“I will never move anywhere smaller than Helsinki.” I can still hear myself say that sentence no longer than a year ago. Yup, a city girl through and through, giant metropoles always make my heart skip a beat and city holidays win against beaches anytime. Helsinki already felt a bit too small at times, and although I made it my home and fell in love with the place, I never thought I’d even consider any place smaller than that. Well, here I am, in Groningen, a town the third of the size of Helsinki, for the next year. Even more surprising? I’m loving it.
Okay, don’t get too excited. I still couldn’t imagine spending the rest of my life in a smaller town, but considering my current life situation as a master’s student, no place could be better than this right now.
First of all, big cities are simply buzzing with people, things to do and all sorts of stimuli and distractions, which is a big reason I precisely love them. But when you need to focus on something, like I do on studying as it is quite demanding and time-consuming, I’ve discovered it is actually nice to get away from all the craze of big cities. Groningen is still a super lively place with tons of events and things to do, but it’s missing that craziness and overwhelming abundance of capital cities.
Second, everything is nearby. I can grab my bike (yes, I actually bike everywhere like a true Dutchie. Who would have guessed?) and I will be anywhere around the city in under 20 minutes. This gives so much room for spontaneity, but also frees up all the time you’d otherwise spend on commuting or planning out your days. For example, if I now realise I have a two hour gap in my schedule, I can just hop on my bike, be at the gym in 5 minutes, do a workout and go about my day after it. In a bigger place, going to the gym would take much longer because of commuting, so I’d have to plan it into my day, most likely in the morning or the evening.
Third, related to the lack of distraction and maybe more to the fact of being away from home and starting from zero than specifically the size of the town: here, studying is literally everything I need to focus on. No need to think about work shifts, seeing a thousand different people that you’ve gotten to know throughout the years (love them all, but it takes surprisingly lot of time when all the coffee dates add up), volunteering, attending all sorts of events. My whole schedule is built around my studies, and next to it, I have a lot of time to focus on the things that really matter to me the most.
Finally, it’s easier to attract the people similar to you and make very tight and intense connections. As Groningen is a very lively city full of students, there is something for everyone, so you’ll be sure to find “your people”. In addition, most students, especially international students, are in the same situation, coming from somewhere else and here just for studies, so no one has much else to do with their life than study and meet up with others. That means more time to spend with friends, and as distances are short, it’s effortless too and you end up spending a considerable amount of time together. Compared to Finland, I think I spend more time with my friends here than friends and family in total in Helsinki. In just over a month, I’ve gotten some beautiful people around me that really feel like a sort of family in this new home.