Maastricht is a small university city located in the south of Holland. There are many reasons why I chose this enchanting little city for my exchange and since I have been here the list has grown!… The traditional Dutch houses, the biking culture, the affordability of the city and the variety of courses the university has to offer. I’ve fallen in love with the adorable narrow cobbled streets and the old wall that winds its way through the city. Maastricht has a great central location in Europe, making nearby cities like Luxemburg, Cologne, Brussels and Amsterdam only a short train ride away. As a university city, Maastricht has everything to offer including cosy cafes to study in, cheap places to eat and great bars and clubs. After growing up in a big city like Sydney, I’ve come to appreciate how small Maastricht is. Everything is within a 15 minute bike ride away and after being here for only a few weeks I already began running into people I know! Last but not least I cannot go without mentioning one of the best experiences I have had here so far… Carnival! Carnival is when daily life comes to a stop and Maastricht transforms into one big celebration. Everyone dresses up and hits the streets to watch the parades and party!
Experiencing life at a different university has been amazing. I chose to use my electives on exchange, which has enabled me to explore a variety of subjects separate from my Medical Science degree including psychology, cultural studies and a Dutch language course. During the orientation at the University College of Maastricht (UCM), you meet most of the other exchange students. The university does a brilliant job of organizing parties, karaoke nights and pub-crawls in the arrival week where you are guaranteed to make friends! The main aspect of UCM that sets it apart from UTS is the use of a particular learning method called Problem- Based Learning (PBL). All the exchange students are accustomed to this method during the orientation sessions. Typically students attend a lecture and two PBL tutorial sessions for each subject per week. A PBL tutorial is comprised of 12 students and a tutor. The session is purely student driven with an allocated ‘group leader’ and ‘note-taker.’ Students discuss the readings in relation to learning goals, while the tutor steps in to clarify key concepts. It’s difficult to fully understand PBL if you haven’t experienced it before, but I can assure you that I am a huge fan! It’s taught me to be a more active and confident member during group discussions.
While most exchange students booked a room at the Guest House, I am part of the minority that got accommodation independent of the student housing. Booking accommodation at the Guest House is definitely more secure, however I found myself extremely lucky to get a great sublet close to the city centre. My flatmate is a local and we get on extremely well. She’s given me lots of tips about what to do in Maastricht and its great to have someone around with whom I can practise speaking Dutch! Living with her has been a great way to immerse myself in the culture and daily life in the Netherlands. One of the chief reasons why I chose to go on exchange in the Netherlands was the cultural aspect. As an exchange student you sometimes find yourself in a bubble of other exchange students. There is of course nothing wrong with that, however I think living outside the Guest House has enriched my cultural experience in that respect.
- During the organization process (which is long I know!), do everything as soon as you can. Make your exchange almost like another subject at uni with a folder where you keep all your notes and official documents. Being organised is a must and there are so many people out there to help you.
- Make the most of arrival week! This is where I met most of my friends who I hang out with on a daily basis. Do whatever you can to show up to every event!
- Try lots of new things. When you’re on exchange you’re in a completely new physical, academic, cultural and social environment. Notice the new and unfamiliar opportunities that present themselves and have the courage to make the most of them.
If you are considering doing an exchange, stop considering…DO IT! Yes, you’ll be put out of your comfort zone. Yes, it will take organizing. And yes, you’ll need money. But I urge everyone to make the most of such an amazing opportunity. A student exchange is a priceless experience that opens so many doors in life.
Bachelor of Medical Science
For more information about the UTS Global Exchange program please visit: www.global-exchange.uts.edu.au