Situated in one of the Netherlands’ most exciting cities, the University of Groningen offers a combination of academic heritage and intellectual innovation. Over 400 years old, the institution offers students over 100 English-taught degrees in most academic fields.
With such a strong reputation and rich academic delivery in English it is unsurprising that the University of Groningen attracts students from all over the world.
However, the institution is a non-campus university with outposts scattered across the city, which can make it difficult for international students to navigate and feel at home.
The University of Groningen is wise to such difficulties and is renowned for the excellence of its arrival experience.
A community of international students is created before they even set foot in the country by using social media platforms. Facebook groups connect students to the university and each other through a variety of different groups created for nationalities, degree programmes and international student housing.
The groups are used throughout a student’s time at the University of Groningen and many continue to maintain them after graduation to stay in touch with each other.
Jessica Winters, coordinator of marketing at the university explains their strategy.
“Studying abroad is a huge step – different country, different language, different culture, and you don’t know anyone: we want to make it a little less intimidating. We want [students] to feel at home before they arrive”.
Once students have arrived and registered there is a two day Welcoming Ceremony held every August and February. The first day is dedicated to non-European Union students to help them finalise their visas, register with City Hall and receive their residence permits.
On the second day all international students are welcomed by the mayor of Groningen at the oldest church in the city. After being introduced to the rector of the university, representatives of ESN Groningen and the institutional branch of the Erasmus Student Network, the day is taken over by a comedy group made up of international students called 'Stranger Things Have Happened'. Afterwards, students can visit the information fair where they can find out useful information about housing, setting up bank accounts, the library and a variety of university organisations. The event ends with drinks and live music.
Jessica Winters concludes:
“The key to our success is that we make sure that the day is not just about information, but also an event where the students can meet us and we can meet them. We try to keep a balance between the formal and the informal. It is important that students know we understand they are a long way from home and can come to us with whatever problems they have.”