As I stepped off of the train at Groningen Hoofdstation, it dawned on me that I would be starting my life as an adult… in a city far from everything I knew and loved. The first week was amazing because of the introduction week, which offered social activities for new students to enjoy and gave us all a little bit of information about getting settled in.
While the KEI week provided an insight into how entertaining and enjoyable Groningen could be, I soon felt isolated from the life of the city. This was, in part, due to the pandemic, and the lockdown. However, the major reason for my isolation was my ignorance. I didn’t know much practical information about living In Groningen, and I wasn’t sure where I could meet people. For the last few years, I was slowly muddling my way through until all that changed when I discovered the International Welcome Centre North.
International Welcome Centre North (IWCN) offers a range of services dedicated to helping internationals “feel like locals.” These services include governmental formalities, social activities, events, and clubs, as well as practical information and guidance: all things I wish I had access to when I arrived in Groningen.
Rather than taking the hour journey to Zwolle to handle your affairs with the IND, you can head to the IWCN in the city centre to have your biometrics taken, submit documentation, and register for your burgerservicenummer (BSN). If you are uncertain about any practicalities of living in the Netherlands, the IWCN can be contacted by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and telephone (+31 (0)503677197) or through appointment at Gedempte Zuiderdiep 98.
Beyond formalities such as municipal registration, the IWCN offers social connection through clubs, events and tips about living in the north. A few events such as coffee mornings and cycling workshops allow you to meet like-minded people.
Additionally, for those wanting to learn Dutch and be held accountable for that, My Local Friend is a great initiative that pairs you up with a resident of the city who will exclusively speak Dutch with you. The initiative is perfect for developing your conversational Dutch, meaning that you’ll be better able to assimilate to living in Groningen. And for any volunteers, it’s a great way to meet new people in the city and they are always looking for more volunteers! If you’d like to help out, just shoot them an email at email@example.com.