“When I Googled Groningen I just knew I had to go to there.”
Gesa was born in Albania but moved to Greece when she was five years old. She came to Groningen at the end of summer last year to follow a master’s degree in Ancient History.
“The cold is not so bad, but you should be prepared for lots of rain. Buy an umbrella as soon as possible!”
“I came to Groningen for two reasons. The first one is the master track the university offers. Secondly, I was completely convinced when I did some research on Groningen. I said to myself: You have to go here, this looks like a fantastic city!”. Gesa’s friends and family were very supportive of her going to the Netherlands. Although they were of course sad that she left home. “When I was packing my suitcase, my mum put some nuts, olive oil and honey in it. I still don’t know why she did that, but I guess she wanted to give me a bit of home to bring with me.”
Before coming to Groningen Gesa didn’t know much about the city except that the Martini Tower is the tallest building here. Luckily she was able to already get familiar with the city of Groningen, by playing the Virtual Groninger Game online. In this game, you can already experience what it is like to be a student in Groningen. You can discover the streets of the city centre, see how students live and you even get to learn some typical Groningen words and recipes. “When I explored Groningen for the first time, I was surprised with how much green there is. And I loved all the pretty buildings!’’ Though she didn’t have many expectations about Groningen, she expected it to be a lot colder. “The cold is not so bad, but you should be prepared for lots of rain. Buy an umbrella as soon as possible!” For Gesa, the toughest thing about coming to Groningen was finding a room. “I was having a lot of trouble finding a room, because my admission to the university came a bit late. Luckily, I eventually found a place in Beijum."
“Everyone will say ‘Hoi!’ to one another. Even if you don’t know them at all!’’
Unfortunately – due to COVID – Gesa hasn’t had the opportunity to meet many Dutch people. However, she experienced Dutch people to be very friendly and always willing to help you. “In Groningen I feel like I don’t have to be afraid of anything. And if I have trouble with something, I can just ask someone to help me. People here are always willing to help. Also, Dutch people respect cultural differences and are eager to know more about other cultures. I love that! This is very different from Greece where people are not so open to foreigners. Another funny thing I noticed here is that kids play outside around 3 p.m. In Greece, this hour is considered ‘nap hour’, so you won’t see any children outside.”
The thing Gesa found most outstanding about Dutch culture is how often people greet each other. “Everyone will say ‘Hoi!’ to one another. Even if you don’t know them at all!’’ She was also surprised about the biking culture. ‘’Dutch people can always be found on their bikes. That was funny to me, because in Greece people do not bike at all. I embraced the biking culture to explore the city. I tried to take a different road each time to discover new places in Groningen.”
Do you want to discover Groningen as well? Play the Game and explore Groningen from your home!