Memories of 3 Years at RUG

I have been in Groningen since 2015 to start my Bachelor degree in Chemical Engineering. I want to look back on my memories during the 3 years that I lived in this city.

I arrived in Groningen on a rainy night in the 25th of August, 2015. It was quite a scary moment for me because as I arrived at Groningen Noord station around 11:30 pm, there was nobody around since it was almost midnight and my friend forgot to pick me up. I had to stand there alone, for approximately 1 hour, to wait for him with my luggage and belongings in heavy rainy weather, but he still did not come. Then, I was quite lucky that I accidentally came across two Dutch students and I asked them for help due to my problem by calling a taxi to take me to my friend’s house.

I was quite surprised that they agreed to help and stay with me until the taxi arrived because they were afraid the taxi would not come and I was just a complete stranger in here and knew nothing about Groningen. That was my very first memory in the Netherlands and from that moment, I was also really impressed with the friendliness of Dutch people and that everyone here was able to speak English. 

To be honest, my first year at the university and Groningen city did not have a lot of memorable moments. The first 2 months here, homesickness was quite problematic for me. I spent most of the time adapting to life, people, culture and especially the weather in the Netherlands. It was really questionable to me how it was possible that the weather here rained really heavily and just after 10 minutes, it was sunny again. In my country, that is impossible!

University life was not really easy for me at the beginning, I struggled and focused on studying quite a lot during my first year so I did not join any committees or activities, I did not have a lot of friends, and I also did not get in touch with too much my classmates except for a few others who also studied “Introduction to Mathematics” with me in block IA. Sometimes, we would have dinner together. Mostly, we talked about the cuisines and eating cultures of Asian countries, specifically my country Vietnam, by using chopsticks for everything.

The second and third years were better and seemed more active for me. I enrolled in the Chemical Engineering program where 80% were international students. I decided to join committees and ACLO to keep in touch more with Dutch students. Alfabetfeest was my very first committee with promo position but because of a personal circumstance, I had to drop out at the last minute. Moreover, it was a real pleasure for me as I was accepted to become treasurer of the Symposium and SpoCo committees under the management of the CB to organize the annual symposium in October 2017 and one of the biggest sports event of the year, Night Volleyball along with the beer relay, November 2017. That was fantastic.

Ah yes, at the beginning of this academic year, I became a Mentor and a Calculus teaching assistant for first-year students. I think this is one the best experiences I have ever had. Looking at the first-year kids, that reminded me of 2 years ago when I first came here. Grading their homework, computer assignments, exams, helping them to solve the problems and questions during the tutorial besides my studying time enabled me to deeply grow as a person and improve my intellectual ability. Furthermore, as a Mentor, I listened to their difficulties, exam pressure and personal circumstances. I thought only I suffered those problem when I was in my first year because I came from Asia, a completely different culture, but I just realized other students did as well so there was a sympathy between the students and myself.

It was a happiness for me to help them with Calculus like integration, limit, derivatives, functions,  etc and give them the advice and study experiences.

There would be a pity if during the 3 years I lived here, I did not know anything about SinterKlaas and could not speak and understand Dutch in some simple contexts. I had the opportunity to celebrate SinterKlaas with my SpoCo and Axie committees in a heavy snowy night in the middle of December. It was such an interesting experience writing a poem for someone that you don’t really know and have never met before, which was what I did. And I received presents from my chairman in the SpoCo with a chocolate letter T (for Tuan haha), cheese hat, Dutch cake, etc.

I also decided to attend a Dutch class. Trust me, my pronunciation was awful, I still cannot pronounce some words like Groningen, or Maastricht. Because of that, I almost failed my A1 level class due to my terrible Dutch speaking skills.  

Now it’s March, which means that my time at the University of Groningen has nearly come to the end. I will have to leave the Netherlands as soon as I finish my Bachelor, with such an amazing place, friends, and memories, those things will be on my mind. The second country in my heart is always the Netherlands.

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