Student Life

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Student Life

Starting your second term in Groningen

The dual award master’s programmes, Advanced International Business Management and Operations Management, are certainly among the more interesting degree programmes that Newcastle University Business School has to offer to its postgraduate students. Besides having the chance to study at two European universities at the same time and to achieve two master’s degrees within 17 months it is quite an unique chance for students to gain a vast level of international experience.

However, there inevitably comes a time when dual degree students will have to say farewell to Newcastle as they transfer to Groningen in the Netherlands for the second semester of their studies. This can often be a challenging experience, not only in terms of finding an accommodation but also with regard to the socialization process in a completely new city and country.

The following article seeks to support all potential students joining the mentioned degree programmes by giving hints and suggestions on how to make the start in Groningen as comfortable as possible.

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1. Finding accommodation
The first challenge you will have to face is finding a suitable accommodation in Groningen for the second term of your studies starting in February. Most likely this will happen while you are still in Newcastle and in the middle of your first term’s final exam season. Still, this is manageable, especially if you know exactly where you need to look for potential accommodations. There are several options available to search for students’ apartments and rooms in Groningen:

a. Kamernet
Kamernet.nl (https://kamernet.nl) is probably the most popular website among Dutch students to search for suitable accommodation. Though the website is primarily in Dutch, it is also possible to switch the site’s navigation to English. Some advertisements are written in Dutch, but often will include an English version as well. Since most people in the Netherlands have a very good level of English, it should not be a problem to contact people even if you cannot speak Dutch yet.

The Kamernet website is based on a premium membership model which requires users in order to contact landlords to sign up for a monthly premium membership for either 19€ per 15 days or for 30€ per month (this premium membership has to be cancelled right after you succeeded in finding an accommodation, otherwise it will be automatically renewed every month). While these prices appear to be quite high, the website is a very good option for students to find a suitable accommodation.
Some landlords are particularly looking for Dutch students and due to the huge popularity of the site, there will be a lot of people that are interested in the rooms. This can result in you not receiving a response to some of your enquiries. Nonetheless, Kamernet is the best recommendation for you due to its high volume of available, already furnished rooms, which are often specifically provided for students.

b. Facebook groups
There are several Facebook groups dedicated to students who are trying to find an accommodation in Groningen. Below you find an overview of the most useful groups for international students.

  1. “Student Housing Groningen”:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/505277922908062/
  2. “Kamer in Groningen”:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/149219518438315/
  3. “Student rooms Groningen”:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/StudentRoomsGroningen/
  4. “Free Housing Announcements in Groningen (students group)”:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/162781577095263/
  5. “Wohnungen, WGs & Zimmer in Groningen”:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/158402207571176/

c. SSH
In Groningen, the Stichting Studenten Huisvesting (SSH) (https://www.sshxl.nl/en/cities/groningen) is another excellent option for international students to rent a furnished accommodation. In partnership with Groningen University, the SSH provides students with the option to apply for one of the rooms which were exclusively reserved for internationals studying at Groningen University. These rooms are available from the 1st February onwards and do not require you to participate in a viewing process of potential candidates.
In case you are planning your arrival in Groningen before the 1st February (which is often the case since you probably want to participate in the international induction week of the university) you will need to find a preliminary accommodation for the first few days – AirBnb (https://www.airbnb.co.uk/s/Groningen–Netherlands) is a good option for this.

d. Use your network
During your first semester in Newcastle, you might have become friends with a few international students from the Netherlands as well. You should ask them whether they can help you with the process of finding an accommodation in Groningen either by supporting you with getting through the process on Kamernet or equivalent platforms or by contacting their own personal network. Especially if you invite them for one or two drinks in one of Newcastle’s many nice pubs in exchange, I have no doubt that they will support you right away.

 

2. Arrival in Groningen
To get from Newcastle to Groningen, there are basically two options available for you. You can either go by plane or by ferry.

By plane
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If you choose to travel by plane, your flight will take you from Newcastle to Amsterdam, since this is the closest airport to Groningen. Normally from the 26th January onwards, Groningen University offers a welcoming service for its international students at Amsterdam airport (airport name: Schiphol). You can find more information about this in the introduction guide of the university (a link to it is provided at the end of this article).
The city of Groningen has its own airport as well, but the international connections are very limited. In some cases, you can also consider to take the flight connection from London to Groningen, but the journey to London will take you way longer than choosing the option to traveling via Amsterdam. Thus, the flight to Amsterdam is the recommended option.

By ferry
Ferry to Holland

There is also the possibility to travel from Newcastle to Amsterdam by ferry and then take a connecting train to Groningen. To do so you have to book a ferry ticket in advance on the website of DFDS Seaways (https://www.dfdsseaways.co.uk).In case you travel with other fellow students from your programme, it is cheaper to buy a group ticket, which will be about 30€ – 35€ per person for a 4-person cabin.

After your arrival in Amsterdam, you can take a train connection from Amsterdam Central Station to Groningen. The train to Groningen will take approx. 2 – 2.5 hours and the costs are about 25€.
Everyday there is a ferry that goes to Amsterdam and one that goes to Newcastle. They both leave in the afternoon around 5pm. You will arrive at the destination around 9.30am. While the journey by ferry takes significantly longer than by plane, it is cheaper and the majority of the time you will be sleeping. Another big advantage is that you can take as much luggage with you on the ferry as you can carry. However, be aware that it can be noisy and that the food on board is really expensive, so take your own food with you for the journey.

 

3. Organizing transportation in Groningen
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The preferred mode of transportation in Groningen is by bike. With its bike routes and traffic systems, Groningen’s city infrastructure is especially designed to enhance the bike riding experience and you will find it easy and flexible to get from one place to another. Furthermore, Groningen’s public buses are quite expensive and, to my understanding, there is no monthly subscription available which does not require you to still pay for every single ride. Thus, the bike becomes the best friend of not only students, but nearly every citizen of Groningen.

In case you have not brought your own bike from home (which might have been a wise decision because bikes get stolen quite easily in Groningen, especially the good ones), there are several options to choose from:

a. Buy a new bike
Buying a new bike is probably the most expensive and least recommended option for you. While new bikes offer the benefit of being in a very good shape, they have the disadvantage to attract the interests of many thieves. Especially if you do not have insurance and do not want to spend too much money, then second-hand bikes are the more recommended option.

b. Buy a second-hand bike
There is a huge market for second-hand bikes in Groningen. Prices range from 45 – 120 € and the bike quality can vary significantly.
However, it can not always be assumed that the bikes that are offered to you are the legitimate property of the person who sells it. Therefore, you should use one the many second-hand bike shops around the city centre or Zernike Campus to be on the safe side.

c. Rent a bike
As a double degree student, you will in most cases only stay in Groningen for about six months. For this period of time, you can also make use of a new bike rental concept that was only introduced recently (September 2015) and which offers second-hand bikes to students on basis of a monthly rental contract. The great thing about this option is that in case your bike gets stolen or needs to be repaired, the costs for both are already included in your monthly rental fee.
In the case of a stolen bike, simply go back to the store and report it. If you can provide both keys for the bike locks that were given to you at the start of your rental agreement, you will be provided with a new second-hand bike free of charge. In case of necessary repairs (e.g. broken lights or a flat tire), you simply return the bike to the store and the friendly staff will take care of this for you as well.
Especially considering the monthly rental costs of 29 € (as of March 2016) this can be a real alternative to the purchase of a second-hand bike since it also includes bike insurance and all costs for potential maintenance.
Further details about this option can be found on: http://www.fietsverda.nl/bikeplan.php

4. Different country, different university life

a. Lectures

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While the first semester in Newcastle was mainly assessed by a combination of group assignments, presentations and essays, Groningen University still emphasizes the importance of final exams as a major part of students’ assessment. However, group assignments and research proposals are also important elements.
Groningen University values its reputation for a high focus on academic research, which results in the requirement for students to read a variety of different journal papers for every module on a weekly basis. In some modules, students have the opportunity to hand-in short summaries of these papers for the exam. This, however, requires you to have a weekly learning schedule to stay on top of all deadlines and group projects.
Another difference between Newcastle and Groningen University is that the attendance of lectures at Newcastle University is mandatory, while this is not always the case at Groningen University. Often, students are required to attend the tutorials and seminars, but can decide for themselves whether they want to attend the lectures.

b. Societies
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There are a variety of different student societies at Groningen University. Especially interesting for international students is the Erasmus Students Network (ESN).
The ESN will not only help you to find your way around town by participating in the amazing International Induction Week, which they organize every term (http://www.esn-groningen.nl/esn-introduction-week), but they also offer a variety of networking events for you to stay in touch with other international students and to give you the chance to experience the Dutch culture.

c. Culture
In terms of culture, another recommendation would be to participate in the “Experience Groningen” weekend, which is also organized by the ESN. By choosing one of the different tracks available (Business, Culture, Sports or Science) you can “escape the student bubble and experience Groningen in a completely different way” (http://www.experiencegroningen.com).

d. Sports
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Groningen University offers a variety of different sports and training sessions which students can sign up for at ACLO, the sports centre of Groningen University. ACLO has memberships available for international students that will only stay in Groningen for 6 months. Overall, this is for sure the cheapest offer for students to try out new sports or to keep up their training even while being abroad (http://www.aclosport.nl/en/).

It is not always easy to get used to a new city and a new social environment, but having read through the advice and information above, I am certain that you are well prepared for your term in Groningen and I am sure you will have an amazing time here.


In case you are still looking for further information about Groningen, the culture, the transportation systems or the university itself, the following websites can give you some additional information:

http://www.groningenlife.nl/en/news/the-first-steps-by-arrival

http://www.rug.nl/education/international-students/general-matters/

http://www.rug.nl/education/international-students/getting-started/welcome-to-groningen.pdf

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