Exchange at Maastricht University
About the city
I am not going to be an exception among the exchangers and will say that Maastricht became really important to me though for now I wouldn’t move there from Moscow. Founded in immemorial times, the city lives its quiet life, keeps its individuality, and moves with the times and hosts tourists and students from all over the world. I got used to the life pace and city vibes rather quickly: a light stroll, smiles to passers-by, regular “Hoi!”, Wednesday market with nice prices. I could also wake up late because there was nowhere to rush, in Moscow this only happens to me during the summer holidays. However, it took me a while to get used to the shops: they are already closed at 9 and no one tells you to hurry up with packing your purchases after paying. I spent spring in Maastricht which means incredible beauty of the cherry blossom, romantic sunsets, +20 already in April and flocks of sheep in the city parks.
About the distances
“Yes, had a short walk to Belgium today”, – I sometimes started my videocalls back home like this because the border was 15 minutes away from my guesthouse. There the city ended and rural life with all its attributes started. It also took me 20 minutes by foot to the university, I even didn’t try to purchase a bike, but as I bought it (there are many Facebook groups, second-hand shops and Swapfiets rent to help you) everything became twice as close. Honestly, I did not expect to like this lifestyle that much. The best use of the bike was for rides out of the city. The most memorable one was the first ride to Vaalserberg, to the highest point of the continental Netherlands (322 m) and the point of three borders.
About university and library
Introduction university days (I studied at School of Business and Economics, Maastricht University) immediately gave me apportion of motivation to start learning but the number of classes surprised me a lot: a couple per week per one course with maximum two courses per one period which takes two months. Mostly, there were no lectures and everything could be learnt through the tutorials and homework. There was pretty much reading for every class, so eventually four classes a week was the right amount to learn the material and still have time to enjoy the exchange. The main feature of SBE is its problem-based learning system which is about discussion, finding solutions and mostly teamwork. Every course student is required to be a tutorial leader at least once and tutors rather assist and direct than teach in a traditional way. Holding a tutorial for the first time considerably raised my anxiety level but it was a teamwork with several interactive tasks added, so it turned out to be really nice.
University adapted to online studying quickly, so we did not have missing tutorials. However, I lacked offline tutorials and, surprisingly, missed the library: it was in Maastricht that I understood how convenient it was to study there. During exam weeks it is better to come before the opening time in order to find a place before a German student would do this (stereotype but I heard it from a Dutch!). Overall, the courses were useful to me as it was a nice chance to review and master a lot of material on management, system modeling and carrying marketing researches. Some of these topics I have already faced at HSE, some not, but the whole learning process was fun and comprised challenging tasks and projects from real companies. A quick reminder: the third and sixth periods provide skills, not courses. They usually take two weeks and are mostly graded using pass/fail system. It is better to check in advance if the course provides a numerical grading system otherwise there is a chance to receive a ‘satisfying’ grade in the future diploma.
About student associations, events and people
While writing I realized how many joyful memories I brought from the exchange. There are a lot of diverse student associations each supposing a small participations fee. I chose a dance association Let’s Dance and its participants made my experience even more remarkable. Unfortunately, I couldn’t finish the course because online classes were nor provided for being inefficient. But the whole atmosphere, extra events and free salsa evenings each Friday at a hostel leave me no chance and I can’t help but advise to join them if you are slightly interested in dancing.
ISN Maastricht played an important role in socializing and making new friends. They organized a bright introduction week, held weekly events and offered several trips while it was possible. To become a board member it is better to come for the whole year but enjoying all the events being prepared for you is also fun.
About Belgium and trips
The pandemic has definitely changed my travel plans but still there were opportunities to complete some trips. The five-day trip to Belgium in February can be called the most memorable among those I had. I visited Bruges, Brussels and Ghent, fell in love with each city in a different way but couldn’t put up with the February weather: rain was changed by hail, hail by the sun and this was the case several times a day. It took me 31 minutes to reach Liege in Belgium which is slightly less than I spend for the underground from home to university in Moscow. I also visited the main cities of the Netherlands and can recommend each of them: they are different, however, have some common vibes. The main outcomes for me: I started to love hostels (especially those with nice lively bars downstairs) and began to feel comfortable while meeting new people. Thus, on the second day I met some guys whom could visit later in Germany and France. So traveling alone doesn’t mean being lonely. I would say that it provides the opportunity to become a more decisive and open person.
About the carnival
There is a strong association between the end of February and the carnival for the people of the southern Netherlands and western Germany. Initially with a religious context the event turned into a massive celebration with music, dancing, unimaginable costumes and, certainly, a lot of beer. Take it seriously and don’t be shy to create the most extravagant outfit because there are already pirates, aliens and Marios of every age outside. Here you can be convinced that the Dutch know how to party. And don’t stay aside even if you came solo: for sure you will meet someone and go on partying. The carnival in Cologne is also interesting: the same celebration with a different, more organized atmosphere, platform parade and chocolate catching. I would recommend try both options. Anyway, this is a must-visit if you are in Maastricht (even my Brazilian friends said that the carnival is worth it)
Before the departure eyes were filled with tears, heart was full of bright memories and mind was already planning trips to visit new friends. To finish, I would recommend to enjoy the moment without setting high expectations in advance.