Rainy but ‘gezellig’ Welcoming Ceremony

The excitement was clear on the just-landed fresh faces filling the Martinikerk on Thursday. About 500 newbies experienced the first official University event of their exchange during the Welcoming Ceremony for international students.

The ceremony took place at one of the most important buildings in the city, but that wasn’t the original plan. According to ISD staff, the winter ceremony was supposed to be held in the Academy Building, but it was already booked. It was also held in the Martini church in September, but there were no space problems this time for the smaller January crowd.

Sex, drugs and fun

After a pleasant classical performance by student orchestra MIRA, the official ceremony started with a funny speech by Stranger Things Have Happened. As always, they made the audience laugh out loud as they covered Dutch stereotypes about legal drugs, sex, and stolen bikes. In the same friendly tone, President Poppema focused his speech on the increasing number of RUG studies available in English, as well as the university’s ongoing internationalization.

All about ‘selfies’

ESN President Marlieke de Vries also welcomed the new students with useful information about their activities. After her speech, the STHH actors couldn’t keep themselves from comparing the RUG to Hogwarts as they welcomed retired professor Gregory Ashworth, nicknamed ‘Dumbledore’, to the lectern. His wise words reminded new students that an exchange always comes with good and bad moments. His most important advice: ‘You are here to learn about yourselves’.

The last guest of the ceremony was Mayowa Oduola, an economics and business student from England who gave handy tricks and tips about student life. The grand finale of her speech was a big audience selfie from the lectern along with Thomas Mook, one of the STHH hosts.

After the speeches ended, the students wandered into the chilly halls in the back of the church. There, around 30 organizations and student associations participated in the Information Fair to help students find activities and groups according to their interests.

Long queue

ESN’s area was the busiest due to the opening of registration for their Introduction Week. Erika Feerice, a 21-year-old student of commerce from Ireland, didn’t hesitate to join the long queue to sign up. ‘I expect it to be a nice initiative to get to know new students from different faculties and backgrounds’, she says.

Other students, like Zhang Xiying, a 20-year-old student of economics and business from China, didn’t find the location of the ceremony that appealing. ‘I really enjoyed all the events and the speeches were so fun, but I didn’t expect to be inside a church with no decoration’, she says, referring to the lack of ornamentation in the Dutch church. She prefers Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Although Zhang and her friends didn’t seem interested in the ESN activities, they enthusiastically decided to attend the Stampot Evening, a regular activity of the international Christian organisation HOST, on 6 February.

Closing the event with free drinks and snacks, the University gave a warm welcome to the new exchange students, despite the bad weather. The event coordinators can only hope that the ceremony proved that all the long travel and effort to come to Groningen is worth it, especially for the ones coming from far away.