Settling in to Maastricht

11 February 2020

Frances is spending her study abroad in Maastricht. Read on to find out about her first few weeks.


It has now been just over a month since I hopped onto the Eurostar and left for the Netherlands- which feels both like yesterday and a lifetime ago.

After a few days of exploring the tourist spots in Maastricht, I went to an introduction week called Inkom that was like freshers. Compared to the UK there was a lot more activities, especially in the daytime- including music festivals, open air cinemas, boat tours and museum nights. I did feel a little old being surrounded by first years but it was great way to get to know what the university, the city and meet lots of people.


2: Some Poffertjes that were sold at Inkom- these are like mini-pancakes!

The nightlife during Inkom was dominated by the social associations, sororities and fraternities. Social associations are mostly about partying and are more intense than any UCL society- members are required to help run the association and attend a certain number of parties each week. Surprisingly, they carry out ‘hazing’ for new members and are very hierarchical. Although I couldn’t join most associations as a non-Dutch speaker it was still fun to experience the lifestyle for a week.


3: The Lecture Theatre at UCM during induction

After a weekend resting it was straight into induction at University College Maastricht, the arts and sciences college. The faculties are more separate than at UCL with students generally taking classes in their departments building and only with students on their course. This is very different to being a BASc student in London- I will bump into people around campus or the city all the time!

UCM itself is based in a former monastery. It has its benefits- the main lecture hall is an picturesque old chapel that still has stained glass windows and there is a sunny courtyard in the centre of the building. It also has its downsides- as it is an old building the layout is a confusing maze of corridors and some of the rooms were like saunas at the end of August.

The students at UCM have all been really friendly and definitely like to go out when they’ve finished studying. The college has its own student association, Universalis, who oversee smaller clubs called committees, which are very similar to societies at UCL. Most nights of the week there is a meeting or event organised by students. This is all encouraged of course by the 50 cent beers that Universalis sell most evenings. 


4: The courtyard at UCM

As for studying- the shorter courses mean that I am already nearly finished with the first set of classes!

The biggest change has been the style of teaching because Maastricht University uses Problem Based Learning. This is where students identify a problem from the class material and then answer these questions through group discussions. For example, in the Psychology course, we will read a short text such as a case study, discuss it and identify some questions. After reading outside of class, we meet again a few days later and have another, hopefully more well-informed, discussion. All of this is led by the students themselves, with a bit of guidance from an academic.

Overall, it has been an interesting experience so far- and this blog is only a small part of what I have been able to do so far (been in a Cantus with hundreds of people, visited Germany for the first time, helped cook a free meal for a hundred people, tried sailing and rock-climbing) and I am looking forward to seeing what is next!