Expat Essentials

Lale Boyd at Maastricht University: What it’s really like to be an expat student in the Netherlands, Pt. 2

(Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of a multi-part series documenting what it’s like to be an expat student in the Netherlandsspecifically at Maastricht University. Foreign students make up about 50 percent of enrollment, and Lale Boyd attends classes with expats from Germany, the United States and other countries. You can read Pt. 1 here.)

In my experience at Maastricht University, studying in the Netherlands guarantees an interesting daily routine. For example, you’ll find yourself biking.

A lot.

I personally love biking since it’s fast and free and you are entirely on your own schedule. Traffic and bus schedules can suck it. But that’s not to say it’s always easy.

THE NARROW STREETS AROUND MAASTRICHT UNIVERSITY MAKE FOR INTERESTING BIKING. NOTE THE ABSENCE OF BIKE LANES … AND THE PRESENCE OF COBBLESTONES.

A CHALLENGE FOR CYCLISTS

Old cities like Maastricht are much less bike-friendly than more modern – and often newly renovated – cities such as Eindhoven or Rotterdam. The center has few separated bike lanes, the narrow streets are shared with the public buses, and (cue the suspenseful music) we’ve got cobblestone. And not cute little bricks neatly cemented together but ancient bulbous stones separated by ravines.

I may be dramatic, but you can expect to repair your bike every month or so. Modern Dutch cities are much more likely to have asphalt bike lanes separated from the street, which would be a dream for Limburgers. 

Negatives aside, biking in Maastricht is greatly preferred over driving or using public transport. You can bike anywhere in the city within 20 minutes and wherever you are, a supermarket is five minutes away. Plus, there are at least three free biking garages in the city center, not to mention all of the bike racks on the street.

MAASTRICHT IS SMALLER AND EASIER TO MANAGE

Maastricht is smaller and more easily navigated than other popular Dutch cities such as Rotterdam and Amsterdam, but I think you’ll find that biking is the superior form of transport wherever you are. The cities are simply built for bikers. Just lock them up tight! Bike thieves are rampant and ruthless.  

As for activities in the city, even weekdays can offer excitement. Usually, I zip from my faculty building to the Maastricht University library or another study space, then home once I’m done with my schoolwork. Sounds boring, but you’ll be surprised at how you can combine your studies with exploring the city.

CROWDED HOUSE

At UM especially, you can expect faculty buildings and the library to be bursting at the seams some days, and you can and should use the opportunity to find new places to work.

Throughout the city, we’ve got great cafes, multiple buildings with dedicated study spaces, and parks for those who like a good outdoor study sesh.

LALE AND CHERYL WALKING THE STADSMUUR WALL NEAR THE UM LIBRARY

For example, pop across the street from the rear of the UM library and you’ll find the Stadsmuur wall overlooking a large park. It’s popular with students in the spring and summer, so you’ll find people eating, drinking, working, or just chilling.

Study picnic, anyone?

Weekends, of course, are usually somewhat dedicated to studying. But with any free time, I like to galavant (new favorite word) in the city center, or travel to other cities to see friends. The beauty of studying in the Netherlands is that you are never chained to one place. NS, the Dutch train system, has your back.

During my first year at UM, I would go to Delft, Rotterdam, or Eindhoven almost every weekend. The train ride was a bit long to get to Delft (2.5 hours) but I used the Wi-Fi on the train to get work done. Maastricht is great and lively but get out of there every once in a while and check out what other places have to offer.

It’s the secret to avoiding boredom.

Tips on where the students go:

FOOD:

• Maastricht has lots of supermarkets and Friday is market day.

Amazing Oriental Asian market

STUDENTS’ FAVORITES INCLUDE:

With Love Burrito is always busy. This is on Markt Square in front of the city stadhuis with some seating inside, but more outside.

Hae carryout Korean food is a tiny restaurant and an art gallery/gift shop at Sint Jacobstraat 5.

Coffee Lovers in Student Services Center and Dominicanen Kerk

De Nonna Pizza at Kommel 5 in the Old City

Mickey Brown’s Daily Deli on Hoenderstraat

About the author:

Lale Boyd is American, but was born when her family lived in Turkey. She grew up in the U.S. military community in Baumholder, Germany attending Department of Defense Dependent Schools.

She’s traveled to at least 13 countries in Europe, Asia and the Caribbean.

Her family returned to their native Kentucky in 2007 when she was seven, which was the first time she’d live in the United States. Lale has lived in the Netherlands since 2016.

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