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Groningen before, during and after the pandemic

Date:24 May 2022
Author:Katherine Arena
Katherine Arena, Italy MA Student Erasmus Mundus Master of Arts Euroculture
Katherine Arena, Italy MA Student Erasmus Mundus Master of Arts Euroculture

“Groningen has truly become my second home”, these are the words I used to describe my feelings toward this beautiful city when recording the presentation video for my role as an international alumni ambassador.

I recorded that video in the midst of the first lockdown, in May/June 2020, during which I made the decision to remain in the city rather than going back home to Italy and while working on the final steps of my Bachelor’s degree. The city was unrecognisable at the time: empty streets, people barely leaving their homes, the grey that is characteristic of the weather in the Netherlands had suddenly become also the colour representing the atmosphere in a city which used to be so lively.

My first time in Groningen was 6 years ago and I remember it as a city full of opportunities, noise and of movement. A year later that first encounter, those impressions were what convinced me to move here. I knew it could be the city where I could find my place. And that is exactly what happened; 5 years ago I started a journey which has led me to fall in love with the simplicity of the city, its beauty, its life. Because yes, Groningen truly knows how to become alive. This city with time has become my home, it represents the place where I had my first experiences of the university life, of living on my own abroad and approaching a culture that was new to me. I encountered people that were to become some of my closest and dearest friends, where I stressed over exams and grades, and where I achieved some of my biggest accomplishments (such as my graduation from the BA and hopefully soon from the MA!).

But then everything changed, and Groningen could not escape what the rest of the world was experiencing. Unfortunately, this period did not only include the last semester of my BA, thus living a bittersweet feeling to that experience that was ending, but it was extended to the first semester of my MA. I had chosen to stay for my Master’s degree; I could not possibly leave Groningen so soon and I wanted it to go back to the city I knew and adored. This of course was not in my power and, despite enjoying lovely weather for the first few months back, everything went back to how it was during the first lockdown. It was hard to do things, to meet up with people and the cold weather for sure did not help with this gloomy feeling (exams too of course, let’s not forget about exams!).

And then I left, my experience in Groningen came to an abrupt ending when a new sudden lockdown was announced just before Christmas. I could not enjoy my last days in the city any longer. I left for a year abroad as required from my MA and then the choice to make approached sooner than I expected: do I go back to Groningen to do the last semester or do I go to the second university? This choice was a difficult one; if I thought about Groningen, I could only recall a feeling of loneliness and of greyness. Yet, there was a voice inside of me that kept saying that I needed to go back, I needed to give a proper end to that journey I embarked upon 5 years earlier. And so I did, with my fears I came back in February, and I could not be happier! The atmosphere of the city returned to the original one; I saw the colours, the liveliness, the same beauty that I saw 6 years ago when I first visited Groningen.

And here I am now, sharing my thoughts and feelings with you about this beautiful place. I am currently working on the last steps of my Master’s degree, very likely my last months in Groningen. However, this time I am sure I will be able to give a proper goodbye and enjoy what this city has to offer for the time being. Because who knows, one day I might come back and experience Groningen in yet a new light!

If you have any questions or doubts about studying in Groningen please do not hesitate to contact Katherine, she will be very happy to help you!

About the author

Katherine Arena
Katherine Arena
I am Katherine Arena and I come from Italy. I am a Master student and I’m currently finishing the master “Erasmus Mundus Master of Arts Euroculture”. I have always wanted to study abroad and in English. I discovered Groningen  six years ago and after living and studying here I feel so lucky to have found this place. Before moving to Groningen I was very afraid, I was unsure of what to expect. However, when I came here, I was very surprised to see how both the university and the city were full of options and opportunities. Everyone I met helped me integrate and I made connections that lasted. If you have any questions or doubts please do not hesitate to contact me, I will be very happy to help you!

Link: /alumni/about-alumni/ambassadors/2020-2021/2020_bio_katherine_arena