Teresa, a Pise student, has chosen the Dutch University of Groningen as the destination for her Erasmus experience. #NothingTopsGroningen is the motto of the city, as well as a play on words: nothing tops Groningen - figuratively but also literally, as it is the most Northern city in the Netherlands.
Groningen is one of the oldest universities in the Netherlands: it was founded in 1614 and grew very quickly, attracting professors and students from numerous European countries. Many young Dutch people move to Groningen from neighboring towns, making it the liveliest and youngest city in the whole Country. The university also placed high in several international rankings, for the high quality of its research and teaching.
Here are Teresa’s 10 tips for a terrific Erasmus experience:
- You don’t need extensive research on your destination. Having some information is a good thing, but if you dig into it too much, you’ll risk getting the wrong idea of the city. Keep calm and discover the place by yourself once you’re there!
- Take it easy on the first week! The first few days might be extra stressful and the things you have to do may seem never-ending. Truth be told, that is rarely the case, so don’t rush and relax.
- Information weeks are useful but… asking to locals is even more useful, especially when it comes to advice on practical things like transportation and sports. Dutch students have been lovely and they shared many tips and tricks with me. They also translated some train companies websites for me!
- Build a comfort zone. Homesickness can be cruel and each of us has a different way to cope with it: cooking a huge amount of pasta, skyping your friends or sweating it off in the gym – the key is knowing how to face hard times.
- Check the weather forecast! This might sound trivial, but choosing the wrong outfits could be a serious problem. Don’t trust common sense or your friends, global warming spares no one.
- Think about your academic career. It’s ok to take advantage of this opportunity to have fun and discover a foreign country, but studying in a different university, with new methods and approaches can give you precious cues for your future.
- Take advantage of your position! Universities often take very good care of Erasmus students, and they’re granted access to several exclusive services like the career service and private mentoring. Use them!
- Look around! Being an Erasmus student is a unique occasion to discover the hidden, less touristy parts of the city, but you can also push further. During the weekends you can visit neighboring cities, go to the beach or trekking in a natural park. When is that going to happen again?
- Try to appreciate your host country. I’m being truly honest here, I miss Italy so much! I (unexpectedly) miss everything - the food, the art, the way Italian people are… This doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate what is currently surrounding me, on the contrary, keeping a positive attitude toward a new culture can help you feeling less homesick.
- Learn from it! For many students, Erasmus is the very first experience where they get to live abroad and on their own. It’s a great opportunity to get to know yourself better, improve and test your limits. Dive right in!