University of Victoria, Canada, year 2006/2007
My decision to study abroad began from the moment I left my friend after travelling. He was in transit for an exchange in Australia and I was going home to Canada. One year had passed of hearing all my friend’s great stories while I was stuck at the University of Victoria with the travel bug. In December he was coming home, which was good because I hadn’t seen him for a long time and it signalled the end of his stories. He told me: “Eric, if you don’t do an exchange you’re going to regret it.” This seemed like the perfect way to get back to travelling and at the same time complete my degree. My friend was so serious about this he actually helped me fill out my application.
Differences in cultures
Great! I decided to go on exchange, now comes the daunting task to choose were to go. Europe was my first choice, since there are many countries that are all relatively close to each other. I wanted to integrate into a culture which was different than my own and also try and learn a language (I emphasise try because at the moment I have failed miserably trying to learn Dutch). I am also not keen on cold temperature (which doesn’t make sense for a Canadian I know, I know). So I was left with several options. I ended up choosing Maastricht because I was attracted to the differences in cultures between the Netherlands and the rest of Western Europe, and because I thought that this would be a good starting point to provide me with experience to pursue my dreams to work internationally.
Party planning committee
Since arriving in Maastricht I have been amazed by the ancient architecture and the long history of the city. Canada has many things to offer, but ancient history is definitely not one of them. The city also has a lively international student atmosphere, which gives it a young and exciting pace of life. My guesthouse at Majellastraat has been a great place to live, as there are great people from all over the world, and they have become my family away from home. I was especially pleased with the social events that were organised upon my arrival. Namely the introduction camping trip to Belgium allowed me to meet many Dutch students. These students have been open and have accepted me as one of their own. So much so, that they encouraged me to join the A-cie, a party planning committee where all other students are Dutch. This has allowed me to fully integrate into the Dutch culture. In addition, the PBL has been a pleasant surprise and has allowed me to be much more proactive in my learning process.
Another advantage of Maastricht is it proximity to other countries in Europe. Which is a major difference compared to Canada, since the next big city from my home is a 12 hour drive. This has allowed me to explore many different countries and at the same time settle my thirst for travelling. Some travelling highlights include: watching France play Italy at the Stade de France (my first live football match), the Oktoberfest in Munich (singing ‘Angels’ by Robbie Williams with 10,000 Germans is my kind of party), and surfing in the Basque Country of France, which simply put, was beautiful.
My overall experience in Maastricht has been amazing. The friends I have made as well as the experiences had will last a lifetime. My only complaint with the exchange is that I will only be staying for four months and will have to leave behind a beautiful city and great friends too soon. I believe that the exchange has allowed me to challenge myself and as a result, now have gained confidence in my abilities to pursue my dreams for working internationally. Who knows? That place might one day be Maastricht…