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Polya Pencheva: What it’s like being a student in the famous Dutch university city of Groningen

Being an expat student in Groningen is certainly a once in a lifetime experience. The cultural shock immediately slaps you in the face because of the bitterballen and the frikandelbroodje. But let’s not get into the cultural specifics.

This post is about what it feels like to be a student in the remarkable city of Groningen.

The Academy building (photo by Polya Pencheva)

The feeling

It is difficult to express the magic behind the spirit of the student life in Groningen in writing as it is something experienced once in a lifetime. When you see the Academy building of the RUG (De Rijksuniversiteit Groningen), you get this sweet nostalgic feeling about the good days and memories come to your mind. You start thinking about the sleepless nights preparing for exams, the countless coffees you drank because the exam was 48 hours away and you didn’t study for it. Yes, this is the feeling that Groningen leaves in your heart.

But what makes it so special is the fact that every time you go away, you just feel dragged back to it as if you are pulled with an invisible rope. 

The city gives you a great sense of belonging because the two universities in the city – Hanze University and RUG – are just so international and the city is  full of different people. You never know when you’ll meet somebody from your country or somebody who speaks your language.

That’s the magic of the student community of Groningen – you will meet some of the best people in your life.

You will make unforgettable memories like biking home tipsy after a party, being chased by ducks, receiving a diploma in front of your closest friends, finding love and growing up.

Good places to study

Even though I am the person who always did all sorts of academic work at home, I still have some valuable tips on where to study when you need to get away from your house.

• One of the places is Coffee Company which is located at Oude Ebbingestraat . Apart from the great coffee, they have a quiet room in which people’s chit-chat won’t be a distraction and you can focus on writing, reading or whatever you need to do for your courses. 

• The second and probably one of the most famous locations in town for studying is Zernike. This is the campus that contains the scientific part of the RUG, some exam halls and all of Hanze’s buildings. As a person surrounded by game designers I used to spend time preparing my thesis there and it did help me lots. 

The Northern Sun Festival (photo by Polya Pencheva)

Great bars and places to chill

Drinks at The Cabin

To be honest, no matter how long you have been living in Groningen, there is still no chance to visit any single bar, café or restaurant unless you make this the goal of your stay. One of the places that cannot be missed is the De Drie Gezusters (The Three Sisters). Located literally in the heart of the city centre, this spacious location offers everything from breakfast to DJ parties at night. 

Personally speaking, my favourite bar is called The Cabin. I love this place because it has some of the best cocktails that I have ever tasted. In addition to this, it is way quieter and smaller than The Three Sisters, which offers a great atmosphere to chill, enjoy your drink and dive into conversations about life.

Photo by Polya Pencheva

One small tip for newcomers to Groningen, there are so many amazing places to visit outside of the city centre such as Stadspark, Kardinge or the Reitdiephaven.

The parks are  amazing locations for barbecues in the summer and walks during the rest of the time when it is not raining, while Reitdiep is worth seeing because of the amazing view it has.


See more about university life in Europe here in Dispatches’ archives.

Read more from Polya here.

Polya Pencheva

Polya Plamenova Pencheva is a young Bulgarian journalist based in Groningen, Netherlands. Polya holds a Master's degree in journalism from Rijksuniversiteit Groningen and loves writing and telling the untold stories of interesting people. You can find her dining at cute café, shopping at markets, scouting second-hand shops or just chillin' at home with something great to read.

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