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“I feel like I’m in the city that belongs to me.”

Rowaid Salim, 28, finally feels like he is where he needs to be. His home country is Iraq, but his real home is now in Groningen. The vibrant young city filled with students makes him feel energetic and excited. “Even though I have only been living here for two years, I feel like I’m in the city that belongs to me.”

Rowaid is studying to become a pharmacy assistant. Even though the courses can be quite tough sometimes, he’s determined to put in his best efforts. He can often be found studying at the Forum, the so-called living room of the city. There are multiple places to study, some of which have the best views over the city center. “Especially during the exam period, I study at the Forum. I can meet up with other students and we can discuss the study material. I have a better focus here because if I study at home, I will just keep snacking all the time.”

Besides the Forum, there are some other places in Groningen that Rowaid loves to visit. Sitting on the grass, having good conversations with friends and just chilling: the Noorderplantsoen is the perfect place to do so. During the summer, the park is filled with young people, sitting on blankets, having drinks and enjoying the sun. Another great place to go in the summer? The city beach at DOT: a place where you can dive into the cold water and lay in the sun.

When Rowaid first came to Groningen, he had to get used to the biking culture. There are a lot of bikers here, and they all cross at the same time at intersections. “I really had to get used to the amount of people on bikes. I learned that I have to give a signal when I want to make a turn. Sometimes all the cyclists are a bit overwhelming, but you get used to it.” Another thing he had to get used to was the Dutch way of paying. The expression ‘going Dutch’ is there for a reason. It is very common here to split the bill. When going to a restaurant, people often send a ‘tikkie’: an online payment request that can be sent by the person who paid the bill, to allow the other members of the group to pay their part.

With his work, hobbies and studies, Rowaid has a busy life. He works in the kitchen at Doppio, a busy lunch spot in the middle of the city center. In his free time, he sings in a choir. In 2019, he visited the Grand Theatre at the Grote Markt and saw a performance from a choir. It left him mesmerized, and he decided to join a choir himself. Now he is a proud member of the New Life choir, who rehearses once a week. His fellow choir members have become good friends, as well as his fellow students. His friend group consists of both internationals and Dutchies. His advice for making new friends is to find a job. “By working next to your studies, you’ll meet all kinds of people. Through work and school, l have been able to build a network that makes me feel welcome in the city.”

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