UCG Life as a First Year
These days most students are settling into their normal life as a student. For some of us, this will be our second or last year here, but there’s also a group that is soaking in everything for the first time. These 100 or so first years started UCG merely a month ago and pretty much all of them are figuring out what student life is like. But what is the life of a first year actually like? Being first years ourselves, we would like to share this experience.
Our days at UCG
After a very fun intro week (credits to the Intro Week Committee) we started our first two actual weeks with fun workshops and lectures teaching ourselves basic academic skills. In those workshops we bonded by collectively painting a tablecloth, acting in little plays together and planning a conference to learn how to work in teams. It was not before the third week that we fully started classes. Since that week, we have been starting every Monday with an introductory lecture about a different topic, all of them focused on global climate change. Our Tuesdays and Thursdays are filled with lessons in academic skills. And then there is the most fun day, our project day on either Wednesday or Friday. On this day we all try to come up with ways to help the country Kiribati, a group of islands near Fiji, that will be the first island to be uninhabitable when the sea level rises. We all have to approach this issue from different perspectives; some are trying to help them improve the island in a scientific way, while others try to help the people to move using politics and culture.
Of course, there’s something else that’s also completely new to us, which is living on our own, in Frascati. Frascati is a remarkably beautiful building with a nice view of the KPN building next door, the train station or, if you’re lucky, the square where you can keep up to date with the happenings of your fellow students without using any social media. You simply have to open your curtains to see what they are up to. And if you want more details, you just open your window and the newest gossip will enter your room like music, something that can also be heard in your room whenever someone is having a party (or, when you live on the first or second floor of unit A, B or C, whenever Aclo is having a training session). The building would also not be complete without enough options for social interaction. There is a party going on in one of the bigger kitchens almost every day and even the people that do not like parties have enough opportunities to socialise, particularly in their kitchen between 6 and 8 in the evening. B2’s kitchen, for example, is often filled with at least three people cooking, with at least one of them being a vegan creating the most interesting meals from just vegetables. Then there is also often someone baking, with self-made pizzas and Speculaas pumpkin cookies being the most popular bakings at the moment. And of course, our kitchen would not be fully complete without the collective sound of complaint about being hungry and the stoves being too slow. My favourite complaints are those in Chinese outed by Lea towards a too slow rice cooker: we have no idea what she’s saying, but it is very relatable nevertheless.
Above all else, UCG has been a very new and unique experience. It is different from everything before, be it normal high school, language camps or summer schools.
Life here in Groningen and at UCG has been a rollercoaster ride. With both ups and downs, exciting and boring experiences. From an academic perspective, the first three weeks amongst UCG-folks has been very relaxed and quite enjoyable. From a social perspective, it has been both taxing and wonderful. Meeting all of you, making new friends and having parties every weekend has been amazing so far and I would not want to miss this under any circumstance. Then again, the first weeks have also been, one might call it, anxiety-inducing. All of us came with expectations, hopes, and fears. How is it gonna be? What are the people gonna be like? Will they like me, will I be able to connect with the others? But also, is this programme fitting for me? Did I make the right choice?
Another new experience is being on our own, without our parents, caring for ourselves.
This is a novelty for most of us. Living in Frascati, there are far more things we have to watch out for and remember if we want to avoid that our lives become an absolute mess. Having to look out for oneself also opens up an opportunity to rise above ourselves and learn a whole bunch of new stuff. Never before have I been able to cook as many meals. I even used a zucchini for the first time and let me tell you, it was delicious. In general, this new beginning here in Groningen allows us to reinvent ourselves, to become whoever we always wanted to be.
An awesome characteristic of UCG is the open-mindedness and general acceptance of everything that could be considered out of the ordinary. This multitude of different characters is among the great features UCG has to offer. Being confronted with, and I mean this in the best way possible, people far different from us is the single most greatest opportunity we can get to overcome prejudices and get to know individuals from all over the world. After all the world is growing closer together and knowing people from all over the world can never be detrimental to one's development as a person.
All of us came to UCG with different hopes and fears and expectations, wanting to fit in and be liked and from what I can tell this has worked for everyone of us. There have been various events ranging from a very well visited jam session, to highly relaxing meditation sessions to absolutely exhausting trampoline events connecting students from all the years. First years have started getting involved in basically all of the committees, mingling with the higher years and helping to make UCG an experience to be had.
All these events and happenings help us grow into our roles as students and one might even say learn to be (even) better people.
To sum up my experience here so far I´d say that while living here can be quite stressful sometimes, most of the time it is absolutely great. Hanging out in the kitchens, having deep conversations and listening to way too loud music is always a great way of unwinding after a long day at UCG.
What makes UCG greater than other programs is the sense of community and personally I am very grateful for this experience with all of you.
The first block is basically over and we wanted to share with you how life at UCG and Groningen has been going so far. While most of it was fun, we also want to reassure you that even the more stressful parts of student life are natural and that together we can overcome them and enjoy ourselves as much as possible.
Keep your head up high UCG!
Share your UCG and Frascati experiences in the comments!