Saying Goodbye to Groningen
Yesterday I packed up my belongings, said endless goodbyes and left Groningen. Technically the semester doesn’t finish until the end of January but I have no lectures or exams after Christmas, only deadlines for essays that I can submit online. So it made sense to move out at the same time as heading home for Christmas. Which means my 4 month stint living in Groningen just came to an end, although I would have happily stayed for much, much longer!
Luckily I will visit Groningen once in the spring and for a week in July, and then I’ll most likely move back to Groningen properly for my final semester in 2018 as well. It seems unbelievable that these two photos below, which I took on the plane flying to Groningen in August for the very first time, are already 4 months in the past!
Here’s the blog post I wrote on the day I moved (Hello to the Netherlands!) and also a post of my first impressions after two weeks of living in Groningen (A Student’s First Impressions of Groningen). I’ve also been writing a monthly ‘Diary of a Master’s Student Abroad‘ about my experiences in Groningen to collect all the memories I’ve made here.
Here are a few thoughts I’ve had reflecting on the last 4 months:
- I love living in a small university city! Everyone is young, intellectually stimulated and motivated for their future, not stressed, burned out and frustrated like many of the young professionals working in London.
- I will really miss my picturesque morning runs amidst the swans and ducklings on the lakes in Noorderplantsoen Park.
- It really doesn’t rain in the Netherlands anywhere near as much as I was warned… I haven’t used an umbrella all term (as I cycle everywhere) and in 4 months I have only been properly soaked twice.
- The Dutch are very tall and beautiful, but you do see lots of girls with bright blue / green / pink hair and some questionable wardrobe decisions!
- The Dutch are incredibly direct and to the point! While I squirmed my way through conversations in the Netherlands that I would never dream of having with a British person, I have to admit that I rather like their directness… I now consider the British politeness on the other hand to be a bit ridiculous: why are we Brits incapable of saying what we mean?
- Amsterdam is pretty, but the crowds of tourists really put me off and I was longing to get back to my familiar Groningen, where I’m not just a walking wallet.
- The Dutch are very impressed if you try to learn their language. Most international students don’t bother to learn it (even though the course is free) but in my opinion it’s worth the effort. I can now have basic conversations, I know some key sayings and I can eavesdrop on Dutch people who assume that as a foreigner I can’t understand them!
- I want to live on a houseboat in my fourth semester when I return to Groningen. The canals are full of them and it will be spring time so nice weather. I almost don’t care how much the rent costs – I want one!
- The student lifestyle is the one for me! Although I studied and was kept busy just as many hours in Groningen as when I was working full-time in London, every single day in Groningen this term was different, I worked with so many more people and my daily routine was never the same. Since I found my secret study spot in the tower of the Academy Building, I also had stunning surroundings in which to study!
- The Dutch do many things incredibly well. One thing they don’t really excel at though is Christmas atmosphere! As their big Christmas celebration and present-giving happens on Sinterklaas, the 5th December, the rest of the month is less of a build up of excitement. I didn’t see any carol singing in the streets, only one Father Christmas in the whole of December, and their Christmas lights are quite modest. However I do really like the Dutch present-giving tradition! They write each other funny poems to all read out aloud, and I even received one too! A few friends told me they play a dice game to choose who in their family gets which presents, meaning it’s less about buying specific presents that someone has asked for. It seems less materialistic than in the UK. The main lesson is that for me, it’s the carol singing in the streets that makes Christmas for me. In London you can barely move for the number of carol singing choirs that descend upon the city’s streets and the whole city is ablaze with Christmas lights! I spotted them from my plane home last night in fact!
So with that, now that I’m finally home in Hampshire for Christmas, it’s time to get on with Christmas Eve, wrap some presents and eat some longed-for Mince Pies!
Merry Christmas everyone!