Making Friends in Groningen
Making Friends in Groningen
What is the invisible string that threads through every first-year student’s worries? ‘Best student city in the Netherlands’, they say. You believe these claims. Your thoughts circle the prospects of your new life; A new environment, a fresh blow of independence, the excitement only keeps building. As you pack your favourite pair of pants, pick out the perfect date to fly to Groningen, say good-bye to that friend you’ve had for 12 long years, your excitement gets fogged up by one string thought – what if I don’t like it in Groningen?
What if those claims about the student lifestyle just won’t suit me? What if I don’t enjoy my studies? What if I can’t make friends?
Remember this – everybody took that risk. Which of these answers can I provide you with? None. But I hope to help you in the process of making friends before you get to Groningen. It’s not impossible!
I shall begin with a nerdy confession. Whilst waiting for my application response from the University of Groningen, I channelled all my nerves and expectations into one source: The Student Room. It is essentially a website that operates through forums, where mostly high-school students come together to discuss examinations, subjects, and the prospect of University life. I was lucky enough to find a thread on the University of Groningen, and I made use of this thread by asking a lot of questions. There’s a University of Groningen representative who always attempts to reply to all enquiries, which to me, reveals the helpful personality of the University quite well.
Apart from this, however, I managed to find a few people who applied to the same course I did. We discussed student housing together (SSH), talked about introduction events the city had to offer, among other things. Eventually, we decided to create a Facebook and Whatsapp group to get to know each other better. This is step one in making friends – reach out to people with whatever resources you have. The Student Room is an amazing start, as they have a new thread for every new academic year, at least for applicants of University of Groningen. Here’s one for 2016-2017 Applicants.
If you’re not familiar with The Student Room, I do hope you’re familiar with Facebook, because this is the next best alternative. Search up groups such as ‘RUG New Students [insert your prospective academic year here]’. Don’t confine your search to just these terms. Try ‘University of Groningen Prospective Students 2016-2017’, ‘RUG LLB 2016-2017’… be creative! With the increasing number of international students interested in the University, the chances of you finding a Facebook group increases along with it.
I understand some people prefer making friends offline. The city offers many opportunities for this! You always have the option to join the annual KEI week programme, or ESN Introduction Week (information usually available in June/July/August or January/February). ESN is especially great for exchange students, as this is what the organization focuses on. They also have events happening every week, so there are ample times and opportunities for you to get to know people.
Alright – so you’re in the city, met some people from KEI week and ESN, but your group chemistry fizzled after 3 weeks of University. It’s completely understandable! You’re bound to want to meet people of your same interests. In case your working groups don’t allow you to do so, search up your programme’s student associations. Become an active member – or not. Either way, these associations always have events planned out, and they are usually related to the subject you are taking. Moreover, these associations allow you to mingle with your seniors, who are always willing to help you out with your studies and questions. They also give you a glimpse of what your life might be like in a year or so.
More on student organizations – they are endless. Missing home? There’s probably an association for that. Like sports? Join classes in ACLO or one of their sports clubs! The best way to make friends is through your interests. Not only will you feel comfortable talking to these people about your mutual hobbies, the conversation will be easy. If you’re not ready to commit to any organization yet, take advantage of free lectures. All study-related organizations host a plethora of lectures revolving all kinds of subjects. Within my first 5 weeks of class, I’ve gone to one guest-lecture per week. So much for maximising my resources!
The conclusion is – don’t worry. As long as you’re ready to take up on these opportunities, friendships are bound to form. People in Groningen are incredibly friendly. Smiles are plastered on everyone’s faces. Even if you don’t form tight bonds within the first month of your stay, the amazing energy that is given off by the students and residents of this gem of a city will keep your heart warm and fuzzy – perfect to fight off the chilly air.