My trip to the NICU

The other day I visited UM Hospital’s NICU. A NICU is a neonatal intensive care unit, aka a ward which specializes in the care of premature and/or sick newborns. This ward was split into three units: intensive care (for those who need constant care and monitoring), high care (those who need less care) and medium care (those who need only a little extra attention or medication).

In the last quarter I’ve been following two courses: Perception and Infancy. This trip supplemented our Infancy readings on prematurity and neonatal development. It was a unique experience to talk to a doctor and see an intensive care unit first-hand. The babies were very small and most were in incubators. We are learning about the neurological impacts of prematurity, but the physiological impacts were most apparent. Many infants were hooked-up to multiple machines which helped with breathing, monitored heart-rate and provided nutrients. Although the machines were all very high tech, my favorite thing in the ward was that each child had a toy octopus in their bed. Apparently the octopus’ tentacle feels like an umbilical cord and this soothes them!


The week of orientation was full of new people, activities and places. Not only did I meet most of my classmates, I also got to explore the campus(es) of Maastricht University and discover the PBL system.

My Group

While some Dutch students did attend, this week was only for those of us who didn’t complete our Bachelors in Maastricht. Therefore it was a very international crowd. In my small group there were people from Germany, Turkey, Lebanon, Indonesia, India, Montenegro and the US. As international students we all were new to the city/country, and so everyone has been hanging out, sharing information and making the extra effort to get to know each other. This has included going to “Bruis,” a music festival/carnival that they opened one night just for psychology students.

Unlike Occidental, my classmates are anywhere from 21 to 31 years old. This means that people have had interesting careers (working at hospitals, as substance abuse counselors and even in architecture!) and life trajectories (there’s one woman who has a four year old). While half of the people taking this course are Dutch and (mostly) straight out of their undergraduate degrees here, I think that this age-diversity will make for interesting insights and classes.

Academic information/PBL

Speaking of classes, the main reason for this week was to get to know the PBL system. PBL stands for Problem Based Learning, and it is the main educational method used at Maastricht. Similar to the liberal arts approach with small discussion classes etc, so far I really like this method because I’ve gotten to know (already!) the professors and really feel like I’m involved with the learning.

I’m a little worried because I’ve heard that about 50% of students actually fail out each year. That’s the difference between the Dutch and US/UK systems though, getting in is very easy but people get (extensively) weeded out as the course continues. While I like this approach because it seems more egalitarian – no one is denied a college education, I am a little terrified about what’s to come. We only have one test at the end of each course, and on the whole it’s just a very different experience than the one I had at Oxy!

Moving in/Maastricht

With regards to the practical, I finally got a bike! I love the city, it’s been very sunny and so I’ve just been walking/riding my bike around, getting to know the adorable cobble streets and medieval architecture. My Dutch lessons have also started (second one today!), but right now all I can say is thank you/hello/this is delicious and a few other (necessary) basics. Literally everyone here speaks perfect English, but I’m going to make an attempt at learning at least some of the language!

My room is also nice, and while it’s very pink (courtesy of the previous tenant), I have my own little kitchenette and everything. I also like my roommates, and we’ve had a bonding dinner already to get to know each other. So far we’ve only had one major housing issue, which was the shower refusing to turn off, but our upstairs neighbours were nice enough to help. Turns out the “emergency hotline” for the housing company only works from 9-5! So next time we’ll make sure to only have housing emergencies during working hours.

And that’s it! Time to start classes!