Here is what I’ve been up to for the past few days!
Thursday was the welcoming ceremony at the Academy Building, they had a few people speak, different clubs with booths to look at, and ESN sign ups. The room they held it in was beautiful, stain glass everywhere, it looked like where Shakespeare would have held plays had he been Dutch. Now-a-days it is used for PHD students in defending their degree. During the speeches I was so impressed by how witty and entertaining everyone was. A couple members from a local comedy group introduced all of the different speakers. The president of the university spoke, rather than being stuffy and prestigious he was cool, just cool. A retired professor spoke, I never would have guessed how great a speaker he would have been. The entire room was riveted, he talked about the different phases we will go through during our time here. First is the everything is better here phase, second is the things that are worse here phase, and third is the some things are better some things are worse phase. ESN is the Erasmus Student Network which is basically an organization for internationals in the city. They hold various activities and excursions throughout the semester. First is introduction week, which is what they had us sign up for. So each day/night they had all sorts of activities people could take part in. Afterwards we got some free food and drinks, and yes the school itself provided us with beer and wine (culture shock moment for me). After that I went to the Drie Gezusters (I have a feeling I will be seeing a lot of that place in my time here) for drinks with a group of international students. Finally I was able to find a beer I can handle here. I don’t like beer, nor do I like wine, so finding something to drink here has been a challenge. Until I was informed of cherry beer, I’m hooked! So delicious.
(Where they held the speeches for the Welcoming Ceremony)
Friday was the start of the ESN introduction week. Over 400 people signed up for the intro week, and they divided us into 40 groups. My group consists of people from all over; Canada, Sweden, Brazil, Latvia, Hong Kong, the US, Australia, Germany, etc. The first activity was dinner at our introduction guide’s place then off to the “pub crawl.”
Saturday I moved into my international student housing. It was the day just about everyone was moving, so when I tried to head out at 9:30am I already had a 30 minute wait for a taxi. The girls in my hostel got up a little later to move and they had a two hour wait, I also heard someone who had to wait three hours for a taxi. My first impression of the building: SMELLS. So bad. It smells just like the reptile house at the zoo. My floor smells equally as terrible. It was pretty dirty when I moved in and a lot of things are broken. On the positive: my room is a good size, perfect even not too much space but enough. It wasn’t too dirty when I moved in, and once I did my own deep cleaning it’s just fine. I will put up pictures of the before and after in a separate post once I get some more pictures uploaded. When I arrived to check in I also had arranged to pick up the bike I was buying off a girl, my first experience riding it was high tailing it in the rain to an ATM when I was short on cash. But it’s a great bike, perfect size, rides great, have a good strong lock, and I have extra lights for it. Bikes get stolen here very often, it’s a running joke of the city, so a heavy duty lock is a must. Again, I will post pictures when I have them uploaded. I also went to IKEA to get some more things to make my room more livable. IKEA is huge here, that’s where students get EVERYTHING.
Sunday I spent some more time settling in. One thing that makes me feel right at home is the shopping hours on Sundays. Stores are closed on Sundays, unless it is the first Sunday of the month which is called “shopping Sunday.” Then, stores are open from 12-5, but not all stores are open. I was finally able to stock up some groceries at Albert Heijn which is the most prominent grocery store chain here in Groningen. I don’t know exactly how many there are in the city, but I have seen five so far. In this, what is considered a small city, alone. They have lots of fruit and healthy foods which I’m loving. After that I got dinner with the ESN festivities and from there to the other side of town for a comedy show. The local comedy group Stranger Things Have Happened did an improve show that was great, they were really funny. Afterwards it was time to get home, but I was on the other side of the city and didn’t know my way back. So a friend (from Sweden) who lives in my housing drove my bike, with me sitting back on the rack. It was quite the experience! It is extremely common here, you see it all the time. But it was my first time actually taking part, and boy it hurt!
Monday was the start of the semester, so I had my first lecture for my Organizational Change course. Taught by a professor who has more jobs than I can recall. He works for the Dutch government, teaches in South Africa, is a management consultant in Amsterdam, etc etc. I was schedule for two courses that fall at the same time, but luckily Social Environment and Behavior is rather easy so I’ve heard and they record the lectures and put them online. I was finally able to find some shower shoes which I had been desperately needing. Later on ESN held Dutch Language Lessons which was led by a really funny Dutch guy. I have some basics down but I’m really hoping to learn quite a bit more!
Tuesday was a get stuff done day. I didn’t have lecture until 5 so I spent the day doing laundry, watching my lecture that I wasn’t able to attend the previous day, and getting various school items together. Then onto lecture which was the same Organizational Change course, and straight from there to the cinema. ESN put on a movie night where they showed American Hustle. The movie theater (here called cinema) was massive and really nice! Most movies and TV shows here are in English, with Dutch subtitles.
I am still loving having the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, it’s been an amazing experience. Although I do really want to integrate more with the locals. I’m loving riding my bike everywhere, and seeing hundreds of people cycling around me. I must say, my legs are extremely sore, but boy will they be in shape! My hostel was right smack dab in the city center, which I do miss being there. That’s the truly breath taking part of the city, although it is all beautiful. But I am a mere 10 minute bike ride away. I’m really not far from anything by bike which is so cool.
(Groningen Centraal, the train station inside and out)
(Not sure what the name of this is, but I find it really pretty)
I know these past couple of posts have been very long, thank you for bearing with me through it! As I am still just getting settled in I like to write about all of my firsts here and when things are still new, but after time the posts will get shorter!
I am going to post some more culture shock moments, things that are different here, and some of my obvious out of towner moments in a post to follow. There’s a long running list of them! 😉
“Now and then in travel, something unexpected happens that transforms the whole nature of the trip and stays with the traveler.” -Paul Theroux