Hi, I’m Sonam Swarup and I am on exchange here at Maastricht University in Maastricht, Netherlands from August to December. So far my experience has been amazing. In the short time I have spent here, I’ve fallen in love with the city and the way of life here. I sometimes have to pinch myself that I am actually living in Europe. That said, here is a brief overview of my experience (so far) living in Maastricht.
The people: One of the other main characteristics of Dutch people I found is that they’re very down-to-earth and have a great sense of humor. When meeting a Dutch person, it’s very common to shake hands or when you know someone better, to give that person three ‘kisses’ on the cheeks (alternate each side).
The language: As it is an open and internationally-oriented country, almost everyone can understand English. That doesn’t mean that the locals won’t appreciate it when you, as a foreigner, try to speak Dutch. You’ll probably find though that people tend to rapidly switch to English, since they feel that is easier to speak to you.
The city: Maastricht is a beautiful city. It is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands. As you walk down the city you can see traces of its Roman beginnings, remains of the medieval fortified city and religious centre of pilgrimage that it once was. Maastricht has a very rich cultural life with a variety of museums, art galleries, and performing arts schools. It is also situated on the border of Belgium and Germany, which makes it easy to take daytrips to sister cities like Aachen and Liège.
The food: The Dutch are very open to other cultures; something that reflects on the cuisine as well. Traditionally, a standard evening meal would consist of potatoes, vegetables and a piece of meat, but foreign products and ingredients are more and more added to the daily cooking (especially Indonesian cuisine). That said, there are some amazing Dutch snacks that I have found myself nibbling on these days like: stroopwafels, fries and mayo, and appeltaart.
The campus: The campus is divided all throughout the city. The university is known for its Problem-Based Learning (PBL) teaching methods. It is a highly student-centered, rather than teacher-centered approach in which independent learning is stimulated and rewarded. I would say that the workload is similar to SFU. Maastricht University attracts students from around the world, so it’s interesting to have various nationalities and perspectives in one classroom.
Although I don’t question that the other exchange programs at other partner universities may be as wonderful as the one in Maastricht, I would trade nothing for the experiences that I have gained thus far at this beautiful university and city. I look forward to continuing sharing with you my experiences while I near the end of my time here.