Visitors in Groningen
Are you a fan of travelling and getting to know other cultures? We bet you are, since you’re eager to learn more about Groningen! Good choice, since the city can justly be described as a melting pot of cultures. This was also the case earlier this semester, when Groningen was the host of an international youth exchange, organised by the European Union associate Youth for Exchange and Understanding. Dutch history student Amarins Hielkema of the University of Groningen took part in the program and shared some of her experiences with GroningenLife!
When she heard it was coming to Groningen, she of course had to participate. Youngsters from throughout the European Union and close neighbours such as Azerbaijan, Macedonia and the Ukraine, spend an entire week in the city. Participation was open for everyone, as long as they were ‘young’. All one had to do was write a letter of motivation to the YEU. While the project is open to all young people, the group mostly consisted of students. Not surprising, as they are within the right age group, are usually open to other cultures and eager to travel abroad. The pretext for this particular meeting was to learn about migration, but, more importantly, all participants had an opportunity to get to know each other.
The crowd slept at a youth hotel in the city, from where the entire centre was within walking range. Throughout the week they were nourished with typical Dutch food. This took some getting used to for some, since bread and soup for lunch is unusual in some cultures. Luckily, Dutch pea soup (snert) is delicious and filling. Other challenges were the weather; youngsters from the Mediterranean countries had an opportunity to work on their resistance when the flu caught on to the group. It turned out to be a cooler and wetter climate in the Netherlands than they were used at home this time of the year. They were here only for one week though and the temptations of the city were waiting, so staying in bed was not an option. They manned up and pushed on. After all, Groningen’s night life had to be explored! Who can resist checking out the largest bar in Europe?
During the day question such as ‘What does integration mean?’ and ‘How can we work on migration in future activities?’ were answered and ‘we learned a lot about migration and ourselves’. They also learned a lot about each other, since all students spend the entire week together, friendships were made easily. It was a pity everyone had to go their own way, but in this day and age contact is not easily broken. Facebook invites and promises to meet up at new projects were exchanged. In the end they had to leave, said Amarins, but on the plus side, I do have plenty of new holiday addresses now!
By: Ido Venhuizen