Anna Blake, studying International Law in The Netherlands
My Grandma told me that to move to another country to study in a new city, where they speak a different language - you’d have to be absolutely bonkers.
Although there have definitely been some rocky bumps in the road and certain aspects I wish I’d been warned about beforehand, I’m still here, alive and well several months later. Anna 1, Grandma 0.
If you are currently thinking about moving abroad for your degree, ignore those who tell you it’s too much of a risk and just go for it! Life is short and the world is big. Plus, it will enrich you in a way that staying at home never could.
However, the start of anything is always scary.
First year in the Netherlands is like in the UK but put on a copious amount of steroids. Forget the typical English freshers week, being in a drunken stupor for two weeks without attending any classes - In the Netherlands, first year is the most difficult. It is a selection procedure to see who is prepared to put in the work to stay on the course, with a fresh set of exams every six weeks.
So, if like me you’re starting uni fresh from your gap year, be prepared for a shock. You may have found your inner self on Mount Kilimanjaro and realised that stress and assignments are all so mainstream and there are more important things; but come the night before the essay deadline you may rethink where your priorities lie.
You may well find yourself weeks into your first term, realising that the homely chum that’s clung to you from day one perhaps isn’t your lifelong friends - fear not! You’re thrown in with an unpredictable heap during the first week, but remember you’ll be meeting new people all the time and there are so many opportunities beyond the first day to make new friends.
During my time at university I have already had to buy over 10 textbooks and have 5 more to buy before the end of the year, each of these costing an upwards of €20 if bought new. If I purchased each of these first hand, it would amount to the same as at least one month’s rent and as a student that is simply not an option. I have saved over €200 by joining second hand book sale Facebook groups or attending second year textbook sales. Not only are you helping your fellow students clear out their stuff and earn a bit of money, you’ll also save a huge wad of cash.
I cannot stress this point enough. Groningen is the bike capital of the world - that’s a big claim. Everyone, and I mean everyone, will be on a bicycle. On the first day I arrived, my housemates were already off on their own biking adventures and I could only helplessly jog behind. I got my hands on a bike as soon as I possibly could (cheap and second hand: Dutch style) and to me this is an essential purchase.
Groningen winters are brutal, especially on a bike. Get a ski mask.
Anna Blake is a British student studying at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands