After eighteen months of pandemic disruption, 1,600 international students were attracted to the Martini Church for the Welcoming Ceremony. They were allowed access in allocated thirty-minute time slots.
With a maximum of one hundred people allowed at a time, there were no crowds under the high arched vaults of the church. After being greeted with the red UG goodie bags, students followed a route around the information market.
With no in-person plenary session taking place this year, rector magnificus Cisca Wijmenga and ESN president Hannah Jelkmann had to welcome everyone digitally ‘for reasons we are all well aware of’.
Even though wearing a face mask is mandatory in the corridors of UG buildings, that wasn’t the case at the event. ’I am actually surprised to see so very few people wearing face masks’, says Michel Semturis from Germany. The student personally doesn’t want to be ‘neglectful’ and prefers to keep his mask on.
Signs of the times
Another sign of the times was a pop-up vaccination point, where internationals aged above eighteen could receive a shot of the Janssen vaccine right there, without an appointment.
With neither student orchestra nor improv comedy groups performing, attendees were treated to tips and tricks to kickstart their time in Groningen. That’s all alongside the typical Dutch specialities of stroopwafels and drop, of course.
Thanos Giannopoulos, a Greek student of religion, conflict and globalisation, found especially useful information from the police on how much one can be fined while cycling in Groningen. ‘I found out that having a phone in hand while on a bike may result in a fine of 95 euros’, he says.
Questions about traffic rules for cyclists are more common than those about alcohol and drugs, says police officer Pieter-Paul Locadia. ‘Next time we want a traffic expert here.’ His colleague Jack Heupenaak has a tip for beginner cyclists, though: ‘Look around carefully and adapt according to the traffic instead of blindly following rules’, he says. ‘Otherwise you will never cross the street.’
‘Cycling in Groningen seems so aggressive’, says law student Manuela Lardoso. ‘I am really afraid of it.’ But she loves the city, so she is going to walk around, instead. At least, for now.