Dutchies are blunt, they easily exclude internationals and the traffic is life-threatening. Yet, says Maaike, most of them are really nice and supportive.
For centuries international students have come to Groningen. Ever since the foundation of the University of Groningen in 1614, the city has been a place where international students gather together to learn.
Of course, I have no idea what life was like for an international student in the 17th century, nor in the centuries thereafter. But I do know life for present-day international students in Groningen is not always easy.
The Netherlands… the real quest begins: you have to find a place to live
First of all, you have decided to study abroad. Such a decision takes guts. Secondly, you have had to choose a suitable study programme. That’s difficult enough in your home land, let alone picking one in a foreign country. After you have done all of that, you have chosen the Netherlands. The Netherlands… the real quest begins: you have to find a place to live.
Most of the student houses exclude international students. So most international students live amongst themselves. Really gezellig (which is a word you’ll hear everywhere, meaning nice, cozy, good fun and lots more).
Riding a bike is one thing, participation in traffic is another
Soon you realise that you are in a city in which people speak a very strange language. A language which 99 percent of normal human beings will never be able to learn or understand. Sometimes the Dutch themselves can make heads nor tails of it. That’s when the locals speak the dialect of Grunnegs. (I must admit that I have difficulties with that too, but I do like the sound of it.)
Some students from abroad have to learn how to ride a bike. Because The Netherlands is a bike riding nation, we do not have that many buses. Groningen also lacks trams and subways. So you kind of need a bike to get around in this city. Riding a bike is one thing, participation in traffic is another. I have been riding a bike my whole life, but staying alive in the Groningen traffic is still a challenge.
Some people don’t agree with international students being here: they will let you know, that’s for sure
The Dutch are blunt. People say what they think and are honest about the things they don’t like. Whenever the Dutch feel a sense of personal injustice, they start screaming and shouting.
Some Dutch people don’t agree with international students being here. They will let you know! That’s for sure. I hope you won’t experience discrimination, though. But don’t be afraid, most of us dutchies are kind and nice.
Christmas is coming. A time to come together and reflect. I hope you don’t regret coming to the Netherlands. It hasn’t always been easy, I suppose. So I want you to know that you are very brave. And even if you are spending Christmas on your own, please realise that for centuries students have been walking the same path as you are walking now. You are not alone.
Photo (fragment): Florian Peeters