The journey begins in Groningen

The big moment that you were waiting for has finally arrived. You made it to the city where you will be spending the coming years of your study. Yeeeeees! And now it’s about to begin.

What is in it for me? How welcoming is this city? What are some of the nicest places? How is the green scenery in this town? Hmm what about student life/culture? And lastly, will I be able to easily adapt here?

These were some of the questions going through my head when I first arrived in Groningen, four years ago. Unlike other students, who visit the cities before they move there officially, which is a really smart move, I never had the chance to experience Groningen prior to my academic semester. I arrived in the city and the second after, BAM, classes started.

I am certain that most of you had a smoother arrival in the city compared to mine, which makes it a bit easier I would say, to manage that overwhelming feeling of beginning a new chapter in your life.

However, bumpy road types of experiences come with their perks, namely in my case it was developing a down to earth strategy. Let me explain. I gained significant insights, every time I had to face a challenge, even though at the time it seemed like the end of the world and caused me a lot of stress, but later on it got easier and easier. Like I mentioned earlier, I have been living in this city for more than four years now, and I had various occasions to learn some life-saving hacks.

If you are curious to discover what they consist of, continue reading and I promise, it will save you the pain of going through the same unpleasant situations that I had to face. I wish I could have had “an older me” type of friend back in the days.

I did not realize until later on, but it can be really encouraging reading articles, that don’t only focus on the positive aspects of a perfect student city, but also on the challenging part.

As a former student myself, I always wanted to inform myself about the things that would be hard, thus get a more realistic description of the student life in the city, which is the reason why I want to keep these blogs honest and real.

As extraordinary as it is the fact that you are now continuing your studies in another country, the integration within a different culture and city, as an expat student can be tough. It certainly is a great period in your life but it won’t always be rainbows and butterflies. There will be struggling moments too and that is what I would like to guide you on.

This first blog focuses on a few essential things you will be looking for in the first academic weeks. Take a look below.

It’s always fun to witness how lively and crowded the city gets at the beginning of the academic year, and I am certain you might have had the chance to see it too.  As lively and gezellig as it can get, there are still a few things that you need to be careful about so here’s what I came up with: a list of suggestions that can come in handy for all you expat students.

The expat student survival kit.

1. Remember to stay sharp while you bike!

When you go out in the city biking, there will be many other bikers, including both highly skilled ones and the newbies. So, make sure to remain alert and look left and right to avoid unpleasant surprises. I guess you know what I’m referring to, accidents and crashing into others.

2. It’s raincoat o’clock

You know what they say about the weather in England, that it changes five times a day? Well, let’s say it’s a very similar situation here, so always keep a raincoat or umbrella on standby. Especially during the first two months of autumn, meaning the first academic block that you are about to start, it will be quite rainy and windy, so take notes. You’ll most likely be biking around the campus and there’s nothing worse than getting blown from the wind, or becoming soaking wet from the rain. Here’s the good news though, a really nice solution that Dutchies have come up with, an app called Buienalarm. This app shows you time intervals, throughout the day, during which there will be light, moderate, or heavy rain. It’ll save you a lot of trouble, trust me. Better have it asap.

3. Finding the perfect study place

I remember when I first arrived in the city one of the most stressful decisions I had to make was finding the right spot to study. Obviously, there’s a lot of studying spaces that the university offers, like the UB (the university library), located in front of the Academy Building, the Zernike library, very convenient for the students studying in the Zernike campus, and many others. But given the rules that the university is following lately, due to the Corona pandemic, it might be a bit more difficult to reserve your spot but don’t worry, there’s plenty of room for you to get your creativity and productivity going somewhere else. In addition to the nice cafés located all over the town, there’s one place in particular that I’d highly recommend, the Groninger Forum. Located right in the center of the city, the Forum offers a lot of working spaces, including cafes and places where you can have lunch. You won’t have trouble spotting a 45 meters tall building that looks quite futuristic and modern. Look it up, and go check it alone or with your friends. Don’t forget to bring a laptop, your water bottle and enjoy the view of the city from the 4th floor.

4. Breathe in and go green

You are probably puzzled from this one I’d assume. Go green could that be sustainability or smth? Well not really, so let me explain. What I am referring to is the public green spaces in the city of Groningen. Consider yourself lucky, because there’s plenty of it here! You might have heard of the famous Noorderplantsoen park, but there are other green spaces located in the city.Here’s a few of them: Prinsentuin, Martinikerkhof, DinkelPark, Sterrebos, City Park, Stadspark, etc.

One of my all-time favorites is Stadspark. Located in the southern part of the city, this park truly has it all. Whether you are going for a bike ride, a relaxing walk, jog, or having a picnic with your friends, it is worth visiting at least once. Plus, you will be up for a breeze of fresh air which always helps, especially during midterms and final exams.

There’s more to this city than you think, even though it might look a bit small compared to the other metropolitan Dutch cities but I’ll tell you more in the coming weeks. In the meantime, promise me something, that you won’t hesitate to explore Groningen and get familiar with all the beauty that it has to offer. Reach out to people and ask them for activities, or join international organizations/study associations, and start creating your Groningen student chapter.

I hope to have given you some useful tips, and I cannot wait for you to read my next blog. That is all from me. Take care everyone, and I wish you the best of luck with your academic year.

Sincerely, Jona Hax

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Jona Hax