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My ESN and KEI-Week Experiences

Date:09 July 2019
Experiencing the ESN intro week a second time as a guide
Experiencing the ESN intro week a second time as a guide

It's been a few years since I first signed up to the introduction weeks in Groningen as a new student, and I have absolutely no regrets. I made new friends, discovered places in the city I would not have found otherwise, and kick-started my student life in Groningen.

There are two main introduction weeks you can join in Groningen: the ESN introduction week (30 August - 4 September)  and KEI week (12-16 August 2019). Both of these introduction weeks are organised by separate student associations (so not the university) and cost money to join. ESN and KEI-week happen at different times during the summer, so you can potentially sign up for both (like I did). 

ESN Intro Week - Yes Please

I signed up as a participant for the ESN introduction week when I first arrived in Groningen. ESN is an international student organisation which organises events throughout the year for its members. The ESN introduction week is specifically for international students who are new to Groningen. You are put into groups of 10-15 people, including your group's introduction guides. These guides are people (both Dutch and international) who have been in Groningen for a while and will help guide you through the introduction week events. The introduction week will include different events you can join with your group: parties every 2nd day, sports activities, dinners, and more. 

Before going into the specific details of my introduction week experience, I’ll outline my overall impression. So here are the highlights:

  • Entertainment during the first week of uni
  • An instant group of people who are forced to hang out with you 
  • Friends you basically paid for 
  • But they also paid for your friendship
  • Everyone’s in the same boat, and you end up becoming actually good friends 
  • Many activities
  • Introduction to nice (and slightly trashy) party places in Groningen

Every year the ESN week kicks-off on Friday just before your classes start. The first day is quite laid back. The main events are dinner with your entire group and a pub crawl afterwards. During the first day, everyone gets to know each other, you try to remember names, play a few (dr!nk!ng) introduction games, and bond over weird details (i.e. what, you also have 2m long fairy lights and prioritised getting that over any other piece of furniture? We have so much in common already). 

I personally really enjoyed the two culture/sports days. On the day you do mainly cultural activities, your group gathers in the city centre and can choose between a variety of workshops. My group went to workshops where we got to play traditional Dutch games and an improv comedy one. I definitely recommend both! You can get an idea of what traditional Dutch games means from this video. It was suitably embarrassing, but at the same time quite enjoyable, especially when paired with our collective newfound comedic talents. 

Experiencing KEI-Week 

The KEI-week is the introduction week for all the new students in Groningen. The concept is similar to the ESN introduction week, but it includes different events and is carried out at a larger scale as it’s for both Dutch and international students. You will be in groups of 12-15 people, and be guided through the week by your KEI-leaders who introduce you to the ins and outs of the city. During the KEI-week you will have dinner with your group, go to different parties, enjoy a picnic at the Stadspark, find out about the different student associations and more. You can find an overview of the KEI-week programme on this page

I didn't have a lot planned for the summer I first came to the Netherlands, other than getting settled in Groningen. Going to KEI-week in the middle of the summer break is fantastic as it introduces you to the different student scenes, and gives you a social network before university has even begun.

I have mixed feelings about my KEI-week experience. On the one hand, it was great, but at the same time, I felt slightly disconnected. As it is the main introduction week for all new incoming students, most of the people who sign up for this introduction week are Dutch. Even though I signed up for an international group, at least half of the group was Dutch (or from Aruba), and sometimes switched to Dutch. However, they did put an effort to speak English when they realised themselves that they were speaking Dutch; plus I could practice my Dutch in the process as well. I had a blast at the final party and now actually work with one of the internationals who were in my KEI-group. We reconnected straight away based off of our KEI-week experience together, which was great! Since then, the KEI-board have been working on the internationalisation of their introduction weeks.

Out of all the events during the introduction week, my favourite ones would have to be the Stadspark picnic and 'Night of the Songs'. Everyone was quite 'tired' at the picnic; we bonded over the night before as well as the struggle of cycling to the Stadspark for the picnic (see map below). Even though the cycle is only 12 minutes according to google maps, it seems much further and feels much farther if you already struggle to get out of bed in the morning. But once you get to Stadspark and sit down for breakfast, it's worth the effort. I especially appreciated this event, because I live in the North of Groningen, and would otherwise have probably never really been aware or have gone to the Stadspark for the sake of its "park-ness". Even though festivals happen there, I'm not counting that, as you don't get a feel of the place as an actual park.

And now…? After the Introduction Weeks

What is great about both these introduction weeks is that you can continue to be involved afterwards. 

KEI-week introduced me to a series of sports- and student associations through the parade event and the information market on the first day. As well as this the different Associations host events (e.g. drinks or dinner at their clubhouse) where you can get to know about them and they get to know you. KEI-week gives you a social basis through the group you are initially put in. On top of this, it is a great gateway to finding the social circles you want to be in. 

ESN continues to host events throughout the year. You can get involved by joining one of their committees, or by going to some of their activities throughout the year with your initial ESN-introduction group. If you want to get involved casually, as I did, you can always sign up as an 'introduction guide' to give new students coming in a great introduction week experience.

I had a great time at the intro weeks and hope I've convinced you of their value. Are you planning on going to the ESN or KEI-Week? Let us know in the comments below!

About the author

Hi! My name’s Marije, and I study English Language and Culture. I’m half Dutch half German, but I grew up in Africa (starts thinking of suitable Mean Girls quotes to reference). When I’m not out, studying or writing something, I’m inside, wrapped in a blanket binge watching a new tv-show.


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