Lets Gro festival has arrived in Groningen. From the 31st of October to the 3rd of November, the municipality of Groningen will host this freely accessible festival, which seeks to share various initiatives and innovations to benefit the future of the city.
This year’s theme is all about happiness. Groningen is considered to be one of the happiest cities in Europe according to a recent investigation by the European Commission. This year, Lets Gro will prioritise happiness and the well-being of all Groningen’s citizens.
The economy, welfare, logistics, health and education all have a part to play in creating a happy city but it is more than that describes Let’s Gro’s Communication and Events Representative, Sandrina Scholte. “Happiness is a theme for everybody, because everyone is looking for happiness in their own way. And it is interesting because where there is happiness there is also the downside of it. We also want to show that. For instance come up with ideas to prevent loneliness”
Lets Gro festival is enjoying it’s fifth year in Groningen. The first two-day festival in 2013 was designed to inspire the city and tap into the strength of its people following the economic crash. Lets Gro‘s aim is to connect and mobilise Groningen’s citizens and prepare them for the future.
The festival which is intended for young and old, internationals and locals alike, is concerned with all aspects of Groningen; energy, sustainability, health, internationalisation, education and the digital world.
Internationalisation is greatly influencing the changing face of Groningen and with the number of international students arriving in Groningen set to increase, it becomes harder to ignore their presence. The University of Groningen will continue to raise the head count with an average of 800 students per year resulting in a grand total of 35,000 students by 2025, according to the briefing notes from the University Council meeting on the 28th of June 2018.
The student population in Groningen is a noteworthy one, “every fifth person in Groningen is a student, which gives Groningen the highest student population density in the Netherlands” says Groningen centred website, cityoftalent.nl.
Sandrina Scholte believes that the students of Groningen contribute to the level of happiness within the city.
“I think that cities without universities can be just as happy as cities with a lot of students” she says “But it can be an addition for sure, think about the creativity young people have, the open mindedness, the cultures they bring with them and of course the social life they pursue”.
Some of the events organised by Lets Gro are catered for the expat and international student population in Groningen. For example, the Crash Course in Local Politics, held on the 1st of November was designed to inform participants on the upcoming municipal elections. The crash course was catered towards Dutch and English speakers alike. “I had no idea that I could vote as a student” said Chemistry student Laura Berry (22) “now that I have attended the crash course, I most certainly will”.
Addressing the importance of such an event, Sandrina Scholte said “once you move here, you are part of the community. You have a vote in deciding what’s important for the city. Especially since the international group is growing so fast, Groningen wants to seriously include them in the city’s politics!”
However, the lack of housing and employment opportunities have created a lot of obstacles for international students and expats in Groningen and this in turn has affected their level of happiness. “I don’t know if I would describe Groningen as a happy place to live” said expat Lucas Royer (25), “I am really struggling to find a job because my Dutch is not the best. I feel like an outsider. If Let’s Gro could give job advise to non-Dutch speakers that would be amazing”.
For others internationals like art student Cristina Llera (20), Groningen adds to her happiness, “I am happy to be living in a different country, this is such a pretty city. I have new responsibilities in Groningen and I am meeting people from all over the world, it is beautiful”.