s House, the canals and the Amsterdam sign but we also go to experience other aspects of the city which some tourists might not. For example, one day my class rented bikes and we cycled to a beach outside the city and got to see the countryside which surrounded the city. Everyone spoke both Dutch and English and were very friendly so I never had any issues with getting lost or any bad experiences in the city.

The highlight of exchange was the people.

My highlight of my short term exchange was the people I met and the friendships I made. I will forever be grateful for this opportunity because as part of my exchange I now have friends in America, Russia, Norway, Germany and of course The Netherlands. I would highly recommend to any QUT student to participate in a short term exchange and gain credits for their course as an elective because it was the best experience.

Study at one of the top Business Schools in Europe

Maastricht University School of Business and Economics, The Netherlands

Location: Maastricht, South Limburg, The Netherlands.

Why study here?: 4th best young university in the world, triple accredited business school, melting pot of European culture, travel opportunities.

Maastricht University School of Business and Economics has been named the 4th best young university in the world, and is one of only 1% of business schools worldwide to be triple-crown accredited (EQUIS, AACSB and AMBA). SBE is home to over 4200 students, and is the most international university in the Netherlands – with half of their students and staff coming from abroad. Most courses are taught in English and SBE are well- known for their Problem-Based Learning system and international orientation. The university offers students guidance and support for international students in regards to visas, accommodation and more, and offers a buddy programme to help you settle in during your semester abroad.

The Maastricht is one of the most visited cities in the Netherlands, due to its vibrancy, culture and internationalisation. Maastricht is known as the birthplace of the European Union and the Schengen Treaty. It is a melting pot of different European cultures, and is filled with historic buildings and cutting-edge modern architecture. The city has quaint cobblestone streets, impressive churches, wonderful city squares, delicious food from neighbouring countries Germany and Belgian, museums, pubs, music venues and shopping. Almost everyone rides a bike in and around Maastricht, and many other famous European cities are close by.

If you want to explore some more of Europe during your exchange, Maastricht is the perfect base. Don’t let the southern location of Maastricht deceive you – Rotterdam and Amsterdam are only 2.5 hours away by car or train, Cologne and Brussels are only 1.5 hours away by car, and Paris is 3.5 hours away by train.

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;)