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.

 

Leave your diet at home!

Claudia, R. Bachelor of Business/Law
Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi, Italy (Semester 1, 2018)

A semester exchange was something I always wanted to pursue, but it was far too easy in my busy Law/Business double degree to postpone any action. After four years of pushing it aside, I finally took the plunge and applied for the Semester 1 2018 intake. I remember being incredibly set on going to Bocconi in Milan, Italy. I am half Italian and have only visited as a child, and my family’s hometown is roughly one hour north of Milan! I wanted to take this chance to get in touch with my heritage, my family and identity, and learn Italian once and for all (my dad never taught me). Getting accepted into my program was devastatingly exciting – I was both bouncing off the walls and on the verge of a mental breakdown.

Arco Della Pace

I stayed at Residenza Arcobaleno, the cheapest of Bocconi’s student accommodation options and composed of roughly 95% other exchange students. Arco was 15 minutes by tram to Bocconi, and about 30 minutes to the centre and the beautiful Duomo. I had friends that stayed at Residenza Isonzo which could’ve been a good option, which was a 5 minute walk to Bocconi and an easy 15 minute walk into the centre. I remember choosing Arco because I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet other exchange students who were in the same boat – and I wasn’t wrong! The people at Arco were all lovely, however, I found the environment was always very rowdy and social (not necessarily a bad thing but not suited for an introvert like me!). It also wasn’t the best environment for someone wanting to befriend Italian students and practice your language-other-than-English skills. In hindsight and based off my personal needs, I would’ve taken the extra time and searched for an apartment rental or student accommodation closer to Bocconi.

Duomo di Milano

Bocconi has a top business school equipped with amazing professors and learning opportunities. Class registration was pretty straight-forward, I found that I had to have lots of back-up options just in case units filled out quickly. I had to take 5 units to achieve a full-time study load, and they were all conducted in a lectorial format. I definitely found a lot of striking differences with Australian university – for example, absolutely NO guidance or task sheet/CRA for any assessment! Exams were always weighted heavily, with mine ranging from 70%-100% of the unit mark. This was initially quite daunting for me as I am used to essay writing and no more than 60% exams, however it was super manageable provided I stayed on top of my readings. The Bocconi campus is in downtown Milan and honestly isn’t the most stunning architecture you’ll see in your life – but that’s what the Milan Duomo is for.

Glass Ceiling of Piazza Duomo

My hot tips to anyone thinking of going on exchange to Bocconi, Milan or Italy are as follows:

  1. Prepare to balance your work, life and sleep – Bocconi’s pass/fail mark is 18/30 (60%) so you definitely need to set aside some study time in your busy social schedules.
  2. Plan your travel – Milan and Italy are in the centre of Europe so an international day trip or weekend holiday is absolutely not out of the question, and flights are usually cheaper than trains.
  3. Leave your diet at home – you absolutely can’t let yourself turn down any pizza, pasta or aperitivo opportunities!

Exchange is something I wish I could do multiple times over, and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone considering it or seeking a little excitement in their lives. I’ve made life-long friends and unforgettable memories, and feel assured knowing that I can call a place on the other side of the world my home.