International student studying School of Business Economics in Maastricht, Netherlands

Host country: Netherlands
Host city: Maastricht
Home country: Spain
Department/faculty: School of Business Economics
Program type: Exchange semester
Level of degree: Master
Program length: 6 months
Program finished: 2014-00-01

Personal challenges

It took me a lot of time to find a suitable accommodation at reasonable prices and that was a common issue for the majority of exchange students. It was particularly difficult for me since I was staying just for 6 months and most housing offers were for a year. During my exchange period it was challenging to adapt to the „problem-based learning” teaching method to the point that it affected my free time activities. I had problems with organizing trips, going to some parties, because it was difficult to find time to meet with teammates who had different schedules for other subjects.

Personal takeaways

Fortunately, one year before my exchange semester I became good friends with a guy from Maastricht, so he could advise me on how to find the best accommodation deals and also provided information about university housing facilities. Moreover, I registered on where I found relevant information about housing in the host city and nearby areas in Belgium, so check it out if you decide to study in Maastricht. Regarding the problem-based learning, study abroad students who are not familiar with the teaching style should be more patient at the beginning. Together with your teammates, always agree on the exact days when you can sit together to work and set clear deadlines. That way you will be able to effectively distribute the workload among team members and as a result better organize your personal life abroad, travel and party.

Academic challenges

The above mentioned teaching style came as a surprise: endless presentations and facilitations (a longer type of presentation) made a huge difference for me. At the beginning it required a lot of effort to comply with all the deadlines, presentations and find the common tongue with teammates – and it was simply tiring. Also it was quite demanding to learn everything by yourself, without the professor explaining it first in class (called tutorial sessions). Those who had problems with English were particularly suffering from this.

Academic takeaways

A good level of english is a must in order to feel comfortable with processing materials alone or in a group and then presenting them in public every second day. I believe it is important to check the academic expectations, type of classwork and exams, so that you can better align your foreign language skills with the academic requirements. You have to make peace with these structural differences and as a final step, try to see the good in them. I strongly recommend all international students to buy the books that are specified at the beginning of each course, because exercises and case studies change in almost every edition. You may find options to rent/share/copy/download these books, but buying them is the surest way to meet the course requirements. Also I’d like to emphasize it one more time: a well-planned learning schedule and effective group work are the best way to succeed with your studies and enjoy life abroad at the same time.

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