February 1 and 2 … foreign students showed up at Hanze to meet their friends to be. Most of them are in good spirits. And why shouldn’t they?
Sarah Tuomaala (21), Finland
‘A few days before Christmas Kamernet offered me a room. I hadn’t even set one foot in the Netherlands yet. So I did not have to worry about that. 420 euros is not too much for a room, it’s furnished, you know. Surinamestraat has a really nice environment. Not too far from everywhere I need to go. I rent a bike from Swapfiets, really cheap and easy. So no worries about that either. Biking in Groningen is special, the lanes are narrow and at some crossroads you’ve got this strange system of green lights for all bicycles at the same time. Thus far that feels to me like participating in a war on wheels.
One things that really struck me was the presence of flowers in public areas
‘Groningen is really green. One things that really struck me was the presence of flowers in public areas. Who puts them there? Who takes care of them? The municipality, I guess. You won’t see that in Finland.
‘I’m studying Social Services at Oulu University of Applied Sciences. This semester at Hanze I want to learn about Positive Psychology. Sounds good, don’t you think? Getting here was a quite a journey. From Oulu to Tampere is a five hours drive. I’m used to that, because my mother lives there. From Tampere to Helsinki took me two hours by bus. The flight to Amsterdam lasted two hours too. From Amsterdam airport to Groningen is two hours and thirty minutes. Just imagine, I was exhausted when I arrived at Simplon hostel. Nevertheless I immediately felt the energy of the city of Groningen. There’s really something going on over here. I am sure I will enjoy myself, in fact I already am.’
Tareq Merali (27), Canada
‘My plan is to work hard and to have a lot of fun, let’s say fifty percent work and fifty percent fun. Okay, you better make that 49-51. Fun is slightly more important.
‘You might say I’m well-educated already, this is my sixth year as a student. I’m taking the master’s programme in Business at Anglia Ruskin University at Cambridge, the exchange at Hanze is part of the programme. I’ve been here for one week now and I must say: I love Groningen. People are so polite and easy going. The only thing that reminds you of criminality are the locks on bikes. Some people have three locks on them. You must be the only country in the world where bikes have in-built locks.
Dutch cheese is the same story. What a treat. It’s unbelievable, such tastiness
‘I’m already completely hooked on Dutch bread. So many types, it’s amazing. I love them all, from dark brown bread to sweet bread. In Canada all bread is the same, without a distinctive taste. Dutch cheese is the same story. What a treat. It’s unbelievable, such tastiness. The beer is nice too, better than Bud.
‘I’m born and raised in Canada, I went to the University of Calgary. My mum originates from Lebanon, my dad from Yemen. Yes, that’s tough, especially for my dad who worries about his relatives over there. We know they are safe, but you cannot be sure how things develop. Besides that, we weren’t able to visit them the last few years. Too dangerous.’
Joyce Kengne (22), Cameroon
‘It was very late when I arrived at Groningen railway station. Somebody was supposed to pick me up, but he didn’t show up. These things happen, so I started walking and asking. It was night, alright, but I wasn’t afraid, why should I? There were many people in the streets and they all did their very best to help me. It took me some hours, though, to find a place to stay. I can’t recall the name of the hostel, but it was okay. I couldn’t afford staying there, so the very next day I started looking for a room.
The first thing that drew my attention is the height of the people over here
‘As a matter of fact, I found it very rapidly. Today SSH will hand out the key, so I have a roof over my head. That’s very important of course.
‘The first thing that drew my attention is the height of the people over here. They are of Cameroonian height, that’s remarkable because we are a tall people. Quite a surprise, because I had got used to the shortness of the French at Nice, where I studied before. Dutchmen are way taller.
‘I’ll be here for six months, studying Sustainable Fuel Systems. To complete this master I’ll have to take an internship later on this year, it could be anywhere in Europe. After that I’ll return to Cameroon to introduce sustainable fuel systems. We have solar energy already, but the production of bio-fuel is still in its infancy. I’m sure I’ll succeed, there are so many opportunities.’
Puja Priya (20), India
‘It is quite expensive for me to study here. I had to do lots of odd jobs to save the money. My father who is a doctor, and my mom, who is a teacher, also support me. I study Media & Communication at Manipal University in Karnataka, South India. I came here because some fellow students in India went to Hanze last year to do the exchange programme in Journalism and greatly appreciated it. I’m looking forward to meeting new people from all over the globe. Groningen is a cosmopolitan place, I have heard. I also heard that students do lots of group assignments here. That will not be a problem. We also do that a lot in India.
My first impression can be summed up in two words: cold and beautiful
‘This is my first time in Europe. I arrived yesterday. My first impression can be summed up in two words: cold and beautiful. Wow! Everything is neat and clean here. I’m not used to that at all.’
Nisa Pun (19), United Kingdom
‘I was born in Hong Kong, but my parents are from Nepal. I grew up in Basingstoke in the south of England. My parents are factory workers. I’m very grateful to them: they made it possible for me have a good education. I study International Business at the University of Portsmouth.
‘I really regret that a majority of people have voted for the Brexit. I was unable to do anything against that. I was one week too young to vote.
I really liked the first impression: the old monumental station surrounded by all those ultramodern geometric buildings
‘I did my first exchange programme in Sweden. This is my first time in Holland. Both countries have a great bike culture. So that’s at least one thing I do not have to get used to. I arrived in Groningen yesterday. I really liked the first impression: the old monumental station surrounded by all those ultramodern geometric buildings. Weird, but nice!
‘I really want to understand the commercial process behind a successful chain shop. Hopefully my stay at IBS will take me a step further. I also love the international part of being here, meeting people from all over the globe.’
Sung Jung (23), South Korea
‘I’m from Incheon, which is close to the capital of Seoul. I study Business Management at an international university there. I’m in my fourth year. In Groningen I’ll take an exchange programme at the International Business School. We just had a number of presentations about Groningen and student facilities. I decided that I will become a member of the Erasmus Student Network. I really want to meet people from other countries and make lots of friends.
Groningen is really what I imagined Europe would be like, green, clean and fresh
‘Groningen is really what I imagined Europe would be like, green, clean and fresh. South Korea is very densely populated. Everything is urbanised. Here you see plenty of farms, meadows and woods. The Dutch people are very friendly. Yesterday I was shopping at AH, looking for an internet cable. A number of helpful shoppers showed me where I had to go.
‘I’m enjoying life here too much to miss South Korea, even to miss the Olympic Winter Games. Of course I’ll watch them on tv. I’m a fan of short track skater Ahn Hyun-soo, who changed his name to Viktor An when he got the Russian nationality. I hope he’ll be able to participate.’
Ching-Fang Nien (22), Taiwan
‘You may call me Jenny, but I prefer Ching-Fang. I study Accounting at the University of Taichung in the west of Taiwan. I’ll be here for one semester studying International Business. This is my first time in Groningen, but I did visit the Netherlands before. I really loved Amsterdam: the bikes, the culture, the old buildings and the beer. The people are welcoming and friendly. Unlike most people I love rain and winter. Taiwan is very hot. The Dutch climate makes me feel calm, quiet and relaxed. So when I had a chance to come to Holland to study I jumped at it. The first thing I’ll do is buy a bicycle. Everybody rides a bike here.’
Kade Gilliss (21), United States of America
‘I study Journalism at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. Two of my friends took the minor in Journalism here. They had a great experience. The opportunity to follow an international exchange programme is something you don’t get very often. It looks good on your resume, especially for a journalist.
I think the USA is more pedestrian-friendly
‘My emphasis is on sports. I couldn’t deal with politics in these days of fake news and alternative facts. I was an assistant sports editor of the university newspaper in Flagstaff. I also was a freelancer for one of the state newspapers.
‘Traffic seems to be very fast-paced here. Amazing how fast cars, and buses, move! Cyclists never seem to stop unless they really have to. I think the USA is more pedestrian-friendly. I try to adapt by observing what happens and follow. It’s a bit intimidating.
‘Other than that, it’s very enjoyable here. Getting lost in the city is such a good experience! It’s much better to discover good hangouts and downtown areas yourself instead of being introduced to them by others.’
Photos (and part of text): Luuk Steemers