Welcome Walk helps students navigate their neighbourhood
Since arriving in Groningen, I’ve been walking around somewhat dazed and confused, in a new country where even daily life is strange to me. So I was happy to learn that City Central Groningen and GroningenLife have launched a new joint initiative this year, to help international students plug into their neighbourhoods. I decided to join the first Welcome Walk to see what I could learn about the Selwerd neighbourhood.
After some initial confusion about where we were supposed to meet up with our tour guides, we found RUG master students Rianne Kleefman and Moniek Smit waiting for us at the front of the Kornoeljestraat flat. In the meantime, I’d started chatting with my fellow internationals. We were excited to find out that some of us lived in the same building or on the same street. By the time the Welcome Walk began, we felt like friends.
Rianne and Moniek went over some practical information about life in Groningen. I was grateful to get clarification on all the regular life stuff that can feel really overwhelming when you first arrive in a new city, like:
- How to sort and dispose of garbage
- Recycling policies
- How to schedule an appointment with a general practitioner
- The location of the local pharmacy
- Where to go in the event of a medical emergency
We kicked off the tour by visiting some beautiful neighbourhood churches, the local Islamic Center, and a neighborhood shopping complex called Winkelcentrum Selwerd. Our guides explained that this is a good place to find international groceries, buy a used bike, and get reasonably priced bicycle repairs.
Rianne and Moniek were really committed to helping new internationals engage in their communities outside of the university bubble. They took us to a community center in Wijkcentrum De Berk, a local library, and a neighborhood sports complex. I was surprised that Selwerd offers so many affordable ways to meet people that I would never have discovered on my own: sports, group activities, even language classes.
One of my fellow walkers, German exchange student Lotte Hahn, was especially relieved to learn that she is allowed to get involved in community sports. ‘I love sports; and going to a local sports complex helps you get to know people from your neighbourhood and have a better community experience.’
The tour ended with a drink at the De Duindoorn, a new community restaurant on the ground floor of student flat Dragant which officially opens this Monday. It offers affordable international food and drinks, as well as a decent range of vegetarian and vegan options. The Wi-Fi is free and the vibe is cozy.
As I sipped my drink and chatted with my new neighbours, I realised that in just one afternoon I had transformed from an overwhelmed student to someone who could confidently navigate my new neighbourhood, borrow books from the local library and even recommend a new restaurant.
So yes, I would definitely recommend a Welcome Walk to any international student. You can register for the next Selwerd Welcome Walk on September 14 at citycentral.nl. Walks around Paddepoel will start later this year.