"I have my chosen family here, and I feel that it is my home."
Max Pogrzeba is from a small town in Lower-Saxony, Germany and came to Groningen for his bachelors. He was originally going to be in Groningen for three years, but six years later and with a fresh masters’ graduation in his pocket … he’s still here, and planning to stay!
“I came to Groningen to study in 2014. I had been to an international school in Bremen but wanted to study in English, and I was attracted to the great programme in English literature. One thing I did investigate was the queer acceptance here in the Netherlands – that was important to me. I come from a small town where there are no queer people around me.
I feel safe here as a visibly queer person, and more accepted than in most parts of Germany. I am very political; I actually wanted to go to Berlin because of that. There wasn’t any political mindset here in the student community when I arrived in Groningen, that was quite a culture shock. It is a comparatively safe and liberal society, but there are also some blinds spots in the Dutch idea of themselves.
In 2016 I got involved in the Groningen Feminist Network, that has been so important for me. Initially we were very international, now it is much more mixed and more Dutch people are involved. It is a cultural, communal space, but also a political space, we want to change things on the street, it’s not just a hang-out group.
“We want to change things on the street”
What I love about Groningen is that I have my chosen family here, and I feel that it is my home. I have made it mine, by participating and engaging with the city, for instance by initiating Queer Pride. In bigger cities, that isn’t possible, it is more atomized and cliquey. In Groningen you are forced to work together, and that is great.
What was difficult when I arrived was the housing – I lived in a studio which was very expensive and it was difficult to find your way around the housing market. Our landlord was really not nice, but Frently helped us to deal with them and get our rent lowered. There is more information nowadays, and lots of Facebook groups to help find rooms.
Groningen is a great size, it has a lot of culture and it has become even more accessible to internationals. English is the second language here. Even though I don’t speak Dutch, there are so many other ways to integrate and to be part of the city. I have just graduated but I am planning to stay and work here: I really want to contribute to the city.”