This blog is long due. I had been thinking about writing something like this for more than a
year, but never got round to it. Then a friend of mine (hello, Cristina) promised me access
to the best chocolate cake in Lima – not that I have astronomical expectations, but I guess it
shows chocolate will go a long way with me.
This is a blog about moving cities and countries, and more specifically moving to Maastricht.
My personal experience, inclination and influences will tend to slant it towards exchange
students, but I think most of the general concepts are valid also for long term students. And in
some cases, advice would apply even if you were moving to Reykjavik.
First things first: your house. If you’re an exchanger, you probably ended up in one of the
[censor] guesthouses provided by uni, so that’s covered. If you have no such fortune, look for
groups on facebook and keep an eye out for pages like this. Most of all, keep a positive attitude,
something will show up.
Now that you’re settled in and are procrastinating on unpacking your luggage (I am positive
that at least a couple of people reading this arrived in January and still have a piece of luggage
the size of a bear from which they take fresh underwear every now and then) you have to
focus on the most important thing during your semester, year, etc.: friends (you thought I
was gonna say uni? Aha, fools). Friends are the most important thing, but you don’t need to
read this to know. What you might not have stopped to think about though, is the amazing
opportunity that moving cities gives you: you have a clean slate; not only are people not
going to judge you based on your past, but you can even start being the person you’ve
always wanted to be and never had the guts to try being. You could introduce yourself as a
photographer from Madagascar and no one would blink (I used to know a Czech guy who
did that at parties – I apologise to all Malagasy photographers out there). Point is, it’s one
of the few times in life where the kinda “don’t live for who you are, live for who you could”
motivational nonsense is actually applicable. Don’t let that go to waste.
If you can, stay an extra semester. I’ve never heard of anyone who didn’t wish they had done
this when they had the chance. Like, seriously.
A few quick notes: go to all the parties you hear of, especially during arrival week (oops, I think
that ship might have sailed; oh well, we’ll repost this for future generations’ benefit). Again, no
one knows you, so walking into a room full of strangers – while unsettling at first – should be
your knew favourite drug.
Go on all the trips possible, but not to the point where you never spend a weekend in Maas.
Stuff happens there too (Carnaval: an orange St. Patrick’s day meets Oktoberfest – I would
know, I’ve been to both) and towards the end of this semester the weather will be kind
enough for you to be able to light a barbecue without using petrol or magic. Also, before
booking, check out what dates the ESN trips are: you cannot compete with their prices and/or
organisation (aha, organisation: hi Lieuwe).
If you’re staying for a year or more, consider entering a fraternity/sorority. They’re pretty anal
about speaking Dutch and only Dutch. I don’t agree with this policy, and I once had a chance
to point it out to the heads of the biggest associations, but this is beyond the scope of this
blog. Fact is, if you can put up with learning Dutch – in some cases, if you want to learn Dutch
– student associations are a pretty good place to get in touch with the “authentic” Dutch
Bottom line: try to keep an open mind. The worst thing you can do to yourself is shut down,
make comparisons with your old life, complain and not make the most of what is enjoyable
of your new situation. I did that for the first year and a half when I moved to college. By
comparison, when I moved to Maastricht I was going to parties after a couple of days.
Adapting to new places and people, I believe, is an acquired skill; most people just think it’s
beyond them. Give it a try.
P.s.: for exchangers and people who like to internationalise: the ESN office in the Guesthouse is
open from 14:00 to 17:00 every weekday. They sit there all alone and waiting to answer people
questions (been there) so don’t be afraid to go over there for any kind of questions – where do I buy
cheap food? What’s a re-sit? Are you single?