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An African students' guide to working, living, and feeling at home in Groningen

Date:28 November 2018
Author:Tatenda
My friends and I feeling at home at one of the nightclubs
My friends and I feeling at home at one of the nightclubs

Moving to a new country and culture, especially when you are on your own, can be a daunting experience for anyone. Fears and expectations about what is to come in your studies and general student life in your time in Groningen are not out of the norm and it is something we all have to deal with as African students trying to settle in a new environment. Though everyone will navigate their way around student life differently, it's important to know some practical and helpful tips to make your experience in the Netherlands easier. There are some ways in which Groningen has made living in the Netherlands not only easy for me but also fun and giving me some small reminders of home. From finding jobs and work experience to hair shops and nightclubs, here is a list of tips, tricks and places that can make life as an African student at the University of Groningen more enjoyable.

African Shops and Nightclubs

Ah yes, Afro-beats! Nothing screams “home!” more than being at a club or a party and hearing the beat of that song that you just know will cause every African person to drop what they are doing make their way to the dance floor. I'll be honest and say that going to Dutch nightclubs, as fun as they are, led me to feel a little homesick because all I wanted was to hear Premier Gaou play and not JA! Not only that but when I first moved here, I started to panic when the hair products and snacks I brought from Zimbabwe were beginning to run out. I needed to find a place where I could buy Dark&Lovely, and I also had to get a hairdresser. All of this changed when I joined the African Students Community and discovered nightclubs where African music was played and shops were I could buy the same products I could find back home. Here is a list of just some of these places.

Nightclubs

  • Donovan's Nightclub, on the Peperstraat. You can be guaranteed a night full of Afro-beats when you go here. Playing music from all over the continent, you always feel at home because for a moment you are allowed to travel back and enjoy all of the amazing music we have to offer
  • Enzo Nightclub, on the Polestraat. Though they play a mix of music from all over the world, it's not rare at all for hip-hop, Caribbean and Afro-beats to played here. Just watch out for the big step at the entrance ;)

Hair/skincare shops and barbers

  • 24/7 Hair, on the Zuiderdiep. They. Have. Everything. From black soap, shampoos, relaxers, braids, wigs and even sponges for your bushlocs! This shop caters to all things related to African hair and they even have friendly barbers and hairdressers that will make you coffee while they braid your hair. You'll even receive a card that will award you a free haircut and a discount if you go there 10 times, so it's worth a shot checking it out.
  • Bobby's Hair, at the beginning of Korreweg. Just like 24/7 hair, they have it all, minus the coffee and hair salon (though the owners are very nice and they even have MoneyGram).
  • Africarib, on the Nieuwe Ebberingstraat. They offer three services: hair and skin care products, hair salon, and African foods and delicacies such as rice, Milo, and drinks.

Finding Jobs and Work Experience

Making extra money on top of what you already have, or are being given, is always a good (and sometimes necessary) idea, so finding a job alongside your study is common for students here. However, this doesn't mean that it does not present its own challenges for us.

Language Barrier

  • Though the majority of the people in Groningen speak English, having Dutch is more preferable when looking for a job. Most employers prefer to hire either Dutch or Dutch-speaking people and so it can be disheartening to not know where you will be able to find work. Luckily the university offers free Dutch courses up to a B1 level so utilising this opportunity at the beginning of your study can make job-hunting easier for you. Despite this, there are plenty of places that accept non-Dutch speakers, such as bars and clubs, whether it's bartending, waitressing or washing dishes; or internationally branded retail stores, for example, Stradivarius

Work Experience

  • Sometimes professors are looking for assistants to carry out research tasks, or even offer research traineeships to their students. They provide an opportunity to not only learn more about your subject but also add great value to your CV, equip you with good research skills and helps you make good connections with your professors and other members of your faculty. Sometimes you can be awarded extra credit, which is always a plus! Though they tend to announce these jobs publicly, emailing a professor to find out if they need someone to work for them never does any harm and could turn out to be a good thing for you, so give it a shot. The worst they can say is “No. - sent from my iPhone.”
  • One way I've avoided the language barrier and still made extra money was by offering tutoring services to other students and classmates. Other people make money by selling notes prior to the exam period and so on. Speaking to the International Office of your faculty can also be a good idea to see if they can point you in a good direction towards finding a job.

Being away from home isn't always easy. But it's great that Groningen has some things to offer that can make the feeling that much better!

About the author

Tatenda
Tatenda
Hey there, readers! My name is Tatenda and I'm a Zimbabwean (though Irish on paper) student currently studying law in Groningen. When I'm not drowning in legislation, I'm writing, reading, dancing, napping and eating pizza somewhere. Give me chocolates or red lipstick and we will be best friends!

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