Deciding to study abroad is a big decision during your college career. It’s probably just as important as deciding what you want to study! So, if you’ve decided to make the leap to embark on a semester or year-long journey of a lifetime, congratulations! Now where do you want to go? My suggestion is you study abroad in Maastricht, and I’m going to tell you why!
There are so many options when it comes to picking a study abroad program. USAC offers over 50+ programs across 27 countries, which can feel overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. Some ways that helped me narrow down this decision included:
- selecting a continent first
- making sure that I would receive credit in my field of study
- reflecting on places that I’ve always wanted to go but haven’t visited yet
- and overall cost
Some other factors might include which languages you want to learn, and what kinds of adventures you want to have (city, outdoors, etc.). With these in mind, I embarked on my journey to Maastricht, the Netherlands, and it was the best decision I have ever made.
#1. You’ll fall in love with Maastricht the moment you arrive
The second our bus approached the city from Brussels Airport, I knew I was going to love it. The combination of Dutch architecture and other European influences make this place feel very cozy and quaint. Much like the rest of the Netherlands, the major roads are designed with cyclists in mind yet with many narrow streets to get lost in your new home. When you acquire your own bicycle, you’ll bike to class with European history all around you and, depending on where your class is, you might find yourself having it in one of these historic buildings. Even without a bicycle, the city is very safe and walkable, and despite having only 100,000 residents, there are plenty of things to do and discover in this student-dominated city.
#2. The Center for European Studies staff is amazing
Even though this is a USAC partnership program, and there are no USAC staff onsite, the coordinators at the Center for European Studies (CES) will be there to guide you from the moment that you’re accepted into the program. You will receive help with course selection prior to departure and when you arrive, you’ll be greeted with open arms and lots of extra perks during your first two weeks and throughout the rest of the semester. For instance, included in your USAC fee are three study trips to different cities throughout Europe. In Fall 2019 CES took our program to Berlin, The Hague (with additional stops in different parts of the Netherlands), and Paris. Additionally, the CES staff will help you with adjusting to the Problem-Based Learning style of Maastricht University (UM) and their doors are always open if you need any assistance or support throughout your study abroad in Maastricht.
#3. Maastricht is in the heart of Europe
If you want to travel the continent, Maastricht is the perfect location. There are many nearby airports with cheap flights all across Europe. A bus or a train ride away are Brussels Airport, Brussels Charleroi Airport, Eindhoven Airport, Cologne/Bönn Airport and Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport. This gives you many options for a weekend getaway to the European destination of your dreams. There are also many Dutch and other European cities you’ll want to visit that don’t require a plane ticket. Some of my favorites were Amsterdam, Düsseldorf, and Bruges!
Travel Hack: Belgian Rail offers a GoPass for people under 26 years old to any stop in Belgium from Station Maastricht for €8.50 (€13 to Brussels Airport).
#4. You’ll meet people from all over the world
Your accommodation in Maastricht will be the UM Guesthouse where the majority of residents are other international and exchange students as well as other students from all over the US with the CES program. With USAC, you’ll receive a one-bedroom dorm with a common room/kitchen and shared toilets and showers. During my study abroad in Maastricht, I quickly made friends with my hallmates who were from all across the US and Europe. We would organize international dinner nights, where someone would cook their favorite dish from home, many movie nights, and after a long day of studying or travelling, there was almost always a friend to come home to! You’ll also be integrated in classes with other exchange students and regular UM students and a large portion of the student population are international students. Plus, thanks to the small class sizes, it will be much easier to get to know them. Additionally, with many clubs and organizations available for you to join, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to make long- lasting friendships, you just have to take the first leap.
No matter where you decide to study with USAC, it will be the decision of a lifetime. However, the Maastricht program stands out because of the safety and beauty of the city and surrounding area, the dedication of the CES staff to making your experience as best as it can possibly be, the ease of travel to hundreds of European destinations, and the diverse perspectives and friendships you’ll gain from people of all walks of life. Of course, this barely scratches the surface of what the Maastricht program has to offer. Studying here will be an experience like no other because if it ain’t Dutch, it ain’t much!
Keanu Gaite is a student at the University of Nevada, Reno and studied at Maastricht University in Fall 2019. He is also a Center for European Studies (CES) Maastricht Ambassador.