So there I was, miles away from home, heart beating frantically, stomach churning, standing in line waiting to get information about my “KEI-leiders” which is Dutch for KEI-leaders, not a lot of difference from English right? I thought so too at the beginning. Anyways, moving forward, I received my instructions on where to meet my leader and group along with a complimentary goodie bag. My excitement peaked but I would sadly have to wait until evening to embark on the adventure that waited, so what to do in the meantime? Walk around the city of course!
It was my third day in Groningen and I really hadn’t gotten to see much yet. Walking around, I noticed a lot of people giving out flyers, curious, I decided to take a look, most flyers were for Dutch student associations, a key aspect of Groningen student life. Most of the flyers had information on the associations and how to schedule a meeting if you were interested in joining, there was a shortcoming though, the main language of instruction was Dutch. For an international student like myself, I thought that would be a barrier, nevertheless, I took interest in some associations and made a mental note to make a visit sometime during the week.
Evening came and I rode my bike to the location where I would be meeting my KEI leader and as well as the other KEI group members. Since it was the first time in a while since I rode a bike and I didn’t fully know the bike rules here, it took me a while to get to the leader’s house. Once there, I took a few deep breaths, I was really nervous, “What if they don’t like me?” I thought to myself. Finally, I mustered the courage and rang the doorbell, a few seconds later, I was greeted with a smiling face, beer in hand. “Heeeeey! I’m Teije” one of the leaders said excitedly, shaking my hand, I quickly introduced myself and was invited in. Entering the sitting room, I was greeted by a lot of warm faces, who were quick to introduce themselves and grab a chair for me. “Beer?”, was the first question I was asked, “Yes please” I chimed back. I then received a beer with a complimentary burger, food, gets everyone’s spirit up, especially me. Everyone was so friendly that I let my guard down almost immediately.
After rounds of drinking games, whose objective was to get us to know each other better, the leader announced that we were going to the city center, to enjoy the opening concert. Like a flock, we rode our bikes into the city, enjoying conversation as we moved on to our next destination. The concert grounds were packed; it was almost as if the whole city was in attendance. Everyone was jumping around, having fun, under the watch of their KEI-leaders. See, the KEI-leaders didn’t just show us around and introduce us to Groningen student life, they were like our parents during this time, which meant they also took watch over us. Finally, when all my energy was drained, I decided to go home and said goodbye to my new-found friends and was escorted home by one of my KEI-leiders.
The rest of the days were filled with fun activities, including an introduction to all the hot pubs and restaurants in the city, one restaurant that stood out for me from the rest was the Pannekoekschip, which is basically a restaurant that serves all sorts of pancakes on a boat in one of Groningen’s canals. This was definitely an experience I would recommend.
All the activities we did, made us bond more and forge friendships easily. As, we all know, it’s always a bit tricky in the beginning, especially if you come from so far away and are all alone, but during this week I didn’t feel alone at all (of course after this week as well.), it was also such a unique chance for me to be introduced to Dutch culture. Pannekoek, Poffertjes, Bier, Herring...you name it, I experienced it.
So, still not sure on whether you’re going to attend the KEI-week this year? Take it from me, you better make up your mind, before you miss out on a unique opportunity… Oh and brace yourself, the fun train is coming.