1st and 2nd Day – International Students

1st DAY

The first day is the moment to appear for the first time. When people don’t know yet who you are, what you do and what you want to achieve. It is usually a bit messy. You come without knowing where you go and how you gonna be welcomed. Therefore it is always a step to make.  So basically, we had to start from zero. Figuring out what is possible in this big fortress: The student hotel. Fortunately, we have Pascal, who even without fully knowing who we are, gives us the keys of the house.

First we introduced ourselves to Bert, the chief of the cleaning team. He hired us immediately starting the very next day, cleaning the international students rooms.

Then, we wrote our first letter to the students. Here a little insight:

Dear international student,

Do you feel sometimes lost being far away from home, not yet grounded in your new country? Or.. the opposite, you feel like you are a new person ready for new adventures? Have you also wondered why people here eat shitty bread for breakfast and lunch.. But not for dinner? Or .. are you one of those lucky ones, who already figured everything about de DigiD with all the doors that it opens?

Whoever you are, Welcome to Groningen. We are the COUNSELORS.

In the evening, at home, we prepared all 287 letters to be ready for the day after.

2nd DAY

We came to start our first cleaning shift in the morning. We worked with Loes. We learned there is two different type of tasks: the 15mn and the full service. The 15mn is just about cleaning the bathroom and taking out the dirty sheets from the bed, leaving  thew clean one there for the international student to change it. Full service means, bathroom, dusting, vacuuming and us making the bed fully. Entering the private space of the international students make us discover the many strategies (or non) of home-making. What do we do to turn an impersonal place into our own?

A plant. Your own bed cover. A foto of your grandmother. A colourful bathroom carpet. Food from your own country. A pillow that you chose. A laptop.

After our shift we dropped 287 letters under the door of each of the international students.

Second part of the day: we opened our public office besides the ping-pong table where we are able to see everybody. From previous experience we know that the first appearance always remains almost invisible. Our main strategy is to be present. It takes time to become visible and to reach the right effect. So we are used to these hours of loneliness and ambiguity around us.

Nevertheless, we could see that our letters had been red. Some of the students acknowledged us by giving us a nodding head or a smile. We even talked to our first international student, Nikidas from Ukraine.