On our first Sunday, most of us arrived in Maastricht in the early afternoon after around 24 hours of travelling to get here. I was surprised to see how homely the guesthouse was and how spacious the rooms were. After settling in a bit, all three programs (International Environmental Law, International Relations and Politics, and Positive Psychology) met together for an introduction to the program coordinators, along with receiving our textbooks. We then had a walking tour of the groceries, which consisted of Hallo Jumbo and Albert Heijn (two of the most popular groceries in Maastricht). The day ended with a delicious pizza dinner, provided by the university and gave us some good time to get to know each other and bond before the program begins.
The following day jetlag started to hit students who didn't do travel before the program. The morning started off with a guided tour from the guesthouse to the university (about a 20 minute walk). Once arriving at the university, all programs piled into a beautiful lecture theatre to be welcomed by the Director of the Centre for European Studies at the university.
Following the introduction, we were treated with coffee and vlaais (a delicious Dutch pastry). I had the apricot vlaais, which was really yummy and comparable to an apricot pie back in Australia. After another introduction to the program from our coordinator, Kim, we were taken to lunch at a student café called Fresh for sandwiches. All of the food in Maastricht has been really tasty! The rest of the day consisted of a practical city tour of places we may need to visit such as shops, cafes, restaurants, other groceries, etc.
The next three days consisted of classes (I am on the International Environmental Law program). We have lectures in the morning and tutorials in the afternoon. It is very different from Australian tertiary education, as Maastricht University has a much larger focus on class participation in both lectures and tutorials. There is also a much bigger emphasis on class discussions where students essentially lead their own tutorials with the guidance of the teacher. In one of my spare afternoons, I had the opportunity to explore a beautiful bookstore located in an old, but very beautiful church, which can be seen below.
Friday came around so quickly, and it was time for our first weekend trip to Brussels, Belgium. It was a long bus ride, and too dark to see much so early in the morning, so most students slept on the ride to Brussels. Once arriving, we went to our first professional visit at the European Parliament, where 751 parliamentarians from 28 member States (countries) gather to create European law. The rest of the day consisted of free time for lunch, where I (and a few other students) went to a café called the Drug Opera and had a delicious mushroom and cheese omelette. We also explored souvenir shops and found many small replicas of the Manneken Pis. I finished the day with the group when we visited the European Commission at one of the old buildings where we learnt about the role and functions of the commission. :)