How my time in Groningen set me up for a life abroad, working on a startup
|Date:||14 December 2021|
|Author:||Meikel Ribeiro Queirós|
“What does the time in Groningen mean to you?” That’s what I asked myself when I sat down to start writing on this blog.
I spend around 2 years in the amazing city of Groningen and I thought the best I can do today is to just invite you on my personal journey and some of the enlightening “AHA” moments I had, with the hope that it gives you a good insight on what studying in Groningen could bring to you as well.
It is early Spring 2017, Hamburg, Germany, I am 22 and in the middle of my gap year, making first work experiences as an intern in the airplane production. At first glance that looks just like the right thing to do after a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering, but the truth is I felt stuck in a rigid environment with tasks that did not seem to match my interest.
Here is when I realized I wanted a change, I wanted to try something new, something that would give me the chance to explore what I really enjoy doing, following the saying “If you never try, you’ll never know”.
The truth is, I did not know exactly what to do, but one thing kept coming up on my mind, I always had the curiosity of studying abroad. That is when I applied to the University of Groningen, never having heard before about this city, somewhere in the north of the Netherlands.
However, once I arrived in Groningen, the energy was contagious: Busy streets, everyone on their bicycles, charming cafes and restaurants around every corner, different student events and a new language, with a difficult to overhear pronunciation of the letter “G”
(You will figure out what I mean by this). And with all these impressions, you just feel like jumping right into it.
At the university I found the same lively atmosphere. I had the sensation of a campus life, a place not just to study but to mingle around and meet people from different backgrounds. From one day to the other the main language I was speaking throughout the day was not German, but English which I felt was a bit rusty from my days back at school.
I realized; This is what people might mean when they talk about leaving their comfort zone. In fact, I made great friends from different countries during that time. So, the initial nervosity of arriving at a new place was quickly forgotten and what was left, was the clarity of how fulfilling a live abroad can be.
Very quickly I also gained the impression that Groningen and the Netherlands in general are quite progressive, with initiatives for sustainability, liberal and open-minded people, modern infrastructure, to name some aspects. And regarding the approach to studies and my master’s in Industrial Engineering and Management it was no different. I found myself working with fellow students in small teams on different real case problems every other week, with local Dutch companies. What I would call today a quite agile style for uni.
For instance, we were partnering with the energy provider to understand how renewable energy supply can be established in the region of Groningen. The practical and dynamic approach of working on concepts for a positive impact, was something that I found really interesting.
But what was key for me then, was the course I took on entrepreneurship. Before that experience, what I mainly thought about entrepreneurship is 2 things: A quite hyped word and some famous personalities related to it. Thus, I did not actually have a proper understanding of what’s behind it. That changed, with part of the course being a case study with a local start-up - I did not even know Groningen was a hub for start-ups, but I was taught better.
I was right away fascinated by the founders we met and their attitude. In our case they were working on ways to connect youths with their grandmas and grandpas through a postcard service. The nephews would create the postcard digitally before it gets send out via post to their grandpas or -mas – they called themselves Omapost. Isn’t that genuinely a nice idea?
Through some personal talks we got an understanding on why they started Omapost, and what their first steps were to realize the idea. This hands-on approach of building something new out of a sincere personal motivation with like-minded people really got me hooked and so I knew this is what I can excel in.
But it was not until the very end of my masters that the topic came up again, when I was looking to find opportunities for my life after studying. I got in touch further with the Center of Entrepreneurship of the RUG and found out about the various initiatives they have to support students when it comes to building a company out of their study related topics. While I did not have my own idea back then, I did get in touch with a group of PhDs in Biotech. They found a new way to analyze human cells regarding the chances of developing abnormalities and diseases. I had the chance to learn a lot and work with them towards their pitch for university prizes. Although this initiative did not move on, it was clear for me that after the studies whatever I would pursue it would evolve around entrepreneurship.
This “AHA” moment and the interest I discovered for a life abroad, formed the very basis of where I stand today, where I am building an app for employee well-being whilst living in Spain.
I really felt throughout the time in Groningen that I had all at hands to explore my interests, discover new things, to meet the right people and just grow on different levels:
Or to sum it up, the time in Groningen encouraged me to find and follow the things in life I want - That is why today I am representing the University of Groningen as an International Alumni Ambassador for the country of my roots, Portugal.
So, if you are thinking of trying something new, might that be studying abroad or something else, I can only say: Take the chance.
I am happy to help you with any questions you have about the RUG or your kickstart in Groningen. You can contact me via my personal page.
About the author
I am Meikel, 27 and I graduated from the RUG one year ago. A little to my background: Having Portuguese roots, I grew up in Germany and did there my bachelor studies. Afterwards I worked for a year in aerospace, before moving to Groningen. For me the chapter in Groningen was an extremely marking experience, I made great friends and discovered some of the interests I still follow now. It pretty much set me up for my current journey, where I am living in Barcelona, working on my start-up. In my free time I enjoy cooking, gathering for dinners and spending time with friends and family outdoors. If all of that didn’t scare you away yet...