I had only been outside of North America once before I started college. Going abroad was always a goal of mine, even before I knew I was going to a school where studying abroad was popular.
Why did you choose CES Maastricht?
I chose Maastricht because I thought it was the perfect base from which to explore the rest of Europe. I also wanted an English-speaking program where I still had the opportunity to immerse myself in a different culture and language.
What was your favorite part about Maastricht?
My favorite part about Maastricht was how familiar it felt in such a short time. It was the perfect place to come back to after weekend trips and, by the end of my five months there, it really felt like home.
What surprised you most about Maastricht?
What surprised me most about Maastricht was how rural the surrounding area was. Even though Maastricht itself is a medium-sized European city, I went on a run outside the city one day and found myself going past open fields and groups of sheep and cows. As someone who has always lived near big cities, it was a nice escape and welcome change (though a bit of a surprise).
What made your experience abroad unique?
I think my experience abroad was unique because, studying in a lesser-known city like Maastricht in a less popular country like the Netherlands, I had the opportunity to explore cities in the Low Countries that most people studying abroad don't visit or haven't even heard about. For example, I would never have made it to Ghent, my favorite city in Europe, if I were studying anywhere else. I also don't know too many people who set off on a solo backpacking trip right after their program ended.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
We could go to them with any questions we had, academic or otherwise.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I wish I would have done a couple more day trips in the Netherlands on my random days off (though, to be fair, I needed the breaks.)
Describe a typical day in the life of your CES Maastricht program.
Get up, go to class, grab lunch with friends at one of the cheap lunch places by school, maybe go to another class, walk around town and explore Maastricht, go to the gym, make dinner with friends, go out to one of Maastricht's many bars.
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
Hanging out on Maastricht's old city wall, going on bike rides, chilling with friends at a cafe, travelling all over Europe.
What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?
I had a single bedroom with a sink and shared a shower room and kitchen/common area with 24 other students. I liked meeting other international students who came from all over the world.
What is one thing every participant should know before participating in a CES Maastricht program?
Every participant should know that Maastricht is not a major European city where something crazy is happening every night. I didn't find that to be a bad thing, though, and liked having someplace quieter where I could relax in between trips.
What was the hardest part about studying abroad?
The hardest part about studying abroad was definitely the studying. It was easy to forget that school was one of the reasons why I was abroad. It could be frustrating when classes and tests got in the way of travel plans or when I had to spend hours in the library instead of out with friends exploring Maastricht.
How difficult was it to communicate with locals?
Considering English isn't the locals' first language, it's not too bad. Almost everybody in Maastricht speaks English very well and has no problem switching to it once they realize you can't speak Dutch.
What is one thing you wish you would have known before studying abroad in the Netherlands?
I wish I would have known how much it rained.
Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to Maastricht?
Be prepared for rain, wind, and the cold (or at least be prepared to buy stuff when you arrive to help you deal with rain, wind, and the cold.) Also, I cannot recommend a travel journal highly enough, especially if you like to write and/or think you'll be doing any solo travelling. It became my most prized possession (besides my passport) and, as I filled it up, I was more worried that someone would steal that than my phone.
What do you feel the biggest benefit of studying abroad is?
I feel the biggest benefit of studying abroad is self-confidence and a willingness to step outside of my comfort zone. Both in Maastricht and during my solo travels, the risk of putting myself out there was well worth it for all of the incredible people I met and all of the incredible experiences I had. Now that I'm back in the U.S., I'm trying not to lose this mindset.
Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?
I'm much more self-confident and independent now. I also let things go more easily and don't worry as much about things that are beyond my control.
Would you recommend CES Maastricht to others? Why?
Absolutely. Even though it wasn't exactly what I had expected, I fell in love with Maastricht and all of the travel opportunities I had by studying there. I would love to go back in a few years with all of the friends I made so we could revisit our favorite spots.
If you could study abroad again, where would you go?
If I could study abroad again, I would go somewhere in France in order to practice my French language skills. I loved visiting Paris and other French cities, because it was challenging but possible (and rewarding!) to speak with the locals in their own language.
Elizabeth is a student at the University of Southern California, where she is majoring in economics and mathematics, with a minor in music industry. She has interned at a few non-profits and works on-campus for a research center focused on equity in higher education. Elizabeth studied abroad at Maastricht University in the spring of 2016 and then spent a month traveling solo throughout Europe before returning to the United States.