• Jana, Rowan-Jelena, Samantha and Emma are desperatly seeking for a job. Click on their picture to unveil their special talents.

    Give us a job

    They really, really need a job. But it almost seems impossible. ‘If you don’t speak Dutch, you’re simply out of the game.’

    Irish medical student Jana Ulkanarova roamed the streets this summer for weeks. Armed with her cv, she went to every place she could think of – shops, bars, restaurants, you name it – because she was desperate for a job. She’s still desperate. Finding a job in Groningen as an international student is proving almost impossible.

    The biggest problem? Language! Everywhere in Groningen she was asked the same question: ‘Do you speak Dutch?’ When she said no, suddenly there were no vacancies. ‘Employers wouldn’t even take my cv, just because I don’t speak Dutch. I understand that it’s important to speak Dutch in certain jobs, but I think that employers should be more open-minded for jobs like cleaning, where fluency in Dutch is probably not necessary!’

    She also searched the Internet for jobs, checking the job-seekers’ section on Facebook every day, but she found no suitable openings.

    Dreaded moment

    She really needs the work, as although she currently receives a loan from DUO, it’s not nearly enough to cover her expenses. She needs money to pay her rent now and then next year the dreaded moment will arise again when she has to pay her tuition fees. ‘I want a €250 grant from DUO, but I need to work at least 12 hours next year to become eligible.’

    Some places didn’t take my cv because I was a girl

    Jana isn’t the only international student desperately looking for a job in Groningen. British International Relations and Organization student Rowan Jelena Dunn (21) has been searching for a job ever since she arrived. ‘That was three years ago!’ she says. ‘There’s huge competition for jobs now and if you don’t speak Dutch, you’re simply out of the game.’

    She feels that in some cases Dutch employers are very unfair, which she had not expected. She explains: ‘Some places didn’t take my cv because I was a girl and they only wanted men for dishwashing jobs. I’d be happy with just the wages, which would take the stress factor away, knowing I’m not such a burden on my parents.’


    Jana agrees and is grateful to her father, who is currently helping her with her finances. ‘My boyfriend wanted to live with me and searched for a job so that he could stay, but despite looking every day, all day, he couldn’t find any work and had to go back to Ireland after running out of money.’ She – and many other international students – might soon suffer the same fate.

    None of them had expected it to be so hard to earn some extra money abroad. ‘It seems impossible right now’, says Biomedical Science Master’s student Samantha Edwards (22), from Britain. ‘Even jobs you think you’re capable of doing without speaking Dutch require Dutch!’

    She decided to contact the ‘UnDutchables6,’ a job-searching site for non-Dutch speaking students: ‘The University website listed some “helpful” agencies, but they only offered full-time employment, which obviously is no good to me.’ So she was rejected again.

    Language lessons

    American Studies student Emma Jameson has also contacted lots of companies. ‘I’ve been to several student job-searching companies, but they only seem to help Dutch students’, she says, adding: ‘After all the rejections I’m not sure now what to do. I think the University should offer more guidance to new international students.’ It offers hardly any information on the topic, she says. ‘I thought a student city would have loads of jobs, especially one as international as this.’

    The University should offer more guidance

    The students are all doing their best to find a job. ‘I took three weeks of free Dutch courses and would like to continue learning the language’, says Emma, ‘but classes cost a lot of money.’ Will a Dutch course really solve her problem, though? Jana is also taking language lessons. ‘I am now able to hold a conversation in Dutch, but it’s not ideal that I’m currently paying for an extra course without the certainty of getting a job.’

    However, there is hope, albeit rather slim. ‘If you’re a native English speaker, you can proofread essays. I’ve never done it, but it’s something I’ve heard is okay. There’s maybe babysitting as well, but it’s very irregular… you only hear of it by word of mouth.’ Jana has spotted one job that would have suited her, though. ‘The hospital wanted people to take blood – it was especially for medical students – but I missed it!’

    At the moment Jana is focusing on her studies – ‘because if I fall behind in my studies, there’s no point in having a job!’