Day 06

Friday, May 27, 2011

   Today was our last full day in Maastricht. Tomorrow we head to Bruges, Belgium for the weekend, I’m excited about that. This morning we had another lecture at the university. So far we’ve had a lecture on the culture, history, and government of Europe, today our lecture was about social cohesion. Our speaker discussed some of the social issues of Europe such as welfare, homelessness, employment, retirement, and health care. We learned about how after World War II there was momentum for solidarity in Europe and a system was developed where the state has a responsibility to take care of its citizens. Everyone here has health care. People who are unemployed have some of the same benefits as those that are unemployed. Our instructor, who has never been to America, said it is strange to think of a person as not having health care. It was really interesting learning about the differences between Europe and the United States when it comes to welfare, health care, retirement, and the responsibilities of the state.

   Our instructor told us about how Europe is slowly becoming more privatized and giving citizens more responsibility to take care of themselves and not be entitled to government assistance unless absolutely necessary. An interesting observation an American classmate of mine made is that while Europe is slowly moving towards becoming more privatized, the United States is slowly moving towards becoming more socialized. This was probably the most interactive lecture we’ve had so far because so many of the students in my group had questions about the system in Europe and how it compares to the one in the United States. Because issues such as health care, unemployment, retirement,and welfare are such big issues at home, I really enjoyed our lecture today. I feel like I’m more informed about what’s going on not only in my world back home, but in the rest of the world as well. It’s interesting to see what issues other countries are dealing with and how. Many countries in Europe are having economic problems and are in need of a bailout. No matter where you go in the world, every country has some sort of national issue without an easy solution. The United States is not the only country with problems.

   After our lecture we had lunch then caught a bus to the Provincial Government building where the Parliament of Limburg meets. It was really cool being in the building and seeing where some of the top officials in this province meet. We learned about how the government works and what function each officer has. We were given a grand tour and saw the offices were all the officials are. The building has a lot of historical significance.  When the building was built, one percent of the money went towards the artists and art that would be displayed. The building is filled with a lot of interesting and beautiful art such as paintings, sculptures, and tapestries. The reception hall is absolutely exquisite; the floors were made of imported marble. A classmate of mine and I were joking that when we get married we want our wedding receptions to be held there (start saving for the flight family)! At the end of our tour we passed by an exhibit on the first floor of the building that displayed toys from children during the Holocaust. I love all the history that I have been exposed to since I’ve been here; I think I’m beginning to love history.

   After leaving the government building, the little group I’ve been with each day headed back to the market square. I’m so proud of us, we learned how to use public transportation this week! In fact, that was one observation I made this week while in Maastricht, the public transportation system is very efficient here. If you need to go anywhere you just hop on a bus and you’re there! While at the square we got dinner and I’m pretty sure you can guess what I absolutely had to get before the day ended, a waffle! 

   Our day ended pretty early in the evening so we were all able to relax in our hotel rooms and pack since we have an early checkout in the morning. I took a much needed nap; it’s still been a little bit of trouble going to bed on time since the time is so different so I often get a little sleepy during the day. I have indeed truly enjoyed being in Maastricht this week, it gave me a very good first impression of Europe. Tomorrow we head to the next city with all new adventures. Bruges here we come!