Adjusting to Life in The Netherlands

It has been two weeks since I arrived in Europe. After a weekend in Amsterdam and a quick trip to Cologne, Germany, I have finally settled into my new home: Maastricht, The Netherlands.

Although I’ve only been here for a short amount of time, I’ve already fallen in love with the city and the people who live here. I find Maastricht’s cold and rainy weather much more comforting than the San Diego heat I’ve experienced my whole life. At home, I’ve always preferred gloomy days and would dream of living in a place where the sun is scarce. I never thought I’d be experiencing this dream at such a young age and in this beautiful city.

There are many notable geographic differences between San Diego and Maastricht, including an unbelievable amount of rivers compared to the ocean coastline I’m so used to. I have found comfort in the Mass river that divides the city of Maastricht because it reminds me a bit of home. Also, Maastricht is way flatter than the area of San Diego I grew up in. Here, cycling is the main form of transportation, which is possible because there are no miserable hills to cycle up. At home, I live on top of an extremely steep hill that I would never casually cycle down to go to the market because of the uphill awaiting me upon my return. I love how environmentally friendly the transportation here is and I appreciate how normal it is to walk or cycle miles instead of driving everywhere. I was a bit worried about how I would get around the city but the bike rental services and bus tickets are cost-efficient, punctual and accommodating to exchange students.

Another worry I had before studying abroad was the inevitable language barrier. However, everyone I’ve met, both on campus and around town, speaks English fluently and is more than willing to help with directions or translations. I have been trying to learn some common and conversational Dutch words, but it’s been easier for me to read the language than speak it. Since I am allergic to tree nuts and eat a Vegan diet, it is crucial for me to read nutrition labels and ingredient lists. When looking into destinations for my study abroad experience, I was worried I would pick a location with little-to-no vegan or nut-free options. Luckily, every restaurant in Maastricht has at least one amazing vegan option, and the grocery stores label everything vegan with specific sections for alternative foods. My next blog post will be a gallery of the different vegan foods and drinks I’ve been enjoying here in Maastricht so stay tuned!

Aside from all of the amazing characteristics I listed above, my absolute favorite part about living and studying in Maastricht is the diversity I’m surrounded by all around the city. Within my university, every student I have gotten to know is on exchange from their own home university or decided to complete their degree here. I’ve met people from Switzerland, Scotland, Australia, Germany, England, Singapore, Italy, Portugal, Colombia, Peru, Chile, and a few other Americans. Every person I’ve met has been so lovely and interested in stories about “The States,” and they’re more than happy to share what life in their home country is like.

Besides all of the wonderful students I’ve met, my flatmate is definitely my favorite person to be around. She is from loads of different places, speaks six languages and is doing her Master’s in International Law here at Maastricht University. I can honestly say my experience here would be way different, and definitely not as lively, if it wasn’t for her presence and constant help. I am beyond grateful to be living with someone as worldly, intelligent and cultured as she is and I can’t wait to experience Maastricht, and other parts of Europe, with her and her glorious playlists.

I am so excited to continue sharing my journey as a Study Abroad here at Maastricht University. The Netherlands is typically an uncommon place to do an exchange in, but I hope to encourage others to visit more than just the typical tourist spots and look into studying abroad in places that aren’t that well known!

The Mass River

img_1150-5Vanessa Delgado is a third-year psychology major who will be attending Maastricht University in The Netherlands for the spring semester


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