By Léa-Claire Tersou – First year student
As someone who has always lived in big capital cities, coming to Groningen was a complete change of scenery. I had finished high school persuaded that everything was already planned, that my studies were what would really define the rest of my life. What I found instead was that most of my plans had crumbled, and before I even noticed I had moved to Russia as an au pair for a year. Coming back in April from one of the most wonderful experiences of my life, I began my university visits across Europe to find the best fit for me. Thus, I set off for a week across the UK and the Netherlands, with only an over packed suitcase and a ton of existential questions. Yet, it was the day I spent in Groningen which was the decisive factor of my decision, for when I opened my blinds on that late April’s day at 7:00 am…
I found that it was snowing. So I paused, tried to make sense of it, but I was too exhausted from the night before to really make sense of it. The day before had been hectic, between missing my bus to Amsterdam, taking the wrong train to Maastricht instead of Groningen, which lead to me being lost for 6h in the NS system, stumbling from town to town in the pitch dark of the countryside. As a matter of fact, I broke down in tears 5h hours I, lamenting that there was no way I could go to university in Groningen if took me 6h+ each time.
With my fatigue, my nervousness, and my uncertainty for what I would finally find in Groningen, I went forth and found my hotel in the middle of the night. It only dawned on me later that I had actually chosen a junky/prostitute hostel, and that the man who kept passing back and forth in front of the lobby probably thought I was one too.
But the point is, I woke up that morning, and it was snowing in April. I checked out and dragged my exhausted body, over packed suitcase, and existential questions through the snowflakes and across the streets that seemed so bizarre but are now so familiar. The Grote Markt, the Vismarkt, that-one-street whose name I don’t know but always has these gorgeous boats docked by it. As I headed for UCG, the sun finally made its appearance. The closer I got there, the more people materialized in the streets, ready to take in the beautiful day, the lively colors of the city, and seemingly undisturbed by the snow that had fallen 15 minutes earlier.
At UCG I met Anne, who shook my hand in the firmest of ways, and very kindly took me through the building. It was light, new, comfortable, and comforting. I loved how it felt like an open space with no ceiling, and how it was thought out so that people could speak to each other, have common areas in which to relax and study. I met teachers, and fellow students.
By the end of the day I was convinced.
To be honest, it is hard to say what exactly out of this odd experience in Groningen really connived me. I have never been a fan of classical education, of massive anonymous lectures in gigantic cities where one feels quantified, like a number.
All I knew is that after my gap year in Russia, if anything, I felt confident, and pioneering. When everything fell apart everything changed, but especially I changed, a lot. I found myself seeking for something without knowing exactly what it was.
Coming to UCG I placed my trust in a new program. I placed my trust in the administration, in the teachers, in my peers, but especially, in myself. I was choosing to trust that I, given the time, the help, the means, and the guidance whilst I explored, I would find my way. That I am sufficiently strong and independent to enter a new program, and that I am motivated enough to grow with it and make something great out of it.
Perhaps it sounds simplistic, but I believe I made the right choice. I have made great friends, I’ve studied a range of subjects from fascinating to unbearably boring, and I loved it.
My reasoning might not resonate with everyone, but in a world filled with changes and unexpected events, all we seek is a chance to explore them. That for me was Groningen, and it is UCG.