Being able to learn about another culture and fully immerse myself in it, while still learning and having credits directly transfer back to my school.
Why did you choose to attend Maastricht University?
Maastricht is located right in the heart of Europe, and other students at my school had given the support from the university and the classes some great reviews.
What was your favorite part about Maastricht?
The food! Aside from of course the hundreds of years of history, the food was fantastic and there were small carts and restaurants everywhere!
What made your experience abroad unique?
Maastricht is unique in the south of the Netherlands, in that it celebrates many fun holidays and festivals. I loved being there for Carnival!
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
The CES office was always open, and everyone in the program was always asking how we were doing, or if we needed anything. Although I didn't have any problems, it made me feel safe knowing they were keeping tabs on me and everyone else in our program, during some of the security and safety scares that happened during my semester around Europe.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
Gone out more and spent less time studying.
What surprised you most about Maastricht?
The food! I didn't know much about Dutch culture, much less what kind of food they ate, so I was pleasantly surprised when everything I ate turned out to be delicious, even if I didn't know what it was. It didn't hurt that everyone loves chocolate either.
Describe a typical day in the life of your program.
On a typical day I would ride my bike (very Dutch) to class, and then hang around the school buildings for a while, getting some homework and studying done. I might then grab a coffee or ice cream, before heading home to the dorm to make dinner. My roommate or friends and I would then watch a movie, or hang out, before finishing some homework.
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
I loved the square! My friends and I tried to be there during the markets, and for all of the random celebrations and things going on. We also ate a lot of gelato...
What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?
It was okay. The rooms were a decent size for two people and it was nice to have safety features about it. It would have been nice to have a microwave or oven, but we did have a fridge and stovetop to cook with. Nothing to write home about, but definitely easy to live in and clean.
Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to Maastricht?
Lightweight rain jacket, anything that is comfortable to wear while biking, good walking shoes, and scarves! Everyone wears scarves, so guys should definitely look into getting one or two that are fashionable, and one or two that work for cold weather.
How difficult was it to communicate with locals?
Sometimes it was quite hard, but usually everyone spoke at least a little English, or would direct me to someone who did. I think I might have had more problems finding someone who spoke English in Germany or France than in the Netherlands, actually! Prepare for grocery stores though, almost everything is written in Dutch.
What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?
Closing times are very different in European cities. CES warned us about how shopping would be different, but be aware that you need to plan when you are shopping for things, or heading out to eat, as things close earlier or take breaks.
What was the hardest part about studying abroad?
The hardest part was probably the language barrier. I didn't have any prior knowledge of French, Dutch, or German, and given that those are the major languages spoken near Maastricht it was occasionally hard to get information, or read public transportation schedules. Gotta love Google Translate and nice locals for help!
What is one thing you wish you would have known before studying abroad in the Netherlands?
It is quite like Seattle, weather wise. There were some absolutely beautiful days, but most of those happened near the end of my program (aka the month of May mostly) so I would say prepare for some rainy weather and plan a short trip to somewhere sunny if you can!
What do you feel the biggest benefit of studying abroad is?
I think of myself as a fairly independent person already, but going abroad taught me so much more about being prepared, taking care of myself, looking out for safety concerns, and doing what I want to do.
Over the five months I was abroad I took three solo trips, and couldn't be more happy with how much strength and confidence they gave me.
Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?
I try to enjoy my down time and relaxing time more, and take full advantage of whatever I am doing. Live in the moment.
Would you recommend Maastricht University to others? Why?
Yes! I loved the classes I took, and all aspects of where the program was located, the city itself, and the staff. I wish I could have gone for a full year.
If you could study abroad again, where would you go?
New Zealand. I would love to experience the friendly, outdoor Maori culture, and see all the natural wonders in the country. If not New Zealand, possibly Japan.
Originally from the suburbs of Chicago, Gabrielle is a senior at Indiana University, where she is majoring in marketing with a minor in tourism, hospitality, and event management. Most of Gabrielle’s travels have been in the United States and the Caribbean. Her semester in Maastricht has inspired her to travel alone more, and to step outside her comfort zone.