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Manxi Cao, 22
Double degree program in business economics
Listen to the original interview here:
She’d never heard of Groningen before, but when 22-year-old Manxi Cao heard about the school’s double degree program, she decided it was worth moving all the way from China... and she says she’s glad she did.
Along with 10 friends from her home town of Shanghai, Manxi – or “Mancy” as she calls herself to help non-Chinese with the pronunciation – arrived at the end of August. And her first impressions are nothing but positive.
"It’s a really, really nice place to live. And to study. The environment is very relaxed and people are so friendly. I’m not really a tall girl – and the Dutch people are the tallest people in the world – but, because of the smiles on their faces, I don’t feel that they’re too far from me!"
Manxi was able to find housing through the university and, though it’s a bit further than she’d have liked, she says at least it helps her see more of the city and meet new people.
"I’m now living in a student house where a lot of international students are cooking dinner, having parties, and walking around. I think they’re really approachable and really friendly. You get to see a lot of different cultures."
As for the Dutch food, Manxi was surprised at how good it is.
"It’s way healthier than I expected! The milk is really good and I like the cheese here! I wasn’t really a big cheese person at home. And there’s a fish market and it’s open on Tues, Fri, Sat and I always go when I get a chance."
Manxi says she doesn’t miss Chinese food because she cooks it herself here – funnily enough, because she didn’t cook much when she was back in China.
Rain and wind
The Dutch weather has also been a pleasant surprise for Manxi, especially after warnings from previous students about constant rain and the wind always against you.
"I’ve been riding my bicycle from the student house to campus for two weeks and it wasn’t that bad at all. Sometimes it gets cloudy, but when the clouds are gone – blown by the fast wind – the sun comes out and it’s really, really nice. And a lot of people go outside to enjoy the sun and it’s nice to join them."
Though Manxi admits that she’s not a great cyclist, she tries her best – luckily, she says, the people of Groningen are very laid-back.
"The whole lifestyle is more relaxed here, nobody is in such a hurry that they are pushing you forwards. And people will stop to let you cross the roads and I think that’s really nice."
In fact, that laid-back attitude is one of the biggest differences Manxi has noticed between Groningen and Shanghai. That and the population!
"Because the pace of life is slower, people have time to say hello to you on the street even though you’re a stranger. And I think it’s more international here. Although Shanghai is a metropolis city and a very international place, because Groningen is based on a university, there are so many young students, scholars, from all over the world together; I think that really distinguishes this community from other places."
Manxi says there’s also a huge difference in the way classes are organized in the Netherlands. In Shanghai Manxi had 11 courses per semester, here she has eight. And, as each semester is divided into two blocks of four courses, she says students get to really focus on the materials.
"I really like the classes here. We don’t have very many courses for each semester. We have more tutorials and more free time to really think about what we’ve learned and to observe the world and to try to apply our knowledge to analyze what is going on right now. We are no longer in that kind of very competitive and rushed study style that I experienced in Shanghai."
"In China not everybody got a chance to speak up because of the huge population. But here students get a chance to talk in tutorials, even with professors."
Because of the Dutch take on drugs and prostitution, many parents are worried about sending their kids to the Netherlands. Manxi says you may be exposed to either or both, but it’s not something to worry about.
"I think it’s safe. Because of the openness of the city, everybody learns to be really responsible for themselves. So I think it’s not a problem but a test."
Want to know more about the University of Groningen? Read our Facts & Figures article