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Baby Steps in Groningen

Hi! My name's Emma, and this is just a little introduction to my new blog where I'll be documenting my Erasmus year. The content I'll post here will mostly act as a platform to share my experiences with the world (and my Mum because I know she'll be worried sick - Hi Mum!), and potentially serve interest for anybody considering Erasmus for themselves. For those who don't know, Erasmus is a scheme provided by the European Union which allows university students mobility across Europe to either study or work for a year, often between the second and final year of your degree. It was never something I'd even considered I'd be capable of achieving, and with the imminency of Brexit looming, and the future of Erasmus for UK students questionable, I decided to seize the opportunity and spend a year in The Netherlands.

A bit of background info: I'm a twenty-two year old student from Bristol studying BA Photography at Coventry University, and I've just arrived in Groningen to start the academic year studying BA Fine Art at Minerva Art Academy. Like most students, I'm taking my Erasmus year after my second year at university, before returning back to the UK to complete the final year of my degree.

So... why Erasmus?

As I've just mentioned, one of my key incentives for choosing to take part in Erasmus was the uncertainty of its future for UK students, and I really didn't want to miss out on this amazing opportunity. Before any of that though, the idea of leaving the UK for a year by myself seemed terrifying, and for some reason that made me want it even more. I knew from the moment it was mentioned in one of my second year lectures that I really needed this for myself: to grow and become more independent and confident as an individual, expand my practice, and experience a new life, in a new city, with new people. On top of all of that, it means I'll be graduating with BA (Hons) Photography 'with International Enhancement' - which means broadening my career prospects after university (and it also sounds super fancy). I also knew I really wasn't ready to enter my final year at Coventry University just yet, so Erasmus meant buying some precious time and opportunities to try new things from both inside and outside of my practice.

Why Groningen?

In 2016, I was lucky enough to inter-rail around Europe, and after spending the final leg of the trip in Amsterdam, I fell in love with The Netherlands. When the opportunity for a study year abroad came up, I knew this was the place I wanted to be. Truthfully, Amsterdam would have been my preferred destination, but sadly isn't partnered with Coventry on the exchange scheme. So... my next best option was Groningen; a small but culturally thriving city in the north of The Netherlands, and honestly? I couldn't be happier. The city is much quieter than Amsterdam, Utrecht and Rotterdam, but with great transport links to all three major cities, Groningen provides a great escape from big city chaos, whilst offering a more affordable, bustling atmosphere and rich culture of its own. The bicycle culture here is even more popular than most other cities in The Netherlands, which is a refreshing change from the busy car-oriented roads we have in the UK. With nearly two-hundred bars and restaurants, as well as festivals and events cropping up most weekends, the city is far from remote or quiet.

That's it for an introduction to both Groningen and myself, but I'll be frequently updating this blog with my experiences of the year, and below are some pictures of my first few days in the city.

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