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"When the sun is out, no matter what the temperature is, well above 15 degrees, everybody is out, they put out chairs, tables, they grab a beer or have dinner. That’s amazing."

Angela, a charismatic and cheerful 24 year old student from Brescia, northern Italy, has already been in Groningen for four years. During her life, she had moved a lot with her family. Her grandfather was Dutch and emigrated to Namibia where he met Angela’s grandmother, a woman from Italy. They got married in Venice, before then moving to South Africa where Angela’s mother was born, and then eventually the whole family moved to Italy.

During her childhood Angela was travelling a lot to visit her family, and during high school she spent a year in the United States. But her grandpa’s roots were the reasons for her to move to the Netherlands. She liked the Dutch university system and so, a bit unexpectedly, she landed in Groningen. She did not really know where to study in the Netherlands, and so one day she went on a road trip with her dad to visit some of the main Dutch university cities like Amsterdam, Leiden, Tilburg, and finally Groningen. During the two days she planned to be in Groningen, she had arranged a visit to a house which then turned out to be her place. “Yes, I know, I have been extremely lucky!” Angela exclaims with a big smile. “I know how difficult it is now to find a student house here, but I am glad I took this spontaneous decision.”

Now she is a master student at the University of Groningen in global criminal law. This is a comparative study between different kinds of criminal laws in different states, and a study of how a specific criminal behaviour such as organized, financial and cybercrime can be penalized at an international level. This fascinates her and will give her the chance, in October, to spend six months in Dublin on an exchange program. But after that she will come back to Groningen. She has found in Groningen her loving place and has no rush to move away: “It feels so good to be around the city.” After travelling around, and moving from city to city, she loves having found her place. The Covid-19 pandemic unfortunately did not help her to get to know the city at the beginning, but by now she has a few places she adores. The Noorderplantsoen park is one of them: “On Sunday it is beautiful and chill, everybody is discrete, you can do whatever you like, you can even do yoga or meditate, nobody would bother you,’’ she states with contentment.

Other places? “Definitely the farmer market on Saturday! It makes me feel infatuated with the city,” says Angela with enthusiasm. She has her Saturday routine now. She gets a slice of cake at the cute stand with fresh cakes – the carrot cake is her favourite one—, then she grabs a coffee at a stand close by and chats and walks around with her friends. “On a Saturday, after having had a few drinks the night before and the typical eierballen, being at this colourful market is priceless. So simple: cake, coffee, friends, in such a radiant square where locals get in contact with internationals and where different scents and aromas mingle with each other, what else?”

Angela feels completely integrated in the Dutch culture, so much that she cycles all the time, even to go to the supermarket across the street. Only on those few occasions when her bike was stolen – “yes, it happened three times already”’ she puffs playfully – and when she had a flat tire, she really had to walk around. To motivate herself to walk, she even downloaded an app where they register your steps and give you small rewards for every kilometers you cover.

Overall, living in Groningen is very easy for her since everybody speaks English. She is trying now to learn Dutch but people often switch to English. This makes it a bit hard for her to learn but makes everybody feel comfortable and at home. Of course, there are also a few aspects of Dutch culture that still make Angela smile: “When the sun is out, no matter what the temperature is, well above 15 degrees, everybody is out, they put out chairs, tables, they grab a beer or have dinner. That’s amazing. If in Italy you were putting out your own chair or table on the street, people would think you are crazy.”

Angela was lucky to get in contact with lots of internationals, thanks to the associations she is part of. She belongs to the volleyball associations Tweeslag and Veracles where she trains three times per week and then plays a game, and she also had a Dutch boyfriend who put her in contact with lots of locals.

A funny warning that Angela gives to newcomers concerning the weather: “It is quite unpredictable here, you need to look at the weather app before going out. You always have to plan activities depending on that.” And one more thing: “Here it is typical to answer Ja, hoor to say: ‘yes sure.’ But for us internationals this sounds a bit funny, like if I answer: yes, bitch. So no worries about it, it is just a friendly way to agree with you.”

To other students who chose to move here she says: “It is very easy to explore the city, not difficult at all to navigate it. Newcomers may get a bad experience with some people, and then close off. But try to get to know the locals, they are very welcoming and they will make you feel at home. Nothing is going to be like back at your native country, you just cannot compare this place to where you are from. But always keep an open mind and you will have lots of fun.”

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