Alternative study spots

Get out of the UB

Exam time always sees hundreds of students flocking to the UB. You can find people poring over a book or their laptop all over the city, though: in an empty classroom, at the Forum, or even at a climbing centre. What’s so great about those spots?
Text and photos by Zuzana Ľudviková
17 October om 16:27 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 18 October 2022
om 10:22 uur.
October 17 at 16:27 PM.
Last modified on October 18, 2022
at 10:22 AM.

Duisenberg classroomsTomáš KošárekSlovakiaEconomics and Business Economics

Tomáš has found an unusual refuge in the Duisenberg building: he’s the only person in an otherwise empty classroom, his books and possessions spread out generously on a desk.

During his April exam period last academic  year, he set out on an expedition to find a study spot that was quiet and empty. ‘I had a bet with a friend to study at each UG faculty, including libraries and classrooms.’

Now Tomáš seeks out the serenity of empty classrooms when he needs it the most. 

He’s never been kicked out. ‘Once I was playing loud music in one of the big studios. A janitor came and I got terribly scared.’ If the same thing had happened in Slovakia, he would probably have been scolded and shouted at, which would discourage him from studying there again forever. 

This janitor just looked at him, though, listened for a while and said: ‘Nice job, keep going!’ Tomáš was delighted. ‘What a great cultural shock!’

UB Cafeteria Shehryar Imran Ejaz Pakistan MA Social Media and Society

Shehry is a library regular, but the cafeteria is his go-to study spot because he likes it when there is something going on around him. ‘I hate total silence, so I always study at places that are lively and where I feel people’s presence.’ 

He has a whole variety of other study spots at hand, as well. ‘Every day, I choose a spot based on my mood. I think it’s only normal that people don’t study at one particular place all the time.’

The mess that people leave behind in the cafeteria annoys him, though. ‘I hate it when people leave random leftovers on the table and I have to clean it myself.’

To stay even more productive, he often uninstalls all social media apps on his phone and only reinstalls them when he’s done with the work. But if there is a cricket match going on, that also disrupts his productive grind.  

And yes, besides studying he also eats in the cafeteria – grabbing a snack from the centre and eating it there is regularly on Shehry’s study agenda.

Climbing centre Apex Boulders Soňa Ondrejčáková Slovakia Spatial Planning and Design

With the facility only a ten-minute bike ride away from the city centre, Soňa can often be found at Apex Boulders, a paradise for Groningen climbers. But today, instead of bringing her climbing gear, she has come in a turtleneck and white Oxford shoes. Right around the corner, several climbers are conquering heights. 

Soňa has been climbing for six years now. She likes to move around and maintain her climbing progress about three to four times a week. ‘Sometimes, weather or laziness might keep me from climbing. But studying here helps me stick to my climbing routine.’

She always studies before climbing and never after. ‘Every session wears me out and afterwards, I’m literally dead tired and fall into bed right away.’ 

A steady routine that consists of studying in the morning and winding down in the evening helps her be more productive. This way, she escapes the constant stress and doesn’t feel as drained. There’s also a social element to it, though: she likes hanging out at Apex Boulders because she meets her fellow climbers here.

Forum Owen Givlin France Artificial Intelligence

On Saturday evenings, the Groningen Forum is beyond busy. People have come to see a fashion show, a concert, or a dance event – but Owen is studying amidst it all. With noise-cancelling headphones, of course. ‘Although I’m not really that productive now’, he says when the moderator’s voice blares through the speakers. ‘Maybe today wasn’t the best day to come here, but I decided to roll with it.’ 

Despite a hangover from last night, he’s been here for two and a half hours now and is overall happy with his productivity. 

Today, Owen is working on some coding and maths for his Language and Speech Technology assignment. Originally, he was supposed to see an exhibition, but his friend fell ill and cancelled. Owen decided to stay anyway.

Distracting sounds and people walking around are just a part of the Forum study experience, he says. He tries to stay disciplined by telling himself to go back to work when something catches his attention. 

So what does help his productivity? ‘I actually don’t know. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of group work, so not letting my group members down has been quite a motivation. This is the last assignment that I have to do on my own and having put it off for two weeks now, the Monday deadline is the only thing keeping me productive.’

Well, not the only thing: Owen promised himself that if he finishes his work early, he can do something fun tomorrow.

Duisenberg Plaza Kristyn van der Veen The Netherlands Business Administration

Overlooking the grey weather from a nice spot by the window, Kristyn keeps a rather minimalistic set-up while working – only a laptop and a sheet of paper. 

At the moment, she is dealing with several smaller tasks: sending emails to her tutorial group, looking up articles for her bachelor thesis and doing some work for her faculty council.

Last year, she used to spend a lot of time at the Duisenberg building because she was on the board of her study association. Now, the study spot is part of her daily rhythm.

The table she is occupying right now is a bit higher, which Kristyn finds convenient, since sometimes she likes to switch between standing and sitting. ‘The chairs are pretty low compared to the height of this table, but it doesn’t really matter to me which table I’m at.’ The important thing is that she can make a call when necessary, which is impossible in the library.

However, studying here can sometimes be distracting, especially when people start rolling out of the study associations corner. Kristyn knows most of them, which makes it a less tactical place to study, she says laughing. ‘But it’s always nice to have a chat when a friend stops by.’

Bernoulliborg study area Inés Desojo Spain Mathematics & Physics

In the Bernoulliborg building, Inés is one of the few girls occupying the study landscape area, a place which gives the impression of a start-up company with several flocks of students working together. This is one the few official study places where talking is allowed, and having a small snack is also tolerated socially.

Today, Inés is studying by herself, and it looks like the guys at the next table, engrossed in a lively discussion, don’t bother her. Her attention is set on numbers and equations. This quantum physics assignment keeps Inés busy, as the deadline quickly approaches. ‘Originally, I came here because I had a job interview in the observatory, but I don’t plan to stay long. It’s been an hour so far.’ 

She thinks this study area is a nice place for a group to work together on a project. ‘It’s better than the library, because you don’t have to be completely quiet.’ 

But for Inés, studying with other people doesn’t always work well. ‘Although it is great for discussing ideas, I get distracted when my friends keep asking me questions.’ And what helps Inés stay productive? ‘Being on my own, studying and focusing.’

Eendrachtskade 2 Mauricio Bueno Austria Physiotherapy
(Hanze University of Applied Sciences)

Mauricio has the luxury of not having to go outside to study: he lives at Xior Student Housing’s building on the Eendrachtskade, which has dedicated study areas. It’s laundry day, so mid-studying, he goes to check on his clothes. Very convenient, he feels.

He likes to be around people when he’s studying, so he doesn’t feel alone. ‘Quiet study areas like this one simply motivate you to study better, since you’re already there among other hard workers. In my room there are just too many distractions – my bed and the fridge!’

At the moment, he’s reading the Dutch physiotherapists’ association’s guidelines, which are used for certain medical health issues. ‘I just started, so it’s going well, my energy is not yet depleted.’

Since he lives right upstairs, he sometimes can’t resist the urge to come here in his slippers. However, he still prefers wearing normal shoes, so that he doesn’t feel too comfortable when studying. ‘It’s mostly psychological.’

It may be tempting to keep studying when you don’t have to leave the building to do so, but Mauricio never pulls all-nighters. That makes it more difficult for a person to fall asleep  later, he explains. ‘Some days I used to study until one in the morning. But if it’s not absolutely necessary, I try to avoid that.’ 

Energy Academy Madalena Lima Portugal Astronomy

The sustainable Energy Academy building exudes a peaceful silence and is nice and warm, something every student  will appreciate during the energy crisis. It’s Friday afternoon and it feels as if the whole building is empty, save for the four people in the study area. Madalena is one of them, alone at the long table, tapping away at her laptop keyboard.

She comes here often. ‘It’s almost never full and I really enjoy the nice view of the greenhouse.’ Studying in the greenhouse itself isn’t really an option, because of the lack of power outlets and the fact that the temperature there is always either too low or too high. So for now, this study spot is the best place to go.

Studying in a well-hidden place like this has its benefits, because Madelena doesn’t get recognised by other people and that’s useful when the pressure’s on. ‘If I’m studying for an exam, I’d rather do it alone.’