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How to improve Groningen for international students

Thousands of international students arrive in Groningen each year. Do they feel like they are welcomed with open arms or is there still room for improvement? Four students share their first experiences and give advice on how to improve Groningen for international students.

‘I am still very surprised how many people speak perfect English and even German’, says second-year International Communication student Franzi, who moved to Groningen two years ago. ‘As soon as they realize I am German, they come towards me speaking in English or German. It’s the same everywhere: in cafes, supermarkets, clothing stores, bars, and museums. Everyone is very kind and open-minded and tries their best to welcome you.’

While the inhabitants are happy to speak English, the municipality is strangely enough quite reluctant to use languages other than Dutch. ‘The municipality could send official letters in both Dutch and English, it would make things a lot easier for internationals.’

Emma, a first-year student from Italy, has a more positive experience with the municipality. ‘They actually helped me a lot, especially regarding a residence permit and showing me all the benefits I could enjoy as a foreigner. I appreciate the kindness and availability of the people living and working here. Every time I have a problem or concern I can easily find someone ready to help me. This is not always the case at home.’

I appreciate the kindness and availability of the people living and working here

Kushagra from India is happy with one specific, eye-catching change in the city: the Groningen Forum. ‘It was still under construction when I arrived a few years ago, now it is really an important central meeting point. It has cafes, a cinema, a museum… and study spaces. That’s a very important addition, because this city sometimes seems to have more students than study spaces. Even more study spaces would definitely be great.’

Chiara, a first-year International Business student from Romania, was quite dissapointed with the housing situation in Groningen. ‘The rents for Dutch people are much lower than for internationals. And it’s also really annoying that they often write Dutch people only at the beginning of a room ad on Facebook.’

My friends tell me the craziest stories about broken sinks and freezing showers

The student houses should also have better quality control, according to Chiara. ‘My friends tell me the craziest stories about broken sinks and freezing showers, and I also lived in a terrible house myself. Why doesnt the municipality check all houses before they become available for rent?’

‘Sometimes, not speaking Dutch can be a problem, especially when landlords don’t accept internationals in their house,’ says Emma. ‘It is actually illegal to refuse non-Dutch, but it happens anyways. It would be really helpful when housing agencies and the universities would have more rooms available for international students. Contracts of private agencies should also be in English, so people can actually understand what they are signing’ says Emma. ‘There are many more students who are new to the city and can’t find housing because of the high rents,’ says Kushagra. ‘There should be more low-budget accommodations.’