Love at first sight at Welcoming Ceremony

For some internationals, it’s love at first sight: attending the Welcoming Ceremony at the Academy Building makes a very good first impression.

The RUG certainly knows how to make a good first impression. Hundreds of newly arrived internationals were amazed by the splendor of the Academy Building during the Welcoming Ceremony.  ‘I’ve never seen stained glass outside of a history text book before’, says Taiwanese business student Harry Chang, admiring the aula where he, along with more than 500 internationals, waited for the event to begin.

Martinikerk not big enough

There were so many students that the aula couldn’t fit them all. An overflow room with a live video feed was set up in the Offerhaus lecture hall upstairs. Judith Barthel, coordinator of the welcoming ceremony, confesses that it is hard to gage exactly how many students will attend. Finding enough space to handle its growing popularity was a problem last fall as well – the Martinikerk was also not big enough for the 1,500 students in attendance at the September ceremony.


Lost bikes, bad weather

Whether the students were watching in the Offerhaus or in the aula itself, the speakers made it clear to the students that Groningen is more than just pomp and circumstance. With a comic tone set by hosts Kees de Vries and Tom Wilcox of Stranger Things Have Happened, all of the speakers tackled the themes of lost bikes, bad weather and even worse food. President Poppema said that the university’s location in the province, municipality and city of Groningen made mastering the Dutch ‘G’ a cruel necessity for students. Retired professor Gregory Ashworth, whom Wilcox excitedly called ‘Professor Dumbledore’, encouraged the students to see their study abroad as a voyage of self-discovery.

Armin van Buren clips

One of the last speakers was ESN president Mike Kolman, and the two rooms on the ground floor dedicated to signing internationals up for the ESN introduction week both had lines out the door. Armin van Buren clips playing in the background gave an oddly club-like vibe to the crowded tables where volunteers registered the students. Kolman said that they could only accept 350 participants during the fair, but ESN will also offer a shorter version of the week – minus the biggest weekend events – for people who didn’t make the cut. welcomingceremony003

Shoulder to shoulder

While ESN’s wing of the ground floor was packed, roughly 20 other student organizations stood shoulder to shoulder in the information fair. Set up between the Bruins Hall and the Mirror Hall, it felt like walking a friendly gauntlet of pamphlets and flyers from all of the organizations and clubs. Sadly for Harry Chang, there was no stand for a basketball team. He is hoping to find a way to play while he’s here, even though he realizes that being tall is less of an advantage among the Dutch.

‘Speak Dutch with me’

With clubs like the Association of Latin American Students, the African Students Community and the Indonesian Student Association, students could still stay close to home while abroad. To avoid that tendency, the board members of the ASC approached every single person who came by. On the more pragmatic end of the fair, city hall had a stand alongside groups providing health insurance and housing information. Across the room, the Language Center handed out pins for students who want to practice Dutch, reading: ‘Spreek Nederlands met mij!’ – ‘Speak Dutch with me!’ welcomingceremony004

Students still marveled out loud in a variety of languages at the beauty of the Academy Building as the day wound down. Surrounded by a small cluster of internationals wandering to a final lecture after the fair, Catarina Ramos, a Portuguese business student, says, ‘It looks like a palace.’