After two weeks of winter break, I’m back in Maastricht! January term is different than the last two, as we have no theoretical classes and instead take a combination of writing, statistics and searching tutorials to prepare us for our theses.
Christmas here, which means Magisch Maastricht (Magic Maastricht) is back!
A few weeks ago I took my very first set of exams in Maastricht, thus signifying the end of classes 1 and 2. I am pleased to say that they went well and I’m on to my next set, but I thought I should reflect on the exam process and the classes in general for those interested.
One of the coolest “tourist-y” things to do in Maastricht is the tour of the Northern Caves under St. Pieterberg hill.
Beer! Wine! Country music! Poffertjes!
While I spent most of the weekend in the library, making up for any study time lost last week, I did manage to go to the city’s wine and beer festival on Saturday night. Called Kannen & Kruiken, this outside festival was located in stadtspark and was a perfect way to spend a warm fall evening.
The festival ran straight through Thursday-Sunday. It was a fun time, with lots of food, drinks and entertainment. I tasted different types of wine and ate poffertjes, which are my favourite!
It seemed as though the entire city of Maastricht was there, and while the drinks weren’t cheap, there was no cover charge and we got to keep the fun (branded) glasses. There was also a lot of country/bluegrass music played, changing to Michael Jackson and club hits later in the night. Eclectic, but something for everyone!
Last weekend was the PAS+ Festival (Parcours of Art and Science), celebrating the 40th anniversary of Maastricht University. Here’s a link to the program: http://english.pasmaastricht.nl/
I had a lot of fun, mainly listening to music. This included a swing band, bluegrass group and even some Balkan beats. I also watched a sitar performance, listened to a brass band play Lady Gaga covers in the street and watched some political art movies projected on a medieval wall.
It was a great way to get to know the city and its vibrant social/arts scene for free, and I had fun dancing the night away with some of my classmates!
Here are some videos (taken from YouTube) of the acts I saw.
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.
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.
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!
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!
As some of you may know, in September 2016 I am moving to Maastricht to pursue my MSc Psychology. Specializing in developmental psychology, I hope this opportunity will allow me to gain critical research skills and continue working at the intersection of information and the behavioral sciences. For more information about the program, check out this link.
Last weekend I took advantage of a British bank holiday weekend to go to the Netherlands. There I completed my application, checked out the university and generally explored with a friend. For more photos from our trip, click here. While the process was a little stressful (admissions are a lot more lax in the Netherlands than in the US, so a proactive attitude is necessary), I managed to complete everything that needed to be done.
Maastricht is a very quaint European town, probably most known for being the birthplace of our current, integrated EU (see: Maastricht Treaty). While it did rain for the entirety of the 30-odd hour trip, we managed to explore the city on an American school bus. One of the highlights definitely was Boekhandel Dominicanen (an ancient Dominican church renovated into a modern bookstore).
We were lucky enough to find a great deal on train tickets which included a night at a hotel close to the psychology faculty. The university campus is split by the river, with the neuroscience, psychology, health/medicine and business faculties on the quieter, more recently developed campus. Connected to the university hospital, the psychology faculty is modern, with a comfortable looking library and extensive cafe. While there did not seem to be many classes being taught while I was there (perhaps it was exam season?), I did picked up many fliers and even the school newspaper to get a feel of the campus and student life.
Overall the trip went well. I am excited to return in August and begin my studies. Hopefully I’ll learn a little Dutch too! I am grateful for this opportunity, and realize how lucky I am to hold UK citizenship and be considered European in terms of fees and travel. Hopefully this stays the same after the June 23rd vote!