The programme is very challenging: I still have a long way to go, but I already know I made the right choice.
Before I applied to the University of Groningen, I knew nothing about Groningen. All I knew was that I wanted to study abroad to improve my English and it was the only top-rated university besides Great Britain that offered the undergraduate programme I wanted in English. I have always been very interested in physics: it's a fascinating field. Of course, you learn about natural phenomena, but combining it with modern technologies really makes it worthwhile.
That's why I decided to take up Applied Physics. The programme is very challenging: I still have a long way to go, but I already know I made the right choice.
The lecturers here are very open, and always take the time to answer questions. They all speak English and although the material is tough, I feel like I'm learning a lot. This subject is so broad and varied. Fortunately, the university also helped me with the application process, making it much more straightforward. They even put me in touch with a mentor student from my faculty in case I needed any help or advice.
Getting started wasn't easy. I left my home, my country Portugal, and my family to live on my own. I had to do things by myself that I used to do with my friends and family. Fortunately, Groningen is a very safe, comfortable city full of life and I quickly found my way around - although I still don't like cycling in the rain. It is an easy-going, relaxed place to live, with plenty of excitement and activities when you want to have some time off. National holidays like Sinterklaas and King's Day are good fun, and Dutch students are always up for introducing you to these traditions.
Groningen has a great variety of clubs and organisations you can join to meet people – there really is something for everyone. I felt at home with the other Spanish exchange students and discovered how many young people with different nationalities were in that same situation I was in. This really helped me improve my English, and also offered me a new, in-depth perspective on the world around me.
Studying abroad is not easy. It has its ups and downs, and there will be moments when you miss everything you were used to at home. But that is also the point of an experience like this. It makes you stronger and wiser when you overcome all the difficulties and problems that might not have happened to you in your 'natural habitat'. It is, without doubt, one of the best ways to grow as a human being.