Pimping the RUG on Reddit

American Studies students aren’t guaranteed an exchange to an American university. Thom Groen took matters into his own hands – he’s pimping the RUG on Reddit.

After stepping out into the cold from the bustling UB, Thom Groen, a 21-year-old American Studies student, reveals his plan. It sounds like a guerrilla marketing company’s dream come true.

‘It was kind of crazy. Since the amount of students from my programme who can go abroad depends on how many American students come here, I tried to imagine a way that I could make that happen’.

Like many in the American Studies department, Thom was motivated to choose the programme on the assumption that he would be able to study in the United States. But last year, only 14 American Studies students managed to go on exchange, and 110 students are enrolled in the programme this year. He wanted to take action to improve his odds

Scouring subreddits

His plan was to scour Reddit for subreddits of universities that the RUG has exchanges with and start posting. UNC, UVA, USC, UCF (not the one in Friesland) – in total, he posted in eleven subreddits dedicated to American universities. Somewhat ironically, the RUG doesn’t have one.

Thom introduced himself, explained his dilemma, and then set out to pimp the RUG and the city of Groningen in the hopes of persuading American students to come here so he can go there.

‘I had this vision of American students who want to study abroad walking into an office at their university and seeing a wall full of options in Europe, but I figured that probably none of them had heard of Groningen. So, I decided to advertise it myself.’

On the site, he sang Groningen’s praises, emphasizing that it’s a major university city with a sizable student population, which brings with it a thriving nightlife scene. ‘The university itself is great and always scores high on the worldwide rankings’, he added, in his best impression of a one-man marketing department. To seal the deal, he added links to photos of the Academy Building, the canals and the Central Station.

It just might work

He owned up to his vested interest, too: ‘Obviously I have a double agenda here, but not only does you going to Groningen raise my chances to go to the United States for a semester, you will have an amazing time here.’

His plan just might work. ‘I thought maybe even if two people read it and one person decided to come, that would be a success’, he says, but it went better than that. He got dozens of replies to the original posts, three private messages on Reddit and six emails – out of those, he thinks five of the students are seriously considering coming to Groningen thanks to his campaign. ‘I actually have confirmation of two American students from UNC-Chapel Hill who are coming to the RUG next semester thanks to my little campaign’, he says.

‘I know I can’t do anything big to increase my chances of going other than keeping up my grades and writing a good motivation letter, and I felt like this was the one thing that I could actually try.’

He plans to mention the campaign in the motivation letter, which he was working on the in UB. ‘I hope I can demonstrate to them that I’ve succeeded in finding students to come here before even going abroad.’

Even if he does get to go, he knows he also doesn’t have any influence over where he ends up. All he can do it hope that his little campaign works – and keep spending time on Reddit.