Hello you guys! I wanted to give you some news from Maastricht. In spite of the proximity of Maastricht from Belgium (it is indeed only 10 km from the border), life in The Netherlands is quite different from ours. Maastricht is very cosmopolitan: you have here Russians, French, Italians, Spaniards, Polish and people from the Czech Republic as well as Americans and Canadians! It is very impressive because Maastricht is so international and thus everybody is at least bilingual (Dutch-English) and many persons do know some French or German(because the German are the most represented foreign nationality here; 3 cars out of 5 are from Germany). It is also very surprising to see that Dutch people apparently are not able to conceive that their language is taught abroad and that there are people who learn it. Each time we speak Dutch, they are filled with wonder and tell us that we speak very well(while we are thinking that our accent is bad and that if we were to speak like this at an exam with Ms Metttewie we would only get a 10). Maastricht is also very modern. For instance, your student card has a chip so that you can use it as a bank card (provided you link the card with a bank account). It also serves to open the lockers at the library.
Anyhow, I think that one of the most striking differences is food! Two weeks of life there are enough for you to understand it. The food here tastes very bad - nay, it does not taste bad; it rather has no taste. The majority of the dishes that I have eaten here were insipid. I miss the burgundy life of Belgium, where everything does have a taste. What I do not understand is that Maastricht seems to be famous for her burgundy life...The second striking characteristic for food here is that everything MUST be separate: on a plate, in the ready-made dishes, whatsoever, everything is apart. That is to say that you have a compartment with the potatoes, another one with the meat, and so on. This "craze" about setting everything apart is so deeply anchored in the minds that there are ads on television for a brand of meals where the potatoes are cooked with the rest and the moral of this is "it is delecious, even if has not been cooked apart"!
Apart from this, I must say that the cost of life is rather high here in comparison with Belgium, especially the food. A sandwich costs here about 4.5 euro. Yet, they have something that I find quite useful: long breads. It is 3 breads in one, it is very cheap (0.75 euro) and lasts 3 days. If you would buy those breads separately you would pay 2 euro.
In the blocks of houses, something has also struck me, namely that in the afternoon everybody gets out of the house, sits on chairs in front of the house and chat with one's neighbour. It is very curious to see. Also, they often let the house front door open, not fearing for thieves. There is often some music coming out from the house at a loud volume and apparently it does not disturb the neighbours, while all the houses are attached to one another.
Of course another big difference here is the system of teaching: Here there are no lectures as such, it is a system of tutorials. It is called "Problem Based Learning". It functions by groups of about 15 students with one tutor (it may be a senior student), but the tutor is not very active. It functions in 2 steps: A first meeting where we discuss a "problem"(from the "blokboek", a syllabus) which is rather a theme of discussion, a situation. It begins with a statement that will encourage us to think about the problem. The topics have all something in common: it is about minorities. Generally, Caroline and me already know something about them: emancipation of woman and feminism, slavery (discussed with Ms Leijnse), black slaves' emancipation, homosexuality... So it is nice because, for instance, when we spoke about feminism we talked about Mary Wollstonecraft, who we knew from Mr Delabastita's course. So proffesors, we are grateful for this background knowledge that you provided us with. Along the discussion, we activate all the knowledge that we have and gradually we define what is still unclear,and what are the things we have to learn. This is formulated under the form of questions. These are called our "learning goals". Then begins the self-part of the work. We read texts about the topic and we make research on the Internet. Then come the second meeting, where we share everything we have found and formulate together answers to our learning goals. And then it goes on and on... I must also mention that among the students there is always a chairman who is controlling the evolution of the discussion, making sure that everyone speaks and having a look at the time. There is also a "notetaker" who takes notes on a board of all the ideas that are being discussed. Each student has to take this role in turn. This course is called " Minor Crucial Differences" .To know more about it, just click on the link.
What you have to know about the timetables at university here is that it is not functionning as we. In Belgium, everyday you have different courses. So on Monday you begins with this courses, then you have another one,etc.
Here it is one course per "blok". A year is divided into "blokperiodes" (A, B, C, D...) and you have the exam at the end of the blok. So for instance, I know that I have my first exam the 27th october then there is the week-end and on the next Monday I will begin the second course with the second blok.
Well, I think that it is all for today, folks.
I miss you all so much!