Maastricht, the heart of Europe!
Gaby Odekerken-Schröder, committee member of Frontiers in Service 2023.
Prof. Gaby Odekerken-Schröder is directly involved in enriching the international context of Maastricht University through her research, education and other responsibilities. She shares the perspective of what internationalization means for both: residents and visitors of our university.
Welcome to Maastricht - a place where cultures meet and shine!
We look forward to welcoming you to Maastricht, the heart of Europe! I say, heart, referring, first of all, to the Maastricht Treaty, signed by 12 countries in 1992, which laid the foundation for the Euro and the European Union as we know it now. But it can equally well refer to the geographical location of Maastricht with easy connections to many European capitals. International traveling here is easier than you imagine - it only takes a 15-minute bike ride to Belgium from the Maastricht University urban campus! Our students commonly plan trips to different European cities on their weekends or study-free periods and embrace the cultural differences on the other side of the national borders.
Due to its geographical and historical location, Maastricht University has made the deliberate choice for internationalization to enhance the quality of education, research, and service to society. Maastricht University continually fosters developments to establish itself as the pre-eminent European university with a global outlook. It is a unique living lab revolving around the question: what does Europe mean for the world, and what does the world mean for Europe? Our School of Business and Economics yearly welcomes roughly 600 international exchange students for one semester from over 160 international partner universities, and we proudly facilitate an equal number of outgoing students. The International Classroom, Global Citizenship Education, accessible language courses, English as a working language, international networks, partnerships, exchange, and internship programs enhance the quality of education and research and support members of the Maastricht University community to contribute to society successfully.
Pioneering internationalization already in the 1980s as a frontrunner, Maastricht University has developed a unique international profile in the Netherlands and Europe by applying the Problem Based Learning (PBL) method in a global context. Did you know that as part of this approach, we break down all of our students into tutorial groups of a maximum of 15 students? For large programs of more than 1,000 students too! In my last tutorial group of 15 students, I welcomed nine different nationalities, which undoubtedly adds to the development of intercultural skills of our students and brings a distinctive atmosphere. This still makes me tick, even after 28 years of appointment at Maastricht University.
One more peculiar characteristic of Maastricht University is its effort to be as sustainable as possible regarding education, research, or operations. The Sustainable Maastricht University 2030 strategy underlines the dedication to this goal. For example, one of our conference venues, Tapijnkazerne, has been recently redeveloped in compliance with WELL Building Standard, demonstrating the drive of Maastricht University to pursue optimal outcomes for all our students and employees. In preparing Frontiers 2023, we also aim for sustainable operations and try to minimize the conference's footprint.
So what does the internationalization aspect of Maastricht University bring to you as a conference delegate? First, you will notice how easy it is to navigate the city and the university buildings, as English is a natural language here. Second, be it a conference, workshop, or any trivial daily routine - you will dive into a global reality, the only one we have. And last but not least, if you have the time to spend an extra day, don't miss a chance to take advantage of such a central location - you can visit the Three Country Point in Vaals, where The Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium meet. Vaals was an important strategic, political and economic center in Roman times. Nowadays, it is a lovely spot for a relaxing day out. Or, you can even start a trip through Europe after your conference attendance and visit some neighboring countries or take short flights to major European capitals.
So let's engage in what A.R. Aurthur (1922-1978) called an intercultural dialogue, which is the best guarantee of a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world!