Bachelor of Psychology
Exchange @ Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands
The facilities of the university were fantastic. The library was very advanced and modern. The university also has fMRI scanners and other neuroimaging devices, as well as an anatomy room containing preserved human brains and dead foetuses. The guesthouse is the organisation that finds accommodation for the students, and I was overall satisfied with my accommodation (good location, not very expensive, cleaning service provided).
Studying at Maastricht University
The subjects I studied were highly demanding compared to subjects at JCU. Most of the grading was based on the examination, consisting of 9-10 open essay questions. I found it challenging to do biological psychology subjects because I do not have a background in it. Also, the method of teaching is Problem-Based Learning, which involves individual research on each topic, when coming together to compare notes within the group. I found it a highly beneficial and motivating way to learn the material, without the need for heavy cramming before exams (because the studying is done all the way through the semester). I also found only doing 2 subjects at one time meant I could spend more time focusing on each subject.
Living in The Netherlands
It was easy to get used to the lifestyle, especially because everyone in the Netherlands speaks English. The cost of living is comparable to living in Cairns. In the guesthouse accommodation, I was able to meet many people who were in the same situation as me, which meant I gained valuable friendships to make the initial homesickness easier. Maastricht is a beautiful town and is also very close to Germany, Belgium and France so travelling is easy. It started snowing in December and since I had never even seen snow beforehand, it was a bit difficult getting used to the cold!
What were the most rewarding aspects of the exchange experience?
The most rewarding aspect was gaining insight on a different way of living. A great majority of the students at JCU Cairns are mature age students, however here most of the people I studied with were within my age group (early 20s). I also got to live with and get to know people from all over the world, including France, Italy, Hungary, Taiwan, USA, Canada, England, etc. It was also rewarding to be challenged in learning biological psychology, which I do not have the opportunity to study at JCU Cairns. I was taught by some world-renowned professors who are experts in neuroimaging and neuroscience.
Did you experience any difficulties?
The most difficult thing was missing family and friends back home. It was the most intense when I first arrived in Maastricht, when I hadn’t made any friends yet. Once I got to know a lot of people, we were all in the same boat and could cheer each other up when someone was feeling homesick. There were no language difficulties because everybody speaks English. The courses at university were of a high standard which was quite challenging, but if you put in the effort it's not impossible to get good grades.
What advice would you give to a JCU student going to your host university?
1. Be ready to study hard! They don’t hand you things on a silver platter here. If you don’t know or understand something, you are expected to do independent research and figure it out yourself.
2. Save as much money as you can, so you can travel! It is so easy to get to other places in Europe via train or cheap airlines. Make the most of being in Europe!
3. Try to look on Google maps at the accommodation you choose, and its location in relation to the town centre and your campus. I was lucky enough to choose a place that was in between the town and my campus, but some people ended up almost over the border in Belgium…
4. If you’re not used to riding a bike, practice before you come! EVERYONE in the Netherlands rides bikes, and chances are you will buy one and ride everywhere. It’s a convenient, environmentally friendly, and healthy way to get around.