Hello, and welcome to BAISmag’s The Student Diaries, a comprehensive-ish guide to moving to The Netherlands as an international student! Today’s article focuses on how to not cry alone, but with friends!
In your first days of uni, you will meet tons of people: from your mentor group, from the HOPweek, from random lectures, and so on. But you might also feel terribly lonely, as though none of these connections are real and meaningful. In short, you might feel like you have no true friends. Moving to a new country – or simply a new city if you are Dutch – means leaving behind your whole support system. And even though you might still be virtually in touch with some of your high school friends, you will seek genuine in-person relations – especially now that the pandemic is (kind of) over and you can meet people around the city and on campus again.
But how do you meet these people you will vibe with and how will you build new friendships? No worries, the BAISmag team interviewed several future second and third year students who “have made some amazing friends” (to cite Tyler on the matter) and will give you some tips!
- Do not panic
I know, it’s easier said than done. And I personally panicked when after a month or two I realised I had no friends. But it will come. You will make friends. Trust me. As Lena highlighted, “you’ll make connections along the way.” She herself met her closest friends later on in the second semester and I believe many of us can relate to this statement. Give yourself some time and if, in October, you still don’t have deep meaningful friendships, relax: it will come.
- Join some groups and teams
Sometimes you need to be a bit pushed to meet new people who might become friends. Fortunately, the Hague’s student body is full of associations and groups of people gathering every now and then. And what’s more, most of them are English-speaking so you don’t even have to learn Dutch. If you are an IS student, you can join a BASIS committee such as BAISmag or an area committee. If you are reading us from another program, look up its own study association. You can also join Queer Leiden University, a group for LGBTQ+ students from around the city. If you are from the MENA region and want to join a group of similar origins, the MENA student association might just be what you need. The Hague is also home to the UNICEF student team and the Amnesty student group. Among all these associations and the many more we haven’t named in this article, you will definitely find a group to join and you will meet other students.
- Go to events
Without necessarily being part of an association, you can very often still go to the events they organise – sometimes you will need to pay a bit more for your ticket though. Do you want to know which kind of events you could go to? Read some of BAISmag previous pieces on event reporting. To know which events will take place during the academic year, check out our future events sheet. Who knows, you might meet your bestie at a dumpling workshop.
- You might make friends in the most unexpected way
Meeting someone at a dumpling workshop is actually not the most unique way of generating friendships. For instance, Niamh, a first-year student, met her current friend group through a WhatsApp group chat that started as a joke named “ABBA stan.” Now they are doing almost everything together. Sometimes, being bored at a family dinner and responding to a random person’s Instagram story might help you bond on a different level – and, yes, this is a personal anecdote. Who knows, maybe you will build genuine connections while spilling coffee all over you in the middle of Wijnhaven – but please do not deliberately do that, you can burn yourself and we do not want that.
- Do not fall too deep in an expat bubble
This piece of advice applies mainly to internationals.
Many people reported that Dutch honesty felt rude to them: the local straightforwardness is culturally specific to the Netherlands and can make you avoid Dutchies. Additionally, international students are very often helping each other out since they all share this bond of facing a new culture. As a result, you might essentially build friendships in this bubble of international students. Worst, you can end up mostly interacting with people coming from your home culture. And I get it, it is easier to interact with people who share the same roots and culture as you – it might even help you face homesickness – but among the hundreds of students in this city, do not restrict yourself to the small group coming from the same region as you or speaking your native language. Be open, and as Lena said, you will “create amazing relationships with people from all over the world,” which also includes Dutchies. Yes, sometimes they might seem rude, but as with people from any origin, you might deeply bond with one of them – and having a Dutch friend can be really convenient if you have to deal with legal or administrative stuff, as they can translate the documents for you.
Overall, you might not meet your chosen family by going to lectures – as professors like to make us believe -, but by joining a random workshop or going to a borrel. Maybe it will take some time for you, maybe you will deeply bond with people from your mentor group, but in any case, most students will assure you that you will make friends, that you will learn from these new people, and that you will certainly not be alone.
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