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Moving to Groningen

Date:15 March 2022
Author:Karishma Hiro Ramchand
Karishma Hiro Ramchand, MSc Economic Development and Globalization
Karishma Hiro Ramchand, MSc Economic Development and Globalization

Although I have a great time during my studies in Groningen, there are a few things I wish I had known before moving to Groningen that I would like to share with you in the form of four tips.

Look for accommodation early on!

As you may have read it is incredibly challenging to find accommodation in most student cities in the Netherlands and Groningen is no exception. Moving to another country or city can be intimidating and finding accommodation can be even more worrying. However, I guarantee that if you start looking for accommodation early on, a large part of your moving transition will instantly be smoother.

As soon as you receive your offer letter and have made your decision to come to Groningen to begin your next chapter, I recommend that you begin looking for housing. If you are a first-year student I strongly recommend SSH housing.

Personally, I lived in an SSH student house in my first year and it was a great experience as I believe it is one of the easiest ways to meet new people and make long lasting friendships. Some of the friends I made in SSH are practically my family today!

Bikes! Bikes! Bikes!

While the Netherlands is famous for its favourite method of travel, if you’re coming here for the first time no one prepares you for the amount of bikes you will see and the variation. I advise brushing up on your bike riding skills because they will definitely come in handy. Groningen is one of the best cities to bike in the Netherlands, and you will need a bike to get around the city. While biking in Groningen is convenient, safe, and good for your health, it can also be a little overwhelming especially if you’re not used to it and more often than not you’ll see a Dutchie biking past you with some groceries in the front of their bike and a friend on the back. But don’t worry, it just takes time, practice, a few fumbles and you’ll be a pro-cyclist before you know it!

A tip would also be to buy a second-hand bike as they are cheaper than buying a new one or renting one out (most students who rent a bike are either exchange students or are tired of repairing/replacing a stolen bike hahaha. There are bike shops all over the city that sell second-hand bikes, and it’s helpful to check a couple of them out and compare prices to make sure you are not overpaying. A second-hand bike should cost you between €60 to €130 (you can also try and bargain a little bit). They usually don't come with a lock, but you can buy one at the same store. I would recommend getting both a back lock (frame-lock) and a chain lock as bikes are quite a desired commodity and get stolen quite often. Therefore, make sure to always lock your bike and that your chain lock is hooked onto a pole or something sturdy that’s made from metal.

Your studies, what you ‘really’ came here for…

The academic life here in Groningen and in the Netherlands is a little different from the educational system you may be used to. But that doesn’t mean you won’t get used to it! Just make sure to enjoy your summer and prepare yourself for some intense study sessions.

In general, a typical work week for a student is around 40 hours which comprises lectures, tutorials, practicals, and self-study. In the beginning, this can be overwhelming and you might find it difficult to manage your time but don’t get disheartened — you will find the balance. Self-discipline is key for working on your time management skills (UG also provides courses you help with such skills), and one tip is to block out study sessions in your Google calendar and make time to study during the week so you can take some time off and enjoy on the weekends. Also make sure to find a comfortable study spot (or a few!) that works for you. There are many spots all over the city such as the University Library (known as the UB for short), the Groningen Forum, and cute little cafes (a Coffee Company, Doppio, etc.).  

Another thing to be aware of is the grading system within higher education in the Netherlands, as it's quite different than high school and other universities around the world. Here you are given a grade on a scale from 0 to 10 wherein, a 5.5 that rounds up to 6 (in most Faculties) is a passing grade. If you receive a 7 it's more than satisfactory, and 8 is great! (if you get an 8 you should be very proud of yourself). 9 is exceptional (I read that only 2.7% of students on average receive a 9) and lastly, a 10 is unheard of (okay, no, it definitely is possible mostly in mathematical courses, but it is extremely rare).

Don’t forget, it's okay and important to take a day off or two during your studies. It can get overwhelming at times with meeting new people, adapting to a new environment, and a new style of learning, therefore it is important to take time off for yourself, watch some Netflix, put on a face mask, and re-energize.

Culture shock, adaptation, and heart-warming experiences!

While I had lived in three different countries before moving here to the Netherlands and consider myself quite a flexible and easy-going person when having to adapt to a new environment, I still faced some culture shocks. Therefore this is my big sisterly moment telling you that it is okay to be scared, confused, and to miss your family and home. It is completely normal especially during the winter months (coming from Dubai with the sun always shining it took some getting used to). But just know that it takes a little time to adjust and get into the groove of things, and before you know it you will have your own little family in Groningen. These will be people with whom you will have experienced some of your craziest, silliest and adventurous times but also your most heartwarming moments.

My advice here would be to be open to the different people you meet and embrace new experiences. Go out to various events (such as ESN band night, Groningen Experience – out of the student bubble, or other events by various associations). Even if you’re a bit hesitant, try to meet new people at these events (make the first move if necessary — don’t worry everyone is shy in the beginning). Or you could try out new classes that you never would before (I recommend Bungee Superfly at ACLO), take mini-trips and explore different Dutch cities with some friends. Before you even know it time flies by and you’ll be graduating and would have earned so much more than just your degree!

On a more serious note, just know that it's okay to not instantly find a group of friends — it may take more mingling for some and that’s fine. Your will find your people with time! You might also lose contact with friends from high school or those that you met at the beginning of university, but it's normal. It’s okay to change as a person and you will, with these new experiences. They could be major and they could be minor but change is an inevitable part of growing up, especially at university and away from home! I was quite different in my first, second, and third-year compared to now and rather than going against the change, embrace it and just discover yourself!

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 ambassador page.

About the author

Karishma Hiro Ramchand
Karishma Hiro Ramchand

Hi! My name is Karishma Hiro Ramchand. I am 23 years old. I am ethnically Indian; however, I was born in Lisbon, Portugal and lived there for a few years before moving to Dubai, U.A.E. I completed my BSc Economics and Business Economics with a specialization in International Economics and Business Economics here in the University of Groningen. I cannot forget to mention that I also received the opportunity to go on an exchange semester during the final year of my bachelor in Xi’an China which was an enriching experience. I went on to follow the MSc Economic Development and Globalization which I will graduate from in July 2021.

If you have any questions about the application procedure, studying and living in Groningen or anything else, please feel free to contact me. I am happy to help!