Netherlands - #BIMdannmalinGroningen
Podcast #BIM dann mal weg
Have you always dreamed of cycling to university on a beautiful Dutch bike? How about Groningen? In this episode, Emilia tells us about her eventful semester at the Hanzehogeschool in Groningen, which is super modern and futuristic in contrast to the student dormitory. Emilia enthuses about the fastest internet and the best technology this university offers. Interesting snacks like stroopwafeln, Eierbollen and Bitterbollen are also themed - even if they didn't completely convince Emilia. Even though the city is tiny and you meet at least one person you know, the city offers many museums, cute little streets and is, according to Emilia, the sterotypical Dutch dream image that you have in your head. Would you like to experience this beautiful city for yourself? Let's start the journey!
Moderated by Lara Yargiman
Produced by Lara Yargiman and Sonja Zügner in cooperation with the economics student body of FHWS
Sound and editing by Sonja Zügner
Lara: Hello and welcome to our FHWS podcast #Bimdannmalweg. Yeah, in this podcast we talk about the experiences of students who have spent a semester abroad and this podcast is sponsored and supported by the Faculty of Business and Economics.
Today we have a new guest here in my studio and that is Emilia, hello Emilia! Would you like to introduce yourself briefly?
Emilia: Hello Lara! Yes, of course! I'm Emilia and I am from the Würzburg region and I'm currently in my 6th semester of the BIM course.
Lara: Oh yes, and we both had the same focus! Tell me where you spent your semester abroad?
Emilia: I was in our great neighbouring country, the Netherlands, in Groningen.
Lara: Nice! I've definitely heard a lot that it's a nice student city, was that the case?
Emilia: Yes, it's really very nice! It's also somewhat comparable to Würzburg. There are a lot of students there, I think 25% of the inhabitants are students.
Lara: Oh wow, yes, I think it's similar in Würzburg. I definitely looked it up earlier and Groningen is definitely bigger than Würzburg, if I remember correctly.
Emilia: Yes, if I knew how many inhabitants Würzburg has (laughs).
Lara: Yeah, cool, then I'd just say we'll start chronologically. First of all, you can tell us why you came directly to the Netherlands and what the application process was like, and a few facts about Erasmus.
Emilia: Yes, of course, I chose the Netherlands because I wanted to choose a destination country in Europe and a destination country outside of Europe. In Europe, it became the Netherlands because of the holidays I had spent there before, and I liked the country very much. But the language aspect was also decisive, because a lot of people there know English and you can get very far with English in everyday life with the locals. And since the situation with England and the Brexit was very uncertain at the time, I ultimately decided to go to the Netherlands.
Lara: Oh, England was also on the list, was it?
Emilia: Yes, and there was also the issue of the trimesters - so everything would have been a bit more complicated.
Lara: Okay, then you went to the Netherlands. When was that approximately?
Emilia: Yes, I arrived in my student residence in August 2019 and the semester officially started in the first week of September.
Lara: Was it easy for you to find a flat there?
Emilia: That's one of the disadvantages of a student city, or when there are a lot of students looking for a flat... it's a very difficult housing market there. As an exchange student, it's even easier because the universities reserve places in the student halls of residence in advance. But these places are also gone very quickly. I did look into it very early - so in February 2019 I started the registration process and I still only got a room very barely. So, within 2 days of the portals going online, everything is actually almost gone.
Lara: Okay to everyone going to Groningen, apply really early for a place in the student residence. Were you alone in your room or was it a kind of shared flat?
Emilia: It depends on which hall of residence you go to. There are many different types. But you have to say that most of them are converted office buildings. In my case, it was a converted former 10-storey office building from the 70s. There were a lot of double rooms in other halls of residence, but in my case there were only single rooms and that was also the reason why I chose it. There were 15 rooms per unit (there were 2 units per floor), 2 shared bathrooms and a large kitchen and a living room.
Lara: Was it relatively clean?
Emilia: Yes, it was clean. They had a professional cleaning service that came. The only problem was that the hall of residence was very old. It has been closed in the meantime because it is being renovated. But at that time, it wasn't... Everything was fine on my floor, but on other floors I've heard about mould problems or something like that.
Lara: How much did you pay for it?
Emilia: It was expensive, I paid 470 euros a month for it. The cost of living in the Netherlands is definitely more expensive than here in Germany. The rent is usually comparable to Würzburg. The only problem with shared flats is that they're usually looking for someone for a longer period of time, so you hardly have a chance there. I usually went shopping at Lidl and you can basically say that you can add about 1 euro to each product.
Lara: Wow, how much Erasmus did you get then?
Emilia: I'm not really sure anymore, but I think the Netherlands is in the highest or second highest bracket, so I got something between 350-400 euros a month.
Lara: Can you remember how much you spent per month?
Emilia: I lived in a relatively relaxed way because I also received “Auslandsbafög”, so I didn't want to watch every cent. You could have lived more frugally than I did. So, in the end, with rent and living costs, I was already at about 900 euros a month.
Lara: Good, now we've talked about student accommodation, let's move on to the university. How was it at the Hanze Hooge School? How was it there? What were the professors like? What were the courses like? Maybe you can also describe what it looks like? Was it old or modern?
Emilia: Well, as old as my dorm was, the university was the complete opposite. It was brand new and a huge campus just outside Groningen. You could reach it wonderfully by bike - across fields - and it was beautiful. I still love it when I think back on it. The facilities at the university were also amazing. I've never had such fast internet in my life and the technology in general was really the best of the best. The buildings were very clean, and you felt like you were in a film and couldn't believe that such a thing existed.
Lara: So, it was a bit futuristic?
Emilia: Yes, totally. This is also because the Hanze-Hooge School is a bit more technical than, for example, the university in the city centre. It's really very cool and the professors are very modern in their way of thinking. They put a lot of emphasis on innovative thinking and asking questions.
Lara: So, more projects and homework instead of exams, right?
Emilia: I had 2 exams, one of them was a part portfolio exam and the other part was written English. We had to do an English course on site because Dutch was full. The rest was pure group work, which was interesting, but also sometimes exhausting, as you know how it is.
Lara: Were you satisfied with your results? Did they grade well or fairly?
Emilia: Fairly graded in any case! The professors were always open to discussion. There is a slightly different culture towards the teachers. You address each other by your first names, if there was a " Sie" in English, you absolutely wouldn't use it. It's a " Du" culture and you can always talk to them if you don't like something. It was a bit difficult at the beginning because the professors treat you the same way. So, if the professors didn't like something, they told you - often much more brusquely than you're used to here. Sometimes they weren't as diplomatic as you're used to here. But in the end, you could learn a lot from it, and you weren't shaken and you were told "hey I like your idea" or "hey I think you should think about it again" - and that was really cool.
Lara: Yes, that's also what I heard from many people who were in the Netherlands - that you could take away a lot for your further studies. It was also very hard in parts, but you could take a lot away with you because of the teachers and the group work.
Emilia: Yes, I really learned a lot. Especially through the group work! Above all, we had more theory-based learning in the two semesters and then I had to apply the knowledge in the Netherlands. For example, we had to create a complete product and in the end, we made a website. It was really interesting, but also a bit difficult in the meantime. And what you really have to say is that the grading system in the Netherlands is not the best, as it is then converted into German grades. They go from a scale of 0-10, as is often the case in England, and the professors say you can't have anything above 9.0 because you'd have to be perfect for that. And that's why you can only get such a good grade with multiple choice. If you have around 8 points, you're by far the best in the class, but in the grade conversion in Germany, that's a 1.7 if you're lucky or more like a 2.0, which is not so brilliant by German standards - especially when you realise how much work you've put in. That's a bit of a shame, but grades aren't everything. And what I learned in the 6 months there is definitely worth it.
Lara: Oh, that's really nice to hear, Emilia. Yes, well, now we've been to the university, then I'd say a bit more about student life. What was student life like there? Did you meet many internationals and maybe you can tell us something about the party scene?
Emilia: You hear it all the time... Dutch people definitely know how to party. But I was surprised about the locals, they were a bit more introverted than I would have thought at the beginning. And especially since I only lived in a student hall of residence and therefore only had contact with internationals, you see very few Dutch people. I got to know Dutch people in a few group projects but had less contact with locals. As I said, I had more contact with internationals and the city really thrives on that. You can also see the many cultures living together in the city, for example, one bar was completely Spanish, the other Italian, and that was really cool. And it was the same with the internationals. In my student residence in the unit, there was one from Spain, one from Germany, one from Russia and France was also represented. Everyone was so friendly with each other even when they were partying, and that was just great.
Lara: You probably spoke English all the time, didn't you?
Emilia: Yes, definitely! Once I didn't get anywhere with English and that's when I realised that I'm in a country where the main language isn't English. That happened to me once when I was grocery shopping - but a gentleman behind me kindly translated right away.
Lara: Did you learn a bit of Dutch?
Emilia: Unfortunately not, because the course was oversubscribed. You could have done another one privately for about 300 euros, but that was too expensive for me. But I would like to take it again at the FH as an AWPF.
Lara: What was the food like? What specialities did you have? I had a look earlier and saw that you should try bitterballen, stroopwaffels or thick dutch fries. Tell me about it!
Emilia: I'm sorry to say that I haven't really gotten to grips with Dutch food, there are a lot of deep-fried things. But back to the examples you read out before, so stroopwaffles are those really hard waffles that you get stuck in an ice cream when you're in the ice cream parlour. I just don't like them personally, but I know others like them a lot. And regarding the bitterbollen, there are also eierbollen. And eierbollen is a hard-boiled egg that is coated in meat and cooked - that wasn't really my thing either - but I've never tried it either, I have to admit. But what they do have are vending machines where you can open little doors and inside there are burgers and all kinds of things. You get them warm from the vending machines, which are often built into houses. There is also something like that in the party mile in Groningen, where all the young people meet after partying and get their burger from the wall of the house.
Lara: Regarding sightseeing, what can you tell us along the way? Have you also travelled in Holland?
Emilia: Well, there is a lot to see in Groningen itself. It has to be said that the city is small. The city centre is 1 km high and 1.5 km from the left to the right. So, it's very tiny and they also say you can't walk through Groningen without meeting someone. And that was the case every time, whether on a bicycle or by foot. You always met someone you knew. But that also makes the whole community a bit more secretive and I found that very nice. There are definitely a lot of museums there and there is the museum night that goes from 10 o'clock in the evening until the middle of the night. There are also various events in the museums, and I can highly recommend it. I can highly recommend the Groningen Museum at the main station, which always has changing exhibitions of old and modern art and is very cool. Otherwise in Groningen itself there are a lot of small alleys and super cute. I described it as the stereotypical Dutch dream image that you have in your head. It's a beautiful and like a painted city. There's not quite as much in the surrounding area, because Groningen is quite isolated from the metropolitan center like Amsterdam, Denhaag and Rotterdam. But you can get to other cities very quickly by train. It takes about 2 hours by train to Amsterdam or Utrecht. Amsterdam is of course beautiful, but for me personally it is a bit too busy and crowded. That's why I can highly recommend Denhaag and I also found Scheveningen very nice, including the beach. And Utrecht is also a beautiful city.
Lara: If you were playing, I'm packing my suitcase, I think it's a bit rainy there, what would you pack?
Emilia: Well, I have to say we were really lucky with the weather. The summer was very very warm. And that was really funny, because I had a lot of jumpers and rain jackets with me. And when my fellow student and I arrived, it was 38 degrees for the first few days. So, it gets really warm there in the summer. The rain was not too bad for us, and in winter it gets cold. You definitely need a good all-weather jacket in your suitcase so that you are prepared. Only the tourists have umbrellas. Because of the wind, no one uses an umbrella there. A good all-weather jacket and good cycling skills are required.
Lara: Did you buy or rent a bike there?
Emilia: I rented one there. In retrospect, I thought that was the smartest option if you're staying for 6 months. But you have to take care of it early enough, because we came there and hadn't reserved one yet and then had to wait 2 weeks because all the international students came at the same time and needed a bike. That would also be a tip to find out beforehand. I rented a bike, which was good, because I had a flat tyre once or twice and it could be repaired free of charge. Without a bike in the Netherlands, you're really a bit lost. There are many local transport connections, but you're usually faster by bike, especially because many roads are open exclusively for bicycles. You definitely need good cycling skills, because the streets are really rough and you have to be careful if you ride without a helmet (which you shouldn't do, of course), because I've seen one or two bicycle accidents. So, you should be fit on a bike.
Lara: Okay, good to know in any case. Emilia How would you describe your semester abroad in 3 words?
Emilia: Varied, I think would be the first thing I would say. Because as I said earlier, it was very work-intensive with the university. But then again, you also had autumn holidays for a week and then it was totally relaxed again. The second would be work-intensive. Not only in terms of on-site work because it's similar to here in Germany, but you have to do a lot of work because it's often group work. However, you learn so much and I was able to take super much away from it. In my internship, I was also able to apply methods that I learned in the Netherlands and that were useful to me. But also the planning process in advance was intensive, because you have to take care of finding a flat, a bike etc.. It's very cosy there, there's also a Dutch word for it and that's "gesellig" - which means cozy and busy, and that's simply how you can describe the city. So many cultures, so many age groups and so many influences from other countries and because the Netherlands is a big exporting and importing country, you feel like you're in another country in many neighbourhoods and I really enjoyed that.
Lara: Oh, that sounds really nice! Emilia, that makes me happy and maybe we'll interview you about Taiwan next year, because Emilia is going to Taiwan for another semester if it works out. Do you have anything else you'd like to pass on to students, something they should be aware of, or any insider tips?
Emilia: Uh, yes. You really have to say that there is hardly any cash in circulation in the Netherlands. That means you should really consider having a credit card with you that works there. I had the problem that my credit card didn't work in many shops, because not all shops accept Visa or Mastercard and I would check that with the bank in advance. My fellow students always laid something out for me at the beginning and helped me. You can't start looking for flats or student halls of residence early enough. You also have to be proactive in your search for information about courses, etc. I would therefore recommend that everyone look into it. That's why I would recommend everyone to sit down and do some research and see what my options are and what my budget is and how I can deal with it so that I can arrive relaxed and not have to worry about such things.
Lara: Very exemplary Emilia!
Emilia: More like the fear of problems on site (laughs).
Lara: In any case, you gave us important information for the journey. That's it from my side for now and then I thank you very much for taking the time and telling us so much. Hope to see you next year!
Emilia: Hopefully, I hope so too!
As I said, good luck
Lara: Yes my friends, that's it for now about a semester abroad in the Netherlands and if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or via our Instagram @fwiwi.fhws. Until next time, take care and goodbye!