What I Wish I Had Known in My First Year: Student Edition
|Date:||15 July 2020|
|Author:||The Blog Team|
Leaving your parents’ house and moving to a different city and a different home makes it seem like you have your whole life together and you have magically transformed into an adult. Looking back, that is far from true and there are a lot of things that you still have to figure out yourself. In this blog, we’d like to share some of our own experiences and help all the new first-year students on their way by learning from the mistakes we made.
It doesn’t feel like so long ago, but it’s already been four years since I came to Groningen in 2016 to start my student life. Over the past four years, I have learned a lot of practical things that I feel like every student should know. Here are my top three pieces of advice I want to pass along.
1. Do not wash all of your clothes together : before coming to Groningen I might have done laundry twice (at most) and my housemate had to explain how to use a washing machine and where to put the soap. I had to learn the hard way that you really can’t wash everything together, no matter how lazy you are or how low the washing temperature is. I have seen far too many white shirts become either a gross coloured grey or a light stained pink due to washing things together. My tip: learn how to use a washing machine before moving out.
2. It’s okay if you stray away from people : keeping in touch with everyone you know from high school is exhausting and in some cases, not necessary. It’s scary to let go of your high school life but it’s okay to take a step back to allow yourself to meet new people in your new city. It’s a shame if you’re constantly trying to keep up with your life before you move here but not being able to enjoy your life when you finally arrive.
3. Not everything needs to be for your CV: I’ve caught myself thinking “what is missing from my CV?” or “this will look good on my CV” way too often these past few years. Of course, it’s good to build experience that is beneficial for later, however, it’s also important to have a little fun and do things that you want to do. A little spontaneity never hurt nobody.
When I first arrived in Groningen three years ago, I was studying a different programme to the one I am in now, in a different uni. That means I kind of lived my first year twice. The past few years have made me learn a lot about myself, and about the world around me. Here are three pieces of advice that I really wish someone had told me as a first-year student:
1. It’s okay to change, it’s not the end of the world: and I mean this in every way possible. It’s okay if you realize half-way through your first year that you’re dissatisfied with your programme. Take your time to reflect on what really interests you, and if you need advice, reach out (to friends, family, and even your study advisor). Also, it’s okay to change as a person. First-year Ariana is not the same as second-year Ariana, and those two are certainly not the same as Ariana now. You’ll grow, your tastes will change, your friends will too, and that’s absolutely okay. Don’t be afraid of that change.
2. Learn how to properly store food: Seriously. When I first arrived in Groningen I used to make huge grocery trips pretending like I was buying food for the next fifteen days, and then most of it would spoil. Be conscious when you buy produce (and bonus tip: go to the market more frequently! You’ll save lots of money). Once you buy things, learn how to properly store them to make them last as long as possible and avoid food waste. Google: how to store __________ and you’ll save yourself from the disappointment of having to throw away food every day because it went bad.
3. Take good care of your bike: If you don’t have a swapfiets, repairing your bike can be a bit pricey sometimes. Try to take care of your bike, especially on nights where you go out. Your bike is most likely gonna end up on the floor either because you fell from it, you dropped it, or someone else dropped it. In any case, give it maintenance when necessary. You don’t want to be running late for class (or an exam) only to realize that your brakes aren’t working properly, or worse, that someone stole it because you didn’t lock it.
I’ve been living in Groningen for five years, and by now the city really feels like home but I can still remember the excitement and uncertainty when I arrived here for the first time. In my opinion, it is a great feeling to come to a new environment and explore all the new things around you. However, there are definitely a few things that would’ve been handy to know before coming here, which I will share with you below:
1. Apply for government benefits: while the amount and type of benefits you can receive certainly depend on your personal circumstances and your nationality (EU/EEA or non-EU/EEA), this something worth looking into. For example, I had no idea that as an EU/EEA-national I automatically qualify for a tuition fee loan without having to fulfil any additional requirements. Moreover, the Netherlands has a benefit called ‘huurtoeslag’ (eng: rental allowance), which any lawful resident can apply for, regardless of nationality. Under the rental allowance system, the Dutch government will come up with part of your rent as long as your apartment fulfils certain requirements (e.g. not too expensive). It is definitely worth checking out, especially when you are moving here for the first time and are looking for a place to live.
2. Make a meal plan: moving in on your own means you also have to learn how to budget and save money. One trick to limit your expenses that I discovered way too late is by making a meal plan. Basically, I try to plan out the majority of meals I’m going to eat during the week and then do one big run to the market to get everything. Not only do you save money because you buy at the market, but you also avoid going to the store too often where you are tempted to buy that extra snack that you don’t really need.
3. It’s okay to take a day off: moving to a new place and opening a new chapter of your life is not only exciting but also exhausting. In the beginning, you'll constantly meet new people and see new places - not forgetting that the uni curriculum can be quite intense as well, particularly if you are not used to it. Especially in the beginning, remember to take a day off every once in a while to regroup, chill out and take all of that first-year craziness in. Trust me, everyone needs to rest every so often and taking a day off won’t make you miss out on anything.
Do you have any advice you'd like to give to first-year students? Let us know in the comments below!