Haley Thompson - 2015 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

Before even applying for college, I knew I wanted to go abroad. Once I began college, I knew I had to go abroad. I knew that living abroad would enhance my studies and expand my worldview.

Why did you choose CES Maastricht?

CES Maastricht was recommended to me by my college's study away office, and after looking into it further, I knew it was the place for me. It was a supportive program that answered all my questions and helped me with the transition to living abroad, which was extremely important as I had previously never left the United States. The European History, Culture, and Arts program promised an interesting academic curriculum, as well as numerous study trips to places I might not have visited on my own. I also loved the idea of living in an international guesthouse within walking (or biking) distance to class.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The CES staff was completely supportive throughout the entire process and program. Prior to my departure, they answered all of my questions and helped me prepare for my arrival. Upon arrival, they scheduled an airport pick-up to take us to the guesthouse, and provided us with a European power adapter, a map, and itinerary. Within the first few weeks, they scheduled information sessions about the program, university, city, and Dutch culture. Throughout the program, there were study trips to Berlin, Amsterdam, the Hague, Antwerp, and Ghent, as well as events such as happy hours, and a trip to a soccer game. The staff were available 24/7 for emergencies, which was comforting while traveling throughout Europe. It seemed as if the CES staff thought of absolutely everything to help us transition to life abroad, and have a great experience.

What was your favorite part about Maastricht?

The small size and walkability! I think walking around a city gives you a unique perspective, as all the sights, sounds, and smells are experienced directly. I walked by historic churches daily, heard people speaking Dutch on the street, and could smell freshly brewed coffee or hot frites on my walk to class. Maastricht was easy to navigate, and within a few weeks I really felt like I had a handle on where I was. The grocery store and bank were under a ten minute walk, my classes were a twenty minute walk, and the train was under a forty minute walk.

By the end of my time abroad, I really felt like Maastricht was my city.

What made your experience abroad unique?

While I was abroad, I opened a bank account with ING and had quite a bit of trouble with it early on, so I visited the bank frequently with my many questions. When I was closing my bank account at ING right before I left, the bank teller wished me luck on my journey back home and hoped that I would visit again some day. I think this experience demonstrates how Maastricht truly provides the opportunity to become a part of the community and immersed in the culture. I believe that my abroad experience was unique from that of students studying in other places because of its location in Maastricht.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I don't wish I did anything differently, my experience was absolutely everything that I wanted.

Describe a typical day in the life of the CES Maastricht program.

A typical day in Maastricht began with waking up and having breakfast in my dorm room. I would then walk to class and arrive early, to ensure I could get a coffee and review my materials beforehand. After class, I would sometimes walk around the city center, have lunch with a friend, or head to the grocery store to buy ingredients for dinner. Once returning to my room, I would cook dinner and socialize with friends. Some nights, we would go out for ice cream, or to a bar, on other nights we stayed in and laughed. I would then do some academic reading before bed, and repeat the next day. It was a very relaxed life in Maastricht.

Preuvenemint Food Festival in Maastricht, Netherlands
Preuvenemint Food Festival, Maastricht

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

I absolutely loved simply walking around the city in my free time, and occasionally stopping for a snack. It was during these times that I felt like I was truly a part of the Maastricht community and could appreciate where I was in the world.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

I lived in the International Guesthouse's P-Building, meaning that I had my own kitchen inside my room. I shared my room with a roommate that was also a part of CES, which was great because we could experience so many things together. It was a very safe building and reminded me a lot of a freshman dormitory. I didn't feel like I needed luxurious accommodation, because I spent so much time out and about. The best part of living in the Guesthouse was that most people from our program lived there as well, making it easy to always find a friend to talk to, or do something with.

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in CES Maastricht?

I think that every participant should know that problem-based learning, which Maastricht University practices, definitely has a learning curve. You really just have to give yourself time to figure out how it works best for you.

Would you recommend CES Maastricht to others? Why?

I wholeheartedly recommend CES Maastricht to other students wishing to have an incredible study abroad experience. Living in Maastricht was exciting and immersive, traveling to new destinations was easy and encouraged, the staff was supportive and understanding, and the program was educational and fun. I recommend CES to others because I wish I could do it again and again!

Now that you're home, how has studying abroad in Maastricht impacted your life?

My worldview has been broadened and I am much more aware of the quirks of my own American culture. I also have a greater appreciation and respect for tourists, it's definitely not easy to live in a completely new country with an unfamiliar language and culture. My time abroad has also impacted my topics of conversation, because I still can't stop talking about it!