Maastricht University: Student Feedback

Maastricht
Student Profile

Name: 
Caroline Deng

Highlight of my semester abroad:
Maastricht is a truly international city, and it was so easy to meet people from many different nationalities. Additionally, it is small enough where you begin to recognize friends in pubs/bars, but large enough that you will always meet new people. At the end of the day, no matter how many other European countries that I visited, I truly began to feel that Maastricht is "home." Maastricht is not a city that is very well known outside of Europe, but it is a city that you grow to love. It has so much character—cobblestone roads, cute cafes and restaurants, Limburg culture.

Who I spent most of my time with abroad:
In Maastricht, I actually did not spend my time with many Americans. Most of my friends were from a wide variety of European countries (Denmark, Germany, France, Belgium, UK, Netherlands, etc). I spent most of my time with other international students or local students. Maastricht University does its best to integrate its exchange students with the regular students, so you can meet many local students from your classes or through parties. In Maastricht, there are actually a lot of German and Belgian students because of its proximity to both of those borders, and many are very open and friendly as long as you show them the same respect.

What would I say to students considering participating in IBEX:
I could not have had a better IBEX experience than the one that I had at Maastricht. Maastricht University treats its exchange students extremely well and makes sure that you can adjust well without feeling too much culture shock. Almost everybody speaks English, and the Guesthouse was a great way to meet people from all over the world. 

Contact me about Maastricht University:
Caroline Deng - cd1646@stern.nyu.edu

Feedback from Students:

Expenses

Airline ticket to/from IBEX site: $1,200
Housing: $2,300/semester
Books: $50/semester
Food: $30/week
Local Transportation: $10/week
Phone: €10/300 Minutes
Independent Travel: $1,500/semester

"Upon arrival in Maastricht, I bought a 5 Euro calling card from the Guesthouse reception. There is no phone in your room. You use the calling card by inserting it into a pay phone in the Guesthouse and proceeding to dial the number (amount is deducted from the card automatically). There is a Chinese store in the center of town, across from the Stadhuis (town hall) that is supposed to sell cheaper calling cards. Generally, people from home called me and I used email even more for communication purposes. I did not have a cell phone (and although it would have been useful at times when I was traveling, I managed without it)."

Banking

"I mainly just withdrew a lot of cash from ATMs, which I probably would have changed. I would have opened an ING Bank account, which is also useful if you want to order group discount tickets for traveling within the Netherlands."

"I primarily used American Express to pay my rent and withdrew from ATMs with my bank card or credit card. The University had recommended that students open up an account at a local bank and have that bank do an automatic transfer to the residence hall for rent payments. However, there was some problem (the bank changed its policies in allowing foreign students to do this or something like that) and I ended up just using my credit card, which worked out fine. The only thing to note is that you should check if your U.S. bank charges a flat fee or a percentage fee when you withdraw money. If it's a flat fee, you're going to have to withdraw a lot of money at once to avoid paying a lot of fees if you keep withdrawing small amounts. If it's a % fee, then it won't really make a difference. It's a matter of convenience then. The nearest ATM was at a shopping mall, about a 5 minute walk away. If you will use credit cards, I would recommend bringing VISA besides AMEX because VISA may be accepted more widely, particularly in restaurants."

Academics

"Strengths: small, stimulating classes; usually a good choice of textbooks; time spent in class per week is less than that of stern (about 8 hours in class/week); focusing on 2 courses for 8 weeks and then 2 new courses the second 8 weeks prevents you from being overwhelmed. This structure is also good in that you won't get bored because you finish the 2 classes in less time and start 2 new ones!; enough time given for holiday; work is manageable enough to allow travel almost every weekend!

Weaknesses: well, some people don't like having to work so independently (because professors don't really lecture with slides as is the case with Stern); at times, trying to figure theory out on your own can be frustrating, although stimulating at the same time (it makes you think and that can be really rewarding in the end!)"

"Relative to Stern, workload was less, not because we covered fewer chapters but because we only had 2 classes to worry about at one time. Grading is on a 10 point scale. A passing grade is usually 5.5. As one tutor put it, “10 is for God, 9 is for the professor” and then you the have students. BUT, grading does differ across departments. There is no “curve.” The final exam can often make up a large part of the final grade, depending on the course. Class participation may be graded more strictly. For some classes, students are allowed a maximum of 2 absences. Other classes allow only 1 or even 0. If a student exceeds the absence quota, the student may face a failing participation grade or perhaps can make up for it by writing a very, very long paper. Generally, grading is tough although Americans have an advantage since English is their native language (all classes are held in English at Maastricht)."

"I did not have a good experience in terms of quality of instruction. There wasn't really any instruction. I was learning the material on my own. The grading system is on a scale of 1 to 10, and a 5.5 is passing. The workload is similar to Stern because you do a lot of group work; however, passing is attainable. Doing well in a course is hard."

Course Registration

"Course offerings were published online several months earlier, and you are 100% guaranteed to get into the classes that you want, but it is difficult to drop or swap classes afterwards. They have a course evaluation database that I looked through to choose the classes that I wanted."

Course Recommendations

"My favorite class was Strategic Marketing because the students in the class were intelligent, the groups for facilitations were organized well, and we had an opportunity to mingle with both exchange and non-exchange students. ICT, Organisation, and Income was a lot more Labor Economics focused than Information Systems focused, so I was taken aback in the first few classes. I would say that I would recommend it for Economics concentrations because you get to build your own website, but not for the Information Systems concentration."

"I took 2 finance courses and 1 economics course and another general course. Network economics was a good class because it involved stimulating discussions about issues that students read about/researched in academic journals or articles. It does involve a great deal of Blackboard use—so if you will live in a residence or dormitory without internet, this may be more difficult for you. The “professor” (actually, they're called tutors over there) was Bart Rientes. This class and the general one (“Internet Technology and International Business”) both weigh heavily on class participation. The Internet course also involves the creation of your own website using HTML—but the website has to have a business purpose/model. As in Stern, the Finance courses are among the harder ones in Maastricht—although definitely doable. International Financial Management and Options and Futures both involved student PowerPoint presentations—although you only had to do one or 2 at most. IFM involved reading chapters from the book and writing 4-5 page (in total, covering more than one chapter if necessary) summaries for each class. There were also about 3 cases students had to do. The exam was reasonable. The format for Options and Futures was slightly different. Students were split up into groups of 2-3. Each group was responsible for one presentation of a couple of chapters and leading one discussion involving problems from the textbook. Groups also had to hand in homework assignments consisting of problems from the book. Individually, you would read the chapters in the text before the class and to answer the homework problems with your group. The exam again was not easy, but was reasonable. The professor for this course was A. Corhay. Since students were often presenting, he did not lecture too much, although when he did, his explanations were quite clear."

"I really enjoyed my International Marketing Course. It was unique being the “international” student in a foreign country. Being from the US, they wanted to know my perspective on everything in terms of advertising and media. As far as classes, I wouldn't recommend, the teaching system there is different. You have to teach yourself the course, and a teacher's aid (tutor) facilitates the process. So if you are insecure about a subject matter, definitely be cautious when taking a course because you are pretty much on your own."

Housing

"I lived in the UM Guesthouse (Brouwersweg 100), which was a former hospital wing. There were 15 people on my floor, and we had private rooms with sinks inside, and shared bathrooms, showers, common space, and kitchen. Our bedrooms were furnished + bed sheets, and we did not have a meal plan. I was very satisfied with my experience in the Guesthouse because the communal kitchen and common space allowed us to get to know the other people on our floor very well, and oftentimes, we would cook together, have parties, or enjoy movie nights together. Some annoyances about communal living however were that sometimes people would not clean up after themselves. Fortunately, we had cleaners come every weekday to sweep/clean the communal areas, but we still had to clean our own dishes. We also had free washers and dryers, printers, and a study space available in the building. I found this dorm through Maastricht University."

"I chose to live in a studio in a residence hall (the Guesthouse—P building)—which, besides the one room for bed/lounge, had a mini-kitchen and a full bathroom with shower. The room was furnished with IKEA furniture and was quite nice. It included: bed, wardrobe, desk, desk lamp, desk chair, Easy Chair, standing lamp, bookcase, kitchen table with chair, mini fridge, stovetop (although no oven and no microwave), and a bathroom with shower. I also had an Internet connection (although don't expect to have it working from day 1). Meal plans are not an option. I mostly cooked for myself or ate out. I was generally satisfied, although I learned from regular Maastricht students that the rooms were rather overpriced. But since it would be very difficult for anyone to find a furnished apartment in Maastricht, I don't think students have much of an option. The residence hall itself was good because many students were housed there or nearby. I had originally chosen to live in Statensingel—but when I found out that was an apartment in a regular house on the fourth floor with no stairs and no students nearby—I changed rooms. Living in the Guesthouse (P-building or C-building) is rewarding because it allows you to meet and interact with students from all over the world. Truly, an awesome experience!"

"All the exchange students in Maastricht have the option of living in a residence hall called, “The Guesthouse.” Five-hundred students live there. So it truly embodies an exchange student experience. The housing section of their website does a pretty good job explaining it. There are doubles and singles with and without bathrooms. You also have the option of having a room with a mini kitchen, or there are communal kitchens. The halls with communal kitchens create more of a fun atmosphere for that hall. If you have a communal kitchen, then you also have communal bathrooms."

Student Life

"Most of my friends were from a wide variety of European countries (Denmark, Germany, France, Belgium, UK, Netherlands, etc). I spent most of my time with other international students or local students. Maastricht University does its best to integrate its exchange students with the regular students, so you can meet many local students from your classes or through parties. In Maastricht, there are actually a lot of German and Belgian students because of its proximity to both of those borders, and many are very open and friendly as long as you show them the same respect."

"One student organization that is very popular among international students is ISN (International Student Network), which hosted weekly pub/social events every Tuesday and Thursday, the very popular Dutch Cantus 4x a semester, and some Europe trips like Discover Holland (we visited 5 cities in the northern Netherlands), and Discover Belgium (we visited 3 Belgian cities)."

"Student life (at least for exchange students) was highly led by the Erasmus Student Network—a student-run social network that threw parties and organized cultural events like a weekend traveling around the Netherlands, a city tour, Maastricht fortifications tour, etc. Of course, students outside of ESN also organized parties (handed out flyers)."

"Don't be insensitive to foreign cultures. Respect their views, even if you disagree with them. Even if there are many other Americans there, be sure to interact with the non-American residents. You'll most likely learn the most from them."

"Because all the exchange students lived together, it was a really social atmosphere. There were social and cultural events organized by the International Relations Office and Erasmus, which is a student run organization."

Travel Tips

"I travelled quite frequently—almost every weekend. It was very easy to do, especially with Maastricht's unique location. It is 15 minutes from the Belgian border by bike, you can take a train to Liége, Belgium, in under 30 minutes, and you can take a direct bus to Aachen, Germany, in 50 minutes."

"Within the Netherlands, you should get a single-day return group-ticket. For example, the regular price to go to Amsterdam is ~€15-20 one way. With the group discount of 10 people, it becomes €7 round trip for a single day, anywhere you would like in the Netherlands. There are Facebook groups online like NS-Group Ticket Amsterdam, NS-Group Ticket Rotterdam, etc. that help you find other people who would like to travel on the same day as you and organize a 10 person group so everyone gets the discount (you do not have to travel together or even meet in person)."

"I used websites like Skyscanner.com and rome2rio.com to plan my trips, and found cheap flights with Ryanair. If you are given the option to fly out of Brussels South Charleroi Airport (CRL), DO NOT DO IT. It takes ~4 hours to get there. The best airports to travel from near Maastricht are Brussels Airport (BRU) or Eindhoven (EIN). If you want to visit Eastern Europe, be very careful about the size of your carry-on when flying with Wizzair."

"I traveled almost every weekend. It is easy to do, but you also have to be determined to do it. For flying to other countries, I went to Belgium's airports—Brussels International Airport to go to Italy and Brussels-Chareloi airport (where RyanAir operates from) to go to Stockholm, Sweden. Generally, trains are not too expensive, depending on the country you choose. Trains in Germany are rather expensive. Italian trains are not too expensive, although they may often be late or delayed. Belgium offers students under the age of 25 the option of buying a GoPass. A GoPass gives you 10 rides (one way of course) on Belgian trains within its network (which is really wide) for about 40 euros. Using a GoPass saves tons of money, but be careful as there are some restrictions in terms of times of travel (e.g. you can't use it to travel before 9 am). As for within the Netherlands, there are “day return” tickets and “weekend return” tickets, both of which are cheaper than regular one way or 2 way tickets. Day returns mean you must return within the same day. Weekend returns allow you to leave on Friday (evening I think) and return on Sunday night or maybe even until 2 am Monday morning. Always ask about student or youth discounts, just in case."

"To save money, don't expect to stay in 5 star hotels. Go to hostels. They're really not bad (some are actually quite good, such as the StayOkay hostels in the Netherlands) and save cash. In Paris, however, you'll probably be better off staying in a one or 2 star hotel rather than a hostel. Be careful when traveling. Carry your money on you (wear a money pouch inside your clothes). Have photocopies of all credit cards, ID cards and your passport at home in the US with someone responsible and another copy in your dorm room, just in case. Don't fall asleep on the train with your backpack unattended and don't even think of trying to take a train without paying for a ticket! Don't always rely on information on the web—it can be really outdated, especially when it comes to travel times."

Restaurants, Shopping, Must-See Sites

Restaurants: Pet Thai, Frituur Reitz (Dutch fries), Pinky's (waffles and ice cream), Müsti (döner kebap + kapsalon), Patty & Bun (burgers), Deli Belge, Piano B Pizza (apparently the best pizza in the Netherlands)

Cafes: Maastricht has the highest cafe density in the Netherlands. The Livin' Room (wraps, smoothie bowls, rock n roll playlist, etc.), KafeThéa (vegan desserts), Alley Cat Bikes & Coffee (yogurt bowls, matcha lattes), Koffie (desserts), Coffeelovers, Piece of Cake (Viennese inspired, amazing desserts), and Teazone (their rooftop lounge is open during the warmer months) are all good study spots.

Bars/Pubs: Peter's Irish Pub, Shamrock Irish Pub, Take One (board game bar), Take Five, De Gouverneur (good selection of Belgian beers), De Brandweer (ping pong tournaments on Wednesdays)

Shopping areas: Markt, Vrijthof. For groceries, from cheapest to most expensive: Lidl, Aldi, Jumbo, Albert Heijn. Amazing Oriental in Markt was the only Asian grocery I found in the city.

Must-see: Mount Sint Pietersburg, Maastricht caves, Boekhandel Dominicanen, De Bisschopsmolen (bakery that still makes its bread by flour mill), Sint Servaasbrug, Maastricht during its Carnaval season (November 11 and February) and Magisch Maastricht (Maastricht's Christmas market)

"Walk everywhere around Maastricht! You'll find cute little shops—chocolateries, bakeries, antique stores, clothing stores. Be sure to walk over the bridges—St. Servaasbrug and the newer bridge. The caves of Maastricht were great, although tours are not always run in English (check the times). St. Servaas Church is also really nice and has a crypt of St. Servaas. There are stores near the Markt and Stadhuis with the famous French fries with warm mayonnaise (actually quite good!) and other Dutch goodies. Just walk around and you'll discover it all for yourself!"

"My favorite part was the city was not famous or well-known, but it had so much character and history to it. It truly is my own “spot” in Europe because many people haven't heard of it, nor would they travel their spontaneously."

Recruiting

"I did not do much except go to the career counselor once, and I did OCR via Skype. Most companies are willing to interview virtually, but it may get in the way of Super Days, so make sure to take this into account if you decide to go abroad in the fall. I still ended up receiving a post-graduation job offer through OCR, even though I did not interview in person."