Hello Maastricht!

This week went by so fast I can't believe it is already at its end. This was our first week in Maastricht and most of the week was spent settling in and introducing ourselves to the new course. I arrived a day earlier than most others and spent my time settling in and getting used to my new surroundings as I had never stayed in dorms before. This gave me a chance to get to know those few others who had arrived early and were on my floor. This small group went out on the Friday night for a quick dinner at the Chinese restaurant around the corner.

On Saturday it was really cool to see everyone arriving and the dorms filling up so rapidly. Everyone generally arrived in the afternoon before the program began at 3pm. At 3pm we were introduced to all the coordinators and other relevant people and moved on to take our grocery tour. After the tour was complete we all attended a pizza party, in which I was so surprised we got given an entire pizza each. This party showed me just how many people we actually had attending the courses. After this myself and about 5 others headed out the nearby pub were we met the loveliest bar lady and had some very nice raspberry beer, which I had never heard of before.

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On Sunday after everyone had the chance to settle in and get to know their roommates we headed out to do a tour of the city. Luca was our tour guide and his tour took us from the guesthouse into the main town, across the bridge and through the main squares, all the while giving us valuable information on the best places to study, eat and drink. This tour took about 2 hours and then my group went to the V&D department store food court. Our tour guide, Luca, also joined us, which was lovely as we got the chance to ask a few more questions about Maastricht. Finally to finish off the day myself and a few other girls had the chance to go shopping and enjoy the nearby Irish pub. I personally loved this day as wandering around looking at all the amazing buildings and architecture showed me that I had made and amazing choice to come to Maastricht

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With an early start on Monday we were shown how to walk to the buildings in which most of our classes would be in and then the opening ceremony commenced. It was lovely to be formally introduced to those who made it possible for us to be in beautiful Maastricht. In the afternoon we started the course we an introduction into Problem Based Learning (PBL) which would be the basis for the program. After this lecture we split up into three groups and practiced the steps of PBL. I wish we did this type of learning back home because for me it makes so much sense and it just got me so excited for the course. When the school day finished I went back to the guesthouse and a big group of us cooked up some pasta and had a few drinks which was a lovely end to the day.

Tuesday was our first lecture by Hugo Alberts on the introduction to positive psychology which really inspired me. Hugo is an amazing lecturer and is very passionate about positive psychology so the two hour lecture went by very quickly. When this finished the groups A, B and C went to their tutorial whilst my group, D, had the afternoon off. I must admit I did kind of waste this day as I went to the shops, went back to the dorm and did some reading. It was good to catch up on some rest though.

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On Wednesday group D finally had their workshop which was run by Elke Smeets. I really like how these tutorials are run because the tutor doesn't run the meeting the discussion leader does which is a self-appointed student. Our group really dug in and discussed the question taking up most of the tutorial. It was awesome to see others as passionate as myself about the course. Afterwards we had a short break then headed to our first workshop on mindfulness. Mindfulness as a topic was so new to me but it is something that I now find I can apply to my everyday life.

Thursday was filled with touring the city, we started with a guided tour of all the historical aspects which was incredible because in Australia the history of our buildings does not go back very far. However in Maastricht we were shown buildings that had been around for centuries. One in particular stuck in my mind was a church that was built in the 10th century. We headed to lunch after this was cut a tad short because it had started to rain and from the restaurant we did a cave tour. I couldn't believe the size of these man made caves and how far back they dated. After an hour long tour in the caves we got back on the bus and went to a winery. I really enjoyed ending my day this way because it was lovely to sit back try some absolutely lovely wine and learn more about the process as we drank.

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The end of the first week arrived very quickly. Friday was filled with classes starting from 9am til 6pm, with a sizable break for lunch in between. The second lecture was presented by Elke on positive emotions. This lecture left me so happy and inspired talking about the positive benefits of being happy. This ended at about 11am with an incredible video about a 108 year old holocaust survivor who was incredibly happy and optimistic. After the lecture there was a break for lunch then onto our second workshop on positive emotions. This workshop which was again run by Hugo focused on how positive emotions actively affect us. Through the few exercises we did I really noticed the physiological effect of our emotions. The day came to an end with our second tutorial which looked at the post-discussion of our first case and the second case. I volunteered to be discussion leader and I had a great time actually having the chance to lead such an interesting and intelligent group of people. So many great ideas were put forward.

This first week absolutely flew by and I am hoping to learn some mindfulness and continue to really enjoy the time I am having.