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Diversify Your Friend Groups!

Living in a student city like Groningen has a lot of advantages and disadvantages. Being a student city as well as an international one (⅓ of all students in Groningen are international), Groningen has the benefit of allowing you to make large and diverse friend groups. Whether you are native to the Netherlands, an EU student, or an international from far away, everyone can benefit from diversity in one of the most important aspects of life — friendship!

Cultural Enrichment

Some students have had the privilege of traveling or living abroad for a longer period. However, for many students, this might be their first time living abroad among a crowd of people who are either somewhat or entirely different from them. One of the most valuable aspects of having friends from various cultural backgrounds is that you get to experience the best their cultures have to offer. This includes everything from the melodies typical to their music and the spices and ingredients they prefer in their favorite meals to the wild myths and legends of their history and the little quirks of their languages. If we broaden our horizons, we stand to experience a lot of the world without having to visit these places.

New Perspectives

The people you meet while studying in Groningen have probably lived different lives to your own. If you have problems or issues, their unique perspective might help you find a new way of looking at them. This might lead you to find a new solution you couldn’t have come up with on your own. By accepting others’ perspectives, we expand our own way of thinking. We might become familiar with issues that have never affected us personally, but that we have the power to influence. Creating a world of respect and love can only come from all of us learning to live with each other in an open-minded fashion, by choosing understanding and inclusion over ignorance and isolation.

Practice Makes Perfect

As humans, we naturally gravitate toward groups that are similar to us. This can be that we dress similarly, look like each other, enjoy the same music, or take part in the same hobbies. Similarity is a common foundation for any friendship. However, in a diverse society like this one, we should try to focus on making genuine connections with others based on who they are as a person. It takes a lot of social and emotional intelligence to form and maintain friendships with people of backgrounds that are radically different from your own. This usually means being able to relate their experiences to your own and vice versa. However, there is also the element of cultural prejudice that must be overcome. In overcoming these obstacles, you will find yourself able to make friends with everyone.

Character Over Context

As I’ve said above, I’m sure it is easy for you to become friends with the people from your country who have also come here to study. You share the same language, a similar background, an entire culture, etc. However, Groningen’s greatest gift is being able to provide so many students from all over the world the opportunity to make connections with people who are different from you. I advise you to make friends based on that person’s character — whether they are kind, funny, honest, open, and loving. This will lead to better and stronger bonds than choosing friends based on a similar context like where they grew up or which languages they speak. Get to know someone on a deeper level, support them, and listen to them. This is the great treasure of Groningen.

~ Written by A. Heric