Charlotte - University College Maastricht

B. Science / Arts
Semester 2, 2016

Academic experience

I took mostly social science/humanities subjects and a few electives at UCM (e.g. international relations, Dutch).

The academic system at UCM is completely different to UQ, and adjusting to this was a challenge at first - the semester is broken into three 'periods', so a single course only goes for 7-8 weeks including exams, and everything is taught through 'problem based learning' (PBL). This means two tutorials per course per week and very few lectures, and usually at least 85% attendance is required to pass a course. Tutors are meant to take a back seat in class and let the students direct the tutorial based on work done outside of class. This also means a LOT of reading.

PBL was probably the thing I was most nervous about before my exchange, and it was certainly an adjustment at first but after a few weeks it got a lot more comfortable and I found I was getting so much more out of tutorials. The tutors at UCM are really great and if you pick courses you are interested in the readings are engaging and enjoyable. Despite my initial fears, PBL is actually one of the things I will miss most once I'm back at UQ!

I was also worried about the attendance requirement (as I'd hoped to do a lot of travel on weekends), but it wasn't an issue most of the time and I was still able to do as much travelling as I'd hoped. An advantage of UCM is that the periods are one week shorter than the other faculties at Maastricht University, so you get a week off in October and an extra week of Christmas break.

Ultimately, although the academic system at UCM was quite demanding, I learned a lot and experiencing a different way of learning really helped me to grow academically - this was definitely a highlight of my exchange!

Personal experience

Obviously, a major thing I gained from my exchange was amazing friendships with people from all over the world! Moving to a different continent alone was challenging at times but I learned a lot about myself and definitely matured from the experience. For these reasons I would highly recommend going on exchange alone - it would have been easier having someone from home around at first but ultimately I think being alone and out of my comfort zone meant I got a lot more from the experience and gained lots more new friends!


I lived at the Guesthouse (M building) which is a great choice if you are looking to meet other exchange students (to meet regular students I would recommend INKOM week!). The M building has the nicest rooms and best value for money, the C building is more well-known for partying.

The Guesthouse was a convenient option for accommodation (since it's mostly exchange students living there everything is made quite easy and straightforward), and only about a 5-10 minute bike ride from UCM. However, if you are staying for all 3 periods (most other exchange students only do 2), try and get a contract that will go until the end of your studies - I did not do this and ended up having to move twice in my last month in Maastricht because my housing contract ended.

I would also recommend having a look on Facebook pages for rooms that are being sub-leased (e.g. when regular students go on exchange), as you can get some great rooms closer to UCM and for a better price than the Guesthouse if you're not fussed about living with most of the other exchange students.


Rent, groceries and entertainment costs in Maastricht are comparable to in Australia (although alcohol is a fair bit cheaper).

For transport, I would absolutely recommend buying a bike (this is easy to do through various Facebook pages), but don't spend more than 50-60 euros and invest in a good lock!!

I ended up spending a lot of money but a large portion of that was spent on travel - I did a Contiki tour before my exchange, travelled for a week in October (between periods), 3 weeks over Christmas break, and almost every weekend during the periods.

At minimum, I would recommend about 2000-2400 euros per month for rent and general living costs (not including travel).

Professional development and employability

Experiencing PBL, although a challenge at first, allowed me to learn a lot and develop my academic skills. The social side of exchange really built up my confidence.


The highlight of my experience was living in the centre of Europe and being able to travel and explore every weekend!

Top tips

Do it!!! I was nervous before going on exchange but it was an amazing experience and one I will never forget. You won't regret it!!