When I came to this city for the first time almost two years ago for a pre-master, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew the pre-master was a great next step on my ‘life journey’ and (hopefully) to a job I’ll enjoy in the long-term, but I hadn’t the faintest clue about what I was getting myself into for the short-term. Nonetheless, I took the plunge.

What I found was a beautiful city, aglow from the parks to the bars to the cafes and beyond. Groningen was a living, breathing city, full of life and positively buzzing with people living their lives working, meeting each other, and surrounded by hordes of students thronging about the city. I couldn’t have been happier with the decision I made.

Then, over a year ago, a dark cloud descended on the city as everyone hid inside from an invisible enemy called covid-19. We enjoyed what little freedom we could, but slowly the city became a prison. This wasn’t an issue unique to Groningen; Ireland felt the same that summer. Dublin had already become inhospitable to its residents long beforehand. In this sense, Groningen lost more.

After sixteen gruelling months, Groningen is returning to its former glory

After sixteen gruelling months, Groningen is returning to its former glory. I look out my window now and see people enjoying themselves in the good weather. A quick cycle through the city in the sunshine and I’m overjoyed to see so many people enjoying an outdoor summer in terraces, parks and around the city streets. They are enjoying their city once more and it shows. The place is aglow again.

Compare that to the situation in Dublin. I look on in horror as Dublin city council officials advertise an ‘outdoor summer’ while they shut parks, remove bins, close toilets and take away public seating for fear ‘people might gather there’. Then they wonder why crowds gather in smaller spaces and bemoan the waste they create, suggest the two are connected and they’ll call you a communist.

Dublin is great if you’re a tourist, but if you’re a resident you better own your own home and have a healthy bank balance to go along with it or the city council seems to want to treat you with hostility. Compare that to Groningen: here students (many working too) live alongside working people and families in harmony. Public parks are open to all and there’s plenty to do for everyone.

If it wasn’t for my family, I mightn’t go back.


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