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Studying Positive Psychology and discovering Europe

My experience thus far in Maastricht has been wonderful! I arrived a week early into Amsterdam with my mom, or as many here say “my mum,” and immediately felt welcomed and at ease. We ventured to many churches, explored restaurants and visited museums, including the Church in the Attic, waffle shops, and the Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk Museum of modern art. We visited the Anne Frank house, the Tulip Museum , the Cheese Museum, and watched fireworks in honor of the New Year. In sum, it was a beautiful way to bring in 2013! On January 2nd, I took a train to Maastricht to settle in before orientation on the third. I reunited with my roommate, Austen Applegate, who I also go to school with, as well as the other students who attend Guilford. Austen and I are the only two Americans taking the Positive Psychology class, the others are in the International Relations program. I loved meeting the other students here, most of which are from different places across Australia. I truly believe we have shared experiences that will result in us keeping in touch for many years to come. We just returned from a weekend trip to Brussels and Bruges this weekend and indulged in history, chocolate, and beer. We walked the city learning of history from our tour guides, learned where Karl Marx lived, made wishes upon Everhard ‘t Serclaes, and then in our free time tried cactus beer at the Delirium tap house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day we explored Bruges on another tour and had the chance to climb the Belfry tower and went on a tour of a brewery and sampled beer from Belgium. We saw astounding views, danced, and expanded our minds and our wardrobes. Those experiences include our educational endeavors, walking tours, weekend excursions and bicycling to class. The walking tour of Maastricht was extremely beautiful and historical. Everywhere here truly is a monument, and I can definitely see the distinction between Maastricht in the Netherlands, versus the Protestant influenced Holland. The tour guide told us many interesting things as he led us through the city about the other side of the gate called “hell” and how different it was from the side that had little Catholic influence. Class has been fascinating and supports all the areas I want to further explore. I feel like I’m applying the lessons of gratitude, appreciation, and positive thinking effectively. This trip has me in complete amazement. So much so, that when in class, I scored on a happiness ratio a total of 16 to 1, the average happiness ratio is a 3 to 1. I have certainly been grateful to be here in the Netherlands!

About the author: Noelle Lane

Noelle profile picI am a double major in theater studies and psychology at Guilford College in North Carolina. I enjoy travelling and exploring as it helps to see that despite our differences, we are all the same.  I love making new friends, acting, exploring the human mind, and educating the public on the issues of homelessness.

Allow Me to Introduce Myself: Hello Maastricht!

This is my first post for the Maastricht Students blog, and therefore I wanted to make it like some sort of introduction of myself, since I am new here.

My name is Nathalie Paulina Stroobants; I am a Venezuelan student doing a Bachelor in European Law here in Maastricht. I was born and raised on the north coast of Venezuela, on an island called Isla Margarita that is located in the Caribbean Sea (about 40min by plane from Curacao and Aruba).

My father is Belgian and my mother is Venezuelan, and I have to say, that unlike the rest of my siblings, I acquired most of the European physical traces of my father; this may be unnecessary information, but I point it out because since I moved to Europe last year, I have heard many comments from people who say (without knowing me in advance): “You are not Venezuelan, you are obviously European, your eyes are blue and your hair is blonde”, and yes, I have the genes, but not the culture nor the lifestyle of a European (What exactly defines a European person these days anyways?).

My entire life was based in South America, my studies, my friends, my family, my lifestyle, etc. So some of you may already be wondering how I ended up in Europe, or how I ended up in Maastricht to be more specific. Venezuela, though a very beautiful country (like any other Latin American country), has become an unstable place to live these last 10 years, if there are any Venezuelans reading this, they would perfectly understand. Of course many people tend to stereotype and think that all South American countries are dangerous and politically unstable, which is (unfortunately) kind of true. But where I come from, it has become part of the normal daily life to hear terrible stories that happen everyday: 60 people got killed in one weekend, 120 people have been kidnapped in Caracas, 200 Kg of cocaine have been found buried in the woods, etc. Insecurity, corruption and instability become part of every Venezuelan’s life, the worst part of it? We get used to those things surrounding us. There have been numerous attempts to change things, to revoke Hugo Chavez’s government, to protest, to stop the abuses that government places upon the citizens, but this has only made it worse and nothing has changed since, instead, things keep getting worse and worse.

Having a European passport and a Belgian nationality gave me the chance to study abroad, so I had to make a decision: staying and hope things will change someday, or leaving the country and starting a new life from scratch. I took the second choice. Why Europe and not another country? Many of my friends immigrated to the US, but I’m just not fond of North America, at all. So I decided to go to the “fatherland”  and I spent one year in Belgium studying Dutch Language at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.

The first six months of living in Belgium were the most difficult months of my life. Adapting to a developed country, to a first-world society and to an organized system is not that easy for someone who has not been raised in such an environment, of course, there may be some exceptions, but I was not one of them. At first I didn’t even understand why on earth would people sort out their own garbage, it seemed ridiculous to me, it was very funny to see 3 different bins next to each other in every public space (I still don’t know how to do it). I also didn’t know who I had to pay to get my residence papers done (see, in Venezuela if you want things to get done, you have to pay for them secretly), I could not believe that the buses and the trains were always on the EXACT time that were supposed to. I also could not understand how people were walking in the streets at 1am in the morning without any concerns (In Venezuela, chances are that if you walk on the streets at that hour of the night, they will rob you, or rape you, or even kill you for the sake of it, that is why everyone drives a car). And last but not least: depression came in when the temperature was less than 15 Degrees. Having to bear the first winter of my life was the most arduous, bizarre, and depressive thing for me. But after a while (and after I went back to Venezuela on vacation) I realized that this is it. This is where I need to be right now, so now I am doing better, with a positive mentality, with tolerance and patience I am managing to start loving the fact that I am here, and not there. I left a part of me in Venezuela and I am sure that one day I will go back, but certainly not now.

It’s a long time since I have said this, but I am happy, I am happy to be in Maastricht for a new course, I chose to come here because I liked this city and I liked the PBL system, I am happy for my new goals, I am happy to have met some wonderful people (and some not so wonderful) from all over Europe and the world, and I am very happy now that I know I can write about my student life here!

You will notice some of these non-European thoughts of mine in some of my posts, but I assure you, you will have some fun reading them, and who knows? Maybe I can be helpful for some students and some prospective students as well.

By the way, if you are (or you know) a Venezuelan person, or South American in general, don’t hesitate to contact me, because I have not met anyone from that side of the world here in Maastricht yet!

 

 

I am looking forward to continue writing for this blog, so stay tuned for more!