Photo by Zuzana Ľudviková

Hooray for study buddies

Cramming better together

Photo by Zuzana Ľudviková
Exams are upon us again and that means poring over your books in an overcrowded library. These students discovered that having a study buddy helps them stay motivated. ‘It feels better when you’re not in this alone.’
16 January om 13:15 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 17 January 2024
om 10:51 uur.
January 16 at 13:15 PM.
Last modified on January 17, 2024
at 10:51 AM.
Avatar photo

Door Veronika Bajnokova

16 January om 13:15 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 17 January 2024
om 10:51 uur.
Avatar photo

By Veronika Bajnokova

January 16 at 13:15 PM.
Last modified on January 17, 2024
at 10:51 AM.

Lara Saber (26) and Nina Razavy (27)

For Lara and Nina, setting a date to study together serves as their motivation to get out of bed in the morning. Knowing she has someone she can rely on, Nina says, means she won’t procrastinate on her assignments. More importantly, breaks are so much nicer when she can hang out with her best friend.

They study together on the fourth floor of the UB every day, but their session cannot start without chatting for half an hour over a cup of coffee first. ‘We’re like family. If Nina goes on holiday, it feels like something is missing’, says Lara.

Middle Eastern origins

It was almost seven years ago that they met during their bachelor programmes here in Groningen. A friend introduced them, because they reminded her of each other. They’re both Dutch of Middle Eastern origins and when they met, they greeted each other with an Arab zaghrouta, a ululating cheer of celebration often heard at weddings. They clicked instantly.

If Nina goes on holiday, it feels like something is missing

Nina, who is in the first year of her master in marketing analytics and data science while also finishing her master thesis in international relations and international organisation, is the driving force behind their study sessions. ‘I fucked up a lot of times and now I’m still sitting here. I just want to be done with this.’

Meanwhile, Lara, who is now working on her master thesis in biomedical engineering, is taking it easy. ‘I’m nice to myself. What if I study the whole day in the UB and then I die tomorrow?’ Her favourite excuses for skipping a study session include not having slept well, not feeling good, and having a headache.


Both have ADHD, though they experience it slightly differently. For Lara, repetitive music like techno helps her to focus, while Nina, for whom it can take up to one hour to get into study mode, usually listens to Arctic Monkeys or Lana del Rey when studying. 

They come to the UB to avoid distractions, but they’re not always very productive. Instead of studying, Lara sometimes ends up looking for trips to go on, she confesses. And Nina struggles to put away her phone, but Lara often takes it away from her. ‘Studying just feels better when you know you’re not in this alone’, says Lara. 

Cris Cacencu (21) and Annika Selesnew (25)

Cris and Annika don’t push each other to study too much, and that’s what they like the most about studying together. Their sessions are more like chill hangouts, and sometimes they just end up chatting and crocheting.

The Riemer bookshop café is the best study spot in the city, according to the psychology students. The walls full of books are what they like most about the place, although they admit they’ve never even bought a single book there. ‘It’s very cozy and warm’, Annika says. ‘Not like the library, where I’m afraid to make too much noise with every move.’

Every Tuesday

They come to the store every Tuesday at 2 p.m., order a chai latte, and have their weekly catch-up. When the drinks arrive, it’s time to get down to business. ‘If you want to take a break’, Cris explains her favourite part about studying together, ‘you don’t have to blame yourself, but you can blame the other person.’

Annika thought of Cris as ‘cool but also warm’ when they met. Being too shy to approach her, Annika just waited for Cris to ask her out. ‘And then you said you didn’t mean to ask me on a date, which was super weird’, Annike laughs. Cris admits she had a little crush on her at first, but now they’ve been best friends for two years.

It’s nice knowing there’s someone you can complain to

‘We don’t have to talk every day, but we still put effort into the relationship’, Cris explains. One of the ways they maintain their friendship is by sending each other postcards. Before the beginning of the school year, Annika, who is from Germany, received a postcard from Cris’ hometown in Romania. Cris wrote she was ‘looking forward to reading in the café’ and that they ‘will get through this year together’.


It’s the time they spend together that matters, they say, not how productive they are. ‘It’s nice knowing there’s someone you can complain to,’ says Cris. But if she complains too much, Annika will block her out with noise-cancelling headphones. 

If one of them says she’s hungry, that’s the sign to wrap up and leave. It doesn’t matter how much work they manage to get done, having dinner with an episode of Friends on in the background is always the priority. It’s their little ritual after every study session. 

Gerjan Borneman (23) and Mats de Boer (24)

Gerjan and Mats meet to study three times a week. Sometimes they end up taking long breaks, but that doesn’t matter, because they talk about their studies a lot. That’s how they inspire each other to research new topics for their classes.

When they were doing their bachelor in history, they had a study group of seven people. Now it’s just Gerjan and Mats left, and they still show up at their usual study spot in the Harmonie building near the journalism newsroom.

Introduction day

They became friends during the introduction day, five years ago. ‘I felt the pressure to meet people, which isn’t something that comes naturally to me, and I recognised this in Gerjan as well’, Mats says. ‘We stuck together and felt that we weren’t alone anymore.’

Both like ancient history, they’re roommates and they just started sword fighting together. Mats, who’s currently doing a master programne in classics and ancient civilisations, describes their relationship as operating on autopilot: ‘It’s very chill after all those years. I don’t have to think about how I present myself.’

If I want to talk about what I’m studying, I have the perfect person next to me

He finds it very helpful to study with Gerjan – a research master student in classical, medieval, and early modern studies – because they focus on similar topics. ‘If I want to talk about something I’m studying right at that moment, I have the perfect person next to me’, he says. 

Gerjan studies at the Harmonie building five days a week. ‘My brain doesn’t work at home’, he explains. ‘I can’t think about studying at home.’ He’s always the first one to arrive and by the time Mats joins him, he’s ready to have his second cup of coffee. 


‘I’m way more productive when I study alone’, Gerjan admits, ‘but I don’t always have to be productive.’ He says his favourite part about studying in the Harmonie building is hanging out with Mats. ‘I’m about to get back to work and then Mats proposes to get coffee. And we end up getting coffee for a whole hour’, he laughs. Usually, Gerjan goes through five cups of coffee a day.

But the long breaks are an important part of their study sessions. ‘We motivate each other to take breaks’, says Mats. ‘It’s nice we found each other to do this, because it’s dangerous to overwork yourself.’