Upon being accepted into the AIM Overseas Forensic Psychology course at Maastricht University, I realised I didn’t know anything about The Netherlands or Dutch culture other than vague images of windmills, tulips, bikes, and stroopwafels. I flew over from Barcelona with little idea of what to expect, comforting myself with the fact that at least I would be well-adjusted to the time zone and somewhat used to walking to the right.  

However, my first challenge arose sooner than expected. I flew into Brussels airport and strikes meant that few trains, if any, would take me to Maastricht! Luckily I was able to get into contact with another student making her way from Brussels and we found an inexpensive bus as opposed to a 75€ taxi. Two others girls just made it on board with minutes to spare and we were on our way to uni! 

The fun didn’t end here though… We decided to attempt to walk to the uni from Maastricht train station with four large suitcases and no directions. Picture four Aussie girls wondering aimlessly through the streets of Maastricht in unusually high heat for 40 minutes. We stopped for a drink at a hostel and decided to call a taxi. It pulled up and without thinking I jumped into the driver’s seat. It turns out that culture shock does exist.

We had the night to settle in and began our itinerary of activities the next day! We had a guided tour of the St. Pietersberg caves. They were full of incredible maps and charcoal artworks. We were told that people can only survive inside for 2 days due to the low temperatures.

Map of the underground cave system

Cave artwork

Cave entrance

This was followed by a tour and tasting at the Apostelhoeve winery. We learned about the wine making process and were lucky enough to taste three wines! Our tour guide told us that pairing white wine with seafood and red wine with meat is ‘dead’. Matching wine with the correct spice is more important.  

Apostelhoeve vineyard

Me and Alice after wine tasting 

On our days off I have loved exploring the Maastricht town! A group of us went out and found cafes and the water. We soon discovered that a lot of old churches in the town have been repurposed into things like bookshops. AIM also included a guided tour of the town which was a great way to discover hidden places.

Me at Wilhelminaburg

Boekhandel Dominicanen - Church transformed into a bookshop cafe

Alice, Katie, Nat and I at Beez Cocktail Bar and Cafe

Nat, Katie, Alice and I at Wilhelminaburg

A highlight of the trip thus far was definitely our study trip to The Hague, Amsterdam, and Zaandam. On Friday we drove to The Hague and visited the Mechanism for International Crime Tribunals (MICT). Its primary purpose is to investigate and prosecute individuals responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. It focuses on the former Yugoslavia. As a psychology student, the legal-based content we covered was challenging but fascinating. 

Forensic Psychology group at the MICT

On Saturday, we arrived in Amsterdam. What a complete change of pace! The streets were full of tourists, trams, and cyclists. We had a guided tour, which presented a wonderful opportunity to learn about the city’s history and culture. I learned that Amsterdam has 101km of canal and that 15,000 bikes are pulled out of it each year! A group of us also went on a canal cruise and visited the Anne Frank House. 

Me in Amsterdam

Homomonument Pink Triangle Memorial in Amsterdam. It commemorates people who have been unjustly persecuted for their homosexuality

Erica, Me Katie, Courtney and Alice on the canal cruise

Finally, the windmills! On Sunday we visited the most Dutch place on earth – Zaanse Schans open air museum. We were given a guided tour of the museum where we saw the impact of tourism on the area, farm animals, and how Dutch cheese and clogs are made.

Windmills at the open air museum

Ready to sell clogs

That’s already a week done! I’m feeling so grateful to be a part of this unique experience where I get to meet students from psychology, law, and criminology and come together under forensic psychology at Maastricht University. I’m excited for the week ahead and can't wait to be further immersed in the Dutch culture!

Hallo! I’m Amelia. I’m in my fourth year at the University of Sydney, studying psychology and arts. I love coffee and wine, labradoodles, skiing, all things red, and working with kids and teenagers teaching swimming and dance. My mission in Maastricht is to try stroopwafels and successfully ride a bike without falling off.