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For a city this small, Groningen is quite progressive

Shanice Karangwa

At only 18 years old Shanice decided to leave her home town in Uganda and study medicine in Groningen. Now, 8 years later, she’s in the final stages of her study, fluently speaking Dutch and living with her boyfriend from Roden. “People always think that moving here must have been really hard but actually it wasn’t.”

“My first impression of Groningen was positive. The city was buzzing with students and it felt welcoming. It is small enough to not feel overwhelmed; one can walk around and feel safe. I didn’t know anyone, but that didn’t last long. It helped that everyone in my course was international. We felt a connection because we were all in the same situation.”

Nevertheless, Shanice admits that things didn’t always go that smoothly. “At the beginning I experienced a couple of culture shock moments. One particular example was when my mum and I went to Ikea and we realized nobody helps you get all the heavy furniture off the shelves. In Uganda, people, and especially women, are quick to be helped especially if they are seen struggling to carry heavy stuff. It’s not that I’m spoiled, but in our culture, help is more easily offered. Here, on the other hand, when we were almost tripping over the things we bought, everyone kept minding their own business. We were so shocked back then, but I look back at it now and think it’s funny that we were so surprised. I just had to adapt to the differences.”

Noorderzon Speelweide Groningen allows you to be who you want to be

“Looking back at the past few years, I became who I am because I could freely figure out what I liked and who I wanted to be. I will see Groningen as a city that allows you to be who you want to be. It made me proud of where I came from and who I was becoming.”

She also feels that Groningen is changing rapidly. “In only 8 years, it has managed to become so diverse and so international. In the beginning hearing English and seeing other black students was very rare. Of course people are still dealing with discrimination and exclusion, but that happens everywhere. For a city this small, I feel that Groningen is quite progressive. It is very refreshing to witness. I’m pretty proud of the city and I’m curious to see where it will be in another 10 years.”

Now Shanice is almost a real Stadjer herself. Her friends turn to her when they want some inspiration for a cool place to eat or have a drink. “Definitely try the vegan chocolate cake at Anat! I’m a regular customer there.”