1,600 goody bags for international students
The RUG has a metric to count how many international students attend the welcome ceremony: goody bags. Exactly 1,600 red, drawstring bags, filled with information about the RUG, were prepared for the students. Organisers ran out while dozens of students still stood outside.
‘It’s crazy’, says Judith Barthel, welcome ceremony coordinator, as she ushers the overflow students toward the Aula in the Academy Building. Not a shabby alternative, but combined, the two spaces are barely big enough to accommodate the crowd.
Barthel says that 2,000 internationals in all were invited, and marketing coordinator Jessica Winters says that the Martiniplaza was considered as an alternative venue. ‘But it’s so far away, and it just doesn’t have the same impact.’
Maybe it will move next year, but for now, low murmurings of accented English mix under the church’s high ceiling. Between hosts and Stranger Things Have Happened members Thomas Mook and T.J. da Silva goofing around, President Poppema, Groningen mayor Ruud Vreeman and new ESN president Marlieke de Vries welcome the students to the city.
Finally, professor Gregory Ashworth focuses on the downsides of studying abroad. ‘I thought it was really comforting when the professor said that’, says Jim Zhu, a 23-year-old finance student from China.
Zhu’s experience in Groningen hasn’t been great so far: although he has managed to find a room through the Housing Office, he can’t move in until the current resident moves out on 13 October. For now, he’s stuck in a hotel room.
But it’s going better for others. Following the ceremony, Fara Sari, Fitri Nindyasuri and Ratri Pratiwi – all from Indonesia and here to study international business – head straight to student music group Bragi’s stand in the Information Market on the Broerplein. They all signed up to join their open choir rehearsal on 1 September, then made their way around the rest of the market.