The International Welcome Center North (IWCN) is celebrating its ninth anniversary on November 3, 2023, with a look back at its achievements and a look forward to its future plans. Over the past nine years, the IWCN has established itself as an essential resource for the international community in the Northern provinces of Groningen, Friesland, and Drenthe.
“In the past 27 years since I moved to The North, I have experienced a huge change. In those days, I heard only Dutch (and some German) on the streets of Groningen,” said Karen Prowse, Operations Manager at IWCN. “Now, I hear a dozen languages on any given day. Websites (both governmental and commercial) did not have any language options other than Dutch in the past and now most have at least English, and sometimes other language options.”
The IWCN, which has a multilingual staff that is familiar with Dutch legal procedures, provides information and guidance on various topics, such as immigration, housing, health care, education, and employment. It also collaborates with the Dutch immigration and naturalization services and many of the northern municipalities to offer formalities services, such as residence permit applications and registrations.
The IWCN has also been a strong advocate for internationalization in the region, working closely with numerous companies and organizations to promote the benefits of diversity and inclusion. The IWCN has facilitated international talent acquisition for 421 companies and provided formalities services to 18,655 clients. Since 2014, the IWCN has engaged with 38,903 internationals and locals.
New foundation with a strong legacy
In its 9th year, the IWCN has expanded its scope, becoming an even more significant source of knowledge, information, and community building. In 2023, the IWCN, City Central, and Connect International officially merged to form an independent foundation, uniting three prominent organizations in the North.
City Central, known for its iconic yellow-dot symbol, was dedicated to bridging the gap between internationals and locals, promoting the rich cultural events and experiences that Groningen has to offer. These efforts continue through the IWCN’s online presence, social media, and integration initiatives such as FietsFriend and My Local Friend.
Connect International, with a history dating back to the late 1990s, served as a hub for building international communities in the North. The tradition of community-building endures, as the IWCN continues to host a wide array of events, with 557 events taking place in the previous year. These events range from Dutch conversational groups to walking clubs, offering opportunities for internationals to connect, share experiences, and build lasting relationships.
A decade of impact
Over the years, the IWCN has made a significant impact, assisting clients with formalities services and supporting companies. The dedicated events team and volunteers have played a crucial role in delivering these services.
“All of us can do more than we think we can, especially with the support of a team, and being able to rely on each other is key,” Karen Prowse says. “Our staff has been amazingly caring and effective during all these situations and it is due to our common goals and resilience that I believe we have succeeded in providing the best service possible under challenging circumstances.”
As the IWCN enters its 10th year, it remains committed to its mission of welcoming and helping internationals in the North, promoting cultural exchange, and strengthening the bonds of community. With an impressive track record of service and an exciting future ahead, the IWCN continues to be a cornerstone of support for internationals in the Northern Netherlands.