- BIKE. Biking in The Netherlands is as commonplace to Dutch culture as our reliance on cars in the U.S. It is not only the main mode of transportation, it a social phenomenon for university-age students. As a GW student might walk to class, split a cab, or rent a zip-car, with a friend, biking is always better when done with your friends. It has a special novelty here in Maastricht, as the border with Belgium is a brisk ten minutes by bike. The Netherlands is a country with bike paths that equal in length to freeways, and a country with a population of over 16 million, but over 18 million bikes.
- VISIT THE REPURPOSED CHURCHES. Dutch culture, throughout its long history, has always placed a particular emphasis on religion. However, in more modern times, the country has increasingly moved more and more towards a society of complete secularism. Not a people to waste, the Dutch, and citizens of Maastricht, have done a wonderful job of repurposing no longer used churches to fit a variety of purposes. Boekhandel Dominican, an over 1000 year-old church in the center of town, now functions as a book-store, with modernist architecture and thousands of titles for any variation of book-enthusiast. Even more impressive is the Kruisherenhotel Maastricht, a design hotel that just happens to find itself in a church dating from the 15th Not only is its architecture regal, it has been known to house the Dutch Royal Family on their many visits to Maastricht.
- GO TO SCHOOL. University College Maastricht has been a truly pivotal part of my study abroad experience. A small community of liberal arts students, coming from all over the world to study or study abroad, it truly feels like an oasis in the hustle and bustle of exchange life. The classes are formatted to be twenty students or less, and the range of class offerings offer a truly multi-disciplinary academic experience. Being involved enough was a concern of mine coming into my study abroad experience, but UCM has facilitated my transition nicely, and the countless extra-curricular offerings and nightly events quench my thirst for learning outside the classroom.
- STUDY ON THE WALL. UCM is located just along the old Roman city wall of Maastricht, which foundations were laid when Maastricht was established as one of the oldest towns in The Netherlands, in approximately 500 BC. The wall, although dauntingly tall, provides a wide enough ledge to sit on and look over the city, and on especially sunny, clear days, a place to study, listen to music, or enjoy the company of friends.
- EAT DELCIOUS DUTCH TREATS. Although The Netherlands may be known for its tulips, water, and cheese, an often-overlooked aspect of Dutch living is the delicious food. As I live in the very south of the country, in a province known as Limburg, my experience comes with a whole host of delicious delicacies unique to Limburg. One of my personal favorites has to be vlaai, a crossover between a pie and a tart, served with a variety of different fresh fruits and fillings. It is always freshly made daily across the city, and if you’re lucky enough, you can catch a smell as you bike by the bakkerij, or bakery.