A Day at University College Maastricht (UCM)
By Maddie Melton & Celine Douet
As we stepped out of PNKY, a local Maastricht waffle chain rumored to have the best Belgian waffles around, we were struck by the broad, cobbled streets and international atmosphere of this southern city, located only two hours away from Utrecht. Far closer to the Belgian and German borders than the next Dutch province, it is an ideal location for a college filled with students seeking an international experience. The streets are a cacophony of different languages, have a surprisingly scarce amount of bikes, and are lined with architecture that reflects a more Belgian style.
In the midst of the surprisingly large city is the main building of the University College. Unlike UCU, UCM doesn’t have a “bubble.” The different faculties are spread out in historic locations across the city, and students find their own apartments between the city’s churches, squares and cafés. The main building, however, sits just inside the old city walls, right beside a tranquil, swan-filled park. Students described the park as an ideal study spot in the summer. Similar to UCU, academics at UCM are focused on small class sizes and the exchange of cultural experiences. Additionally, UCM is based around problem-based learning.
While academics at UCM are fairly similar to what we’re used to at UCU, student life appears to be more divergent. Some committee options are available, but the lack of a bubble means that the extra-curricular focus is often within the city itself. Carmen Llaquet, a Spanish first-year student, said she chose Maastricht for the artistic feel of the city, reflected in its many galleries and diverse music venues. Another first-year student, Lucia Fits-Marquez, expressed her enjoyment of the dynamic salsa scene that Maastricht has on offer. They’re also excited about the Carnival, festival celebrated in the Southern regions of the Netherlands, annually featuring parades, candy, and crazy costumes. The yellow, red, and green decorations were already up during our visit in preparation for the upcoming festivities.
Like UCM’s extra-curriculars, the student nightlife in Maastricht has a distinctly different flavour. While students at UCU often have trouble dragging themselves off campus, without their own bar, UCM students have more incentive to party in town. Carmen said that she feels clubs in Maastricht have a more Mediterranean feel with more dancing and international music than other parts of the country. According to Carmen, Maastricht is located in one of the more conservative regions of the Netherlands. Nevertheless, after passing through some popular student clubs, that definitely wasn’t our impression!
Even though students at UCM are more independent and in touch with the city than here at UCU, their sense of community within the college seems more varied. Although we quickly fell in love with the international atmosphere in Maastricht, the food, and the art galleries, we missed the comforts of our tight-knit bubble. Then again, crossing over the Maas and looking back at the historic centre of this national heritage site, we were happy we’d taken time to visit this unique, European melting pot.