Starting university is for most of us a really big change and a start of a new chapter. Especially if you are seeking to study abroad, there are so many expectations. Growing up on American teenage movies, an idea about what university is like may be quite different from reality. And although everyone’s experience is different, there are a few things I wish I knew when I was starting my first year.
Even though before coming to Groningen, I read all these different articles and guides for students and was trying to prepare myself for the year ahead, coming to such a hectic, unknown environment made me feel rather intimidated by, well, everything. Although everyone I met was in the same place I was, moving away from home and with no previous college experience, I though others had it all figured out so quickly. I got lost, I was forgetting things, I overslept so may classes, fell of my bike multiple times, had no idea what lectures were about and stayed until 2am figuring out assignments cause I was terrified of going to classes unprepared. It took me a whole year to realize, but people are just as big of a mess as you are and even though most won’t seem like it, it is not easy for anyone and we all have the same struggles.
Well, obviously, you are living in the Netherlands, but I though taking a bus or walking would be just fine. However, you can’t survive a dutch lifestyle without one. Never before have I biked in a city, and I though that would be the hardest thing ever having to pay attention to all the signs and other cyclers whilst carrying a heavy bag filled with books and rushing to class, but once you hop on one you don’t even think about it. You just go with a flow. Also on a night out, your best friend is your bike and even if you are drunk, biking zig zag is an ultimate college experience which is also kinda inevitable.
Now, I used to help around house, do groceries and tidy my room, but living on your own is a whole new level of responsibility. Cause, really, the only person who can and must do certain things is you. Cleaning will be creeping around the corner until you do it, groceries won’t carry themselves, cooking is going to be a chore and you will have to learn how to prepare nutritional meals (no, frozen pizza is not one) and paying rents, looking after your bike and running any other kind of errands is going to take up a lot more of your time than you think. So do not postpone those things even though being responsible is one of the hardest things to manage when you’re 18.
Making friends after you just said goodbye to your best friends you had for years back home seems rather impossible. Connecting and getting close to people again is difficult especially when you are shy. However, Groningen is full of thousands of interesting and nice people and whether it is at university, student association, in your student house or on a night out, you will for sure find people to hang out with and you won’t be lonely.
One of the biggest student struggles is being broke yet always in need of money. And when you are on your own, keeping up with your monthly budget is much harder than it seems. Starbucks coffee, ordering food, alcohol and shopping all seem very appealing until you are down to your last cents, eating cup noodles and waiting for the new month to come around. Make a plan of how much you can and will spend on things and try stick to it, write down what you spent and even if you do it for only a few months it will help you get a better overview of how much things cost and where you can save up. Also, you could try find a student job as the city itself offers many.
As if it was not easy enough, but I found most of my friends including myself gained weight during the first year. The whole freshmen 15 thing is indeed true. And you don’t even notice it until the jeans you came in from home don’t fit anymore. A few late night dominos orders, binging on jumbos busicuits and 4 loafs of bread for 1€ at the market are all going to find their comfortable spot and exam stress is definitely not going to help the whole situation. Good thing is, Groningen really offers various options for you to keep fit and it just so happens we have a blog post about it 😉.
Of course, when you are a student, every mistake is forgiven and these few years will serve as life lessons. So if you feel like you are failing at the threshold of adulthood, honestly who isn’t. Apart from being scary and challenging, it will also be a lot more fun than you would think and that is also one more thing nobody tells you!
Written by Elena PR Committee