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First-year student experiences – 2020 edition

Each year, many new students start their study at the Faculty of Spatial Sciences. Every student has had different experiences during their first study year. Therefore, we now present you the stories of two students who look back on their first study year.

Human Geography & Urban and Regional Planning (by Kharisma Pandu Pratama)

My name is Kharisma and just last year I started studying Human Geography and Urban Regional Planning here in RUG. As an individual who was lucky enough to move to 6 different countries in my whole life, I experienced less culture shock as compared to other people. However, that is not to say that I was still amazed and wonderfully surprised by how small yet cozy and beautiful the city of Groningen is. I also found that with so many other students in the city, the atmosphere is often vibrant and never lackluster.

In high school, I was highly captivated by the idea of studying architecture or, specifically, landscape architecture. Even so, I realized that instead of focusing on individual buildings, I was more interested in the larger scope of constructing and analyzing urban areas. After completing the 1st year of the course, I can definitely say that I extremely enjoyed not only the different courses (Especially, Urbanism & Planning, and Population Geographies) but also many of the lecturers, who are very kind and approachable. No matter how interested I was about the Human Geography course, I somehow also felt that I was missing out on the more practical and design aspects of Urban Planning every time I talked to my friends from the Spatial Planning & Design course. This is because I find both aspects (Human Geography & Design) to be equally as important, especially when it comes to broadening my skills, prospects, and understanding of Planning in general. As a result, the study advisors of the faculty were very kind to explain the different options I have if I were to do both courses.

As someone who’s moved very often, I grew to learn the importance of joining as many associations or extra-curricular as possible in your first year to quickly find people who you ‘click’ with, but also other students who you think can help you adapt in the city (inform and teach you about the culture and maybe language!). For me, I decided to join the EGEA committee in Ibn Battuta to meet people from our faculty. I was certainly happy to take part in the committee that focuses on the internationalization of the faculty and to meet such kind and open-minded people in the group. Therefore, I would highly recommend joining any committee of Ibn Battuta to get to know the great people of the Spatial Sciences courses! However, if you are looking for a challenge and to meet a diverse, like-minded, ambitious, group of students, I must also recommend applying to the Honours College of our faculty. There I really am lucky to be able to get to know many amazing and motivated students of the faculty, who are also interested to have in-depth debates and discussions surrounding planning and design.

On the other hand, in order to network and meet people outside of the faculty, I joined other associations such as SIB, UNICEF Student Team Groningen, as well as the Indonesian Association. With SIB I was in their KEI committee, and learned a lot about planning big events (although KEI this year ended up online), and attended some of their very interesting lectures surrounding international global issues and themes. With the Indonesian Association, I was able to meet other Indonesians and also help organize Indonesian Day. Lastly, I was very fortunate to find the UNICEF Student Team through the ESN introduction week. Although it is a relatively new association, I was able to meet other international students, and help plan events to raise funds for less fortunate children. Thankfully, I am now the Public Relations of the UNICEF board, and I highly recommend that you also apply and help raise funds and awareness for the children in need this September!

Overall, If I were to give any advice to the first-year student out there, I must emphasize the already overstated importance of time management! If I’m being completely honest, I’m not a naturally smart human being (like some of my friends are), and the many associations that I joined took a lot of my time. However, because I somehow was able to balance my time, it sometimes does sound like a miracle that I managed to study in the UB, join Honours College, go out with friends, and be in multiple associations, although sleep is sometimes sacrificed. Trust me, If I, a master procrastinator can pass all the 1st year courses, so can you. Best of luck, and I hope you enjoy whichever course you’re doing in the Spatial Sciences Faculty!

Spatial Planning and Design (by Frank Versprille)

Hey everyone! My name is Frank Versprille, 20 years old and last year I was a first-year student Spatial Planning and Design (SPD). In this short text, I will try to give you an idea of what the first year can be like for you all. The year starts off with an introduction day in which you get to know your Learning Community (LC), although not sure how things will be organized this year due to the pandemic. The LC will be led by two more experienced students, your mentors, who will show and learn you all the tools and tricks you need. Besides the practical stuff, this group is also a nice way of getting to know your fellow students.

Speaking of getting to know people: I would absolutely recommend you going to the socials of our faculty association Ibn Battuta! Whilst enjoying your well-deserved and freshly drafted beer or your beloved soft drink at ‘T Gat van Groningen, you can meet your fellow freshmen and derive some information from other students on what your possibilities are for the upcoming year(s). (Believe me, there are plenty, of which none can be the wrong one)

After the introduction day, your academic life can really kick-off. In the first period, you’ll have Urbanism & Planning and Power of Design. The Urbanism course is taken by both SPD and HGP students and is generally a very beloved course. The lecturers teach the course in a very inspiring manner! Power of Design is only for SPD students and shows you how we, as planners, can make places better together. The second period will be filled with the Economic Geography and Statistics 1 courses. Both courses appeal to the one and are less favored by the other. However, when you keep up with the course and actively seek help when needed, you’ll be fine. Here your LC and mentors can come-in handy!

In the second semester, you’ll start off with Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Introduction to Academic Research (IAR). GIS is a really nice course in which you learn all kinds of methods to analyze the world. IAR is a course that’s part of every academic study. You’ll be introduced to the world of research and writing papers. Your last period is an SPD-only period. You’ll analyze and make plans for a specific region. These courses are planned after each other, which makes that you’ve got only one course at a time. This makes it very nice, but also means you can’t be a week behind schedule, as this could be 33% of the whole course…

Besides your study, it’s important to do things you like! This will give you the opportunity to relax and get your mind off your study. I joined the First Year Committee of Ibn, and I was in the Programme Committee representing the first-year students at ProGeo. I can recommend all of these things, as they allow you to meet many different people and help you find out where your interests lie. Take care of yourself, work hard, but especially make sure to have fun! This is your student life, make the most out of it! I hope you will have a wonderful study career!

Group picture of the Introduction Weekend on Ameland, September 2019. Picture by Ibn Battuta

These articles were first published in the Freshmen edition (Year 51 of Girugten – issue 01 –  September 2020).

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