It is August and the end of the summer holidays are slowly but surely coming. This also means that a new group of students are already on their way to the Northern Netherlands. Naturally, many will be in an uncertain, tense and curious mindset.
By Hans de Preter
Some have already settled in Groningen, Leeuwarden, Assen or Emmen. Our message to these first-year students: conquer your nerves. Settling in is always hard, and after a while most internationals are very satisfied with their choice for the Northern Netherlands as a study location.
For many newcomers, cities like Groningen, Leeuwarden, Assen or Emmen may look like small places. Well: they are, but the best places often are too! But the following certainly applies to Groningen: it is a city with international allure, perhaps comparable to Cambridge or Oxford. Not big perhaps, but well-arranged, and a bit like one big campus.
Thanks to this scale, you’ll quickly find your feet, we hope. You should also know that many in the North are very happy with the arrival of international students. You’re joining a growing community, last academic year, 7,081 students from 120 countries studied at the University of Groningen alone. They represented 22.8% of the total number of registered.
The cities in the North of the Netherlands, and certainly in Groningen, are very European-minded, which was also clear during the last elections. The arrival of international people contributes to a dynamic, cosmopolitan atmosphere. The Dutch government is also happy with the arrival of so many internationals. There is scarcity on the labour market, and companies in the Northern Netherlands can use highly trained talent. That is why Northern administrations welcome the arrival of foreign students: the arrival of so many people is simply good for the economy.
As far as we know, the population in the North is generally also happy with young, international, students. But also (maybe even) one thing also applies to Groningen: here too there are (a few) people who seem less cordial. Sometimes there are advertisements in which rooms are offered, with the caveat: “only for Dutch people”. Many people in the North are ashamed of such advertisements, and these advertisements have rightly been criticised.
We have understood – partly thanks to interviews on The Northern Times – that it is sometimes difficult for people from abroad to make contact with the Dutch people that already live here.
Our suggestion would be: don’t let negative experiences (if you should ever encounter them) influence your overall opinion. If you ever have a less pleasant experience, do know that most people here are very happy with your arrival.
One final small tip: try to learn some words in Dutch. Although the Dutch boast that they speak foreign languages so well, you make many of them happy by showing that you are also interested in Dutch, or perhaps even in the Frisian language. Don’t take it for granted or as an autonomous fact that people speak English, and whilst many do, you will make their day with a simple ‘goedemorgen’. And maybe you can join a local Dutch sports club or other association, you’ll be very welcome
Anyway: we wish you every success in your new student city. You are facing an exciting time in The North of the Netherlands.