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Research Centre for East Asian Studies Groningen Blogs and Postcards

My exchange experience in Groningen, the Netherlands

Jaewoo Choi

Luckily, I was given a chance to study in the University of Groningen. Initially, the Netherlands were not a place where I considered to study abroad since I did not know much about it. My knowledge was restricted to Van Gogh and the attitude of Dutch society towards soft drugs and prostitution. However, I was so excited to study abroad since I had never been abroad before going to the Netherlands.

My first impression about the Netherland was that Dutch people looked like giants, which made me feel like a dwarf. Many local people I met were warm-hearted and open-minded to foreigners. Later, I learned that generosity is a virtue that Dutch society promotes as its image. Almost everyone was able to switch to English if someone did not speak Dutch, which made traveling in the Netherlands very convenient and unique. It is difficult to talk to local people in other European countries as they often do not speak English.

Groningen was a totally different city from where I had lived before. It is a small but vibrant student city full of young students from all over the world. Every street was filled with youth and many bars and clubs in the city welcomed students enjoying the local night life. I was able to participate in events organized by ESN (Erasmus Students Network). The events of ESN made my exchange program unforgettable. I did not know how to ride a bike, which got me into a lot of trouble! I had no choice but to learn it since it is a normal form of transportation for most people in the Netherlands. It took roughly 15 minutes by a bike from my place to the University of Groningen. I stayed in an international student house called Van Houtenlaan. Its main feature was a big common room where many students were able to meet and enjoy each other’s company. I made several lifelong friends whom I want to keep in touch with for a long time.

Each semester contains of two blocks and I took two classes for each block. There was both a lecture and a seminar for each week. It was a totally different education system from South Korea. It was difficult to follow the studying schedule as there were a lot of materials I had to read for each week. I put in effort to keep up with the schedule and ultimately managed to do so. Classes are designed to make students form an opinion on what they are taught and inspire students to think creatively and independently. I could also see different learning cultures between Dutch education and Korean education. Korean professors lead classes most of the times and students usually follow the instructor. Professors in the University of Groningen however, urged students to ask questions and present their ideas during the class. The learning environment was really diverse and international.

I am now back in Korea but I am not the same person that left Korea six months ago! I gained different insights about different races and cultures. I can see Korean society more objectively now by being able to compare it to other cultures. This would have been not possible if I had not able to study in Groningen. I definitely did not enjoy the local weather because I wasn’t familiar with the many changes. However, besides that, it was really worthwhile to study there considering all the memories, knowledge, and friends I gained during my stay in Groningen, the Netherlands!

The Netherlands
The Netherlands
Last modified:02 March 2018 09.30 a.m.