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Searching for an apartment and finding a second family in Groningen

Date:24 September 2019
Author:Franziska Heinzmann
Franziska Heinzmann Alumna-Groningen-Germany
Franziska Heinzmann Alumna-Groningen-Germany

During the first week I spent in Groningen, I did not believe that this year will be one of the best years in my life. My boyfriend and I arrived in Groningen by car, bringing a tent and camping gear because we could not find an apartment before our arrival. After one week of sleeping in a tent we were tired and the next day, university should start.

We were a bit clueless on what to do next to get an apartment before University starts. While having breakfast the phone rang. Jan called. He told us that he and his wife Gerda had a room for us until we found an apartment. How Jan knew that we were searching for an apartment is a funny story. A few days earlier we stumbled over a Facebook post of the Democratische Academie Groningen DAG. They organized a so called “Emergency Couchsurfing for International Students”. In the previous months they collected addresses of people who would offer rooms or spare beds to “homeless” students. We were excited. After one week of disappointing viewings sleeping in a proper bed sounded like a dream.

A few hours later, we sat in Jan and Gerda’s garden and enjoyed a cup of tea with cats strolling around our legs and the sun shining. The chemistry between Jan, Gerda, my boyfriend and me was great, right from the very beginning on. We were neat and clean, and the couple needed someone to take care of their cats while they were away on holidays. An hour later we were back on the campground packing our belongings and moving into our new room.

During our month at Jan and Gerda’s place we could finally arrive and settle down in Groningen. We fell in love with their cats, and with the city. In the evenings, we often had dinner with the couple and talked a lot about the differences between the Dutch and the German culture. Also, we learned a lot about Groningen and its surroundings.

After a few days, we also found a nice apartment in which we moved in at the beginning of October. Moving out from our host parents was quite sad, because we already felt at home at their place. However, we stayed in touch. Every now and then we met for dinner, invited them to our new place or visited one of Jan’s rock concerts. The year in Groningen and at the RUG passed by way too fast and it was already time for our final goodbyes. However, we know we made lifelong friends. We are still in touch and regularly share our life with our host parents.

From where I stand today, I could not be happier that our time in Groningen started as it did. I am so thankful we met Jan and Gerda who taught us much about Dutch culture and their way of living. But most importantly, they showed us the Dutch openness. When we needed their help, they did not ask many questions but gave us a place to stay. Moreover, they trusted us with staying at their home alone and taking care of their cats.

Now, after one year in Groningen I am already an alumna and ask myself what I learned during the past year that contributes to my professional future next to my excellent academic education at the RUG. Actually, this is a lot. I learned to be open and optimistic because the moment you think there is no solution for a problem, the solution might be just around the corner. Further, I improved my ability to get used to a new environment. Especially in the Netherlands, the people welcome you with open arms, and it does not take long to meet many people who make it easy for you to feel at home. Further, I improved my intercultural competence and am now aware of many small yet important differences between the German and the Dutch culture. In conclusion, I can say that it was definitely not a goodbye forever. I will soon be back to visit Groningen and my former host parents.

About the author:

My name is Franziska Heinzmann and I am a 24 years old MSc International Business and Management alumna. Initially, I am from the south of Germany and studied and lived in Austria, China and the Netherlands. I am currently doing an internship in Vienna and will soon move to Shanghai to pursue the second part of my double degree studies at Fudan University.

About the author

Franziska Heinzmann
Franziska Heinzmann
I come from the south of Germany, but I have studied and lived in Austria, China, and the Netherlands. Currently, I am studying the double degree master’s programme International Business and Management – China and the World Economy. After my graduation in July 2019, I will continue with the second part of my studies at Fudan University in Shanghai.