I walked out of the Maastricht train station and was taken away by the beautiful Christmas lights. This really was a beautiful city. Here I would be studying International Environmental Law for three weeks, as well as going on a variety of weekend excursions around Europe. I started the long walk across the Sint Servaasbrug bridge to the University of Maastricht Guesthouse, where I would call home for the next month.  

After the introductions and excursion day to the North Caves and the Apostelhoeve winery, myself and some friends decided to go to Cologne in Germany for the weekend. With a 2-hour bus journey, we couldn’t believe that we were in another country. We were lucky enough to catch the end of the Christmas markets, where I tried German sausage and beer for the first time. There was ice skating, curling, wood chopping competitions, and many unique market stalls. To finish off the day, we climbed the spectacular Cologne Cathedral, which towers at 97m and 533 steps high.

Christmas market on Rudolfplatz

Cologne Cathedral stairs

Back to Maastricht, I decided it would be a great idea to rent a bike for the month. This made our week full of classes a dream, with each morning and afternoon ride filled with beautiful new cobblestone streets and local sites. One thing that amazed me about Maastricht was the fact that they re-purpose all of their old buildings. This gave the city a beautiful and unique aesthetic.

On our first weekend excursion we travelled to Brussels, in Belgium. Here we were able to visit the European Parliament and the European Commission. It was eye-opening to see how many languages the European Union translates to, with no country being left behind. We then went to a café which held the world record for the biggest variety of beers - the Delirium Café. This definitely called for some taste-testing. On our way home from Brussels, we were lucky enough to be taken to the Abbey of de Koningshoeven. Here, monks have brewed trappist beer for many years. Again, this of course involved taste-testing. 

Monk-brewed beer from the Abbey 

My next week was again filled with class and exploration. We were quickly able to establish our favourite locals: Shamrock Irish Pub with their pool tables, The Lab with their home-cooked meals, and the Tribunal Bar with their hourly dance and peanut distribution. We were never made to feel like tourists in Maastricht, and the university city quickly felt like home.  

The Tribunal's famous peanuts!

And then we were off to Amsterdam! This weekend trip was jam packed. We went to the International Court of Justice in the Hague, Greenpeace, Anne Frank Huis, the Van Gogh Museum, and the village of Zaanse Schans.

Clog-making shop at Zaanse Schans

These places were all great cultural experiences and proved to be eye-opening. Our visit to Greenpeace was one of my favourites. I found the people that worked there and the speeches they gave very inspirational. Many of us were motivated to be more conscious of the impact our consumption has on the environment. 

As well as this, I was lucky enough to explore the Amsterdam canals and taste the famous pommes frites from Manneken Pis.

 

Pommes frites from Manneken Pis 

Amsterdam Canals

 In my final week in Maastricht (as well as studying for the final exam), I explored as much of the city as I could. I was fortunate enough to see snow for the first time! This was beyond amazing for me. It resulted in numerous snow fights, picturesque landscapes and many many laughs.   

Snowing in Maastricht! 

Walking along the Maas River

Overall, this program was the best time of my life. I met so many amazing people and made friends for life. There were many new experiences, such as travelling overseas, that I was at first hesitant about. However, being able to do this with the support of AIM Overseas made everything easy.

The program really enabled me to grow and mature, and to explore the wide world that I’ve only just got a taste of. It left me inspired to pursue environmental law, and to make the most of life! 

If you’re thinking of doing a short-term experience, I would definitely recommend the International Environmental Law program in Maastricht.

By Lydia Ogden

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