Expat life in Nijmegen: Eleni, South Africa

In the series "Expat Life in Nijmegen", expats talk about their lives in the Netherlands' oldest city. How did they end up here? What do they do in daily life here and what do they think of the city and its surroundings? 

Here's the story of Eleni Manias from South Africa...

"I was born and raised in South Africa, but my parents are Greek. I knew that I wanted to study biology, so I wanted to go somewhere with good facilities; because of that, I looked at programs in the Netherlands, where you have a lot of degrees in English and great courses.

I left South Africa in the middle of Covid. That definitely added extra uncertainty. I moved 10,000 kilometers away from my family, and I knew that I couldn’t go back home for a while. So, this was a big step for me – but I really wanted to go.

In 2020, the lockdown in South Africa was really strict. But when I came to Nijmegen in the summer, everything was very relaxed. It was so much more open than I thought it would be. This was a big initial surprise. But the lockdown during my first bachelor year made it difficult to find friends.

We didn’t have a proper introduction week, so I didn’t get to know many people from my study until the second year. But luckily, I met some people in the student house where I was living and I also did an Honors program where I made a lot of friends.

The biggest challenge moving here was probably the weather. I had seen online that it’s going to be cold and grey, but it’s different when you are actually here and experience the cold and grey. And then it snowed. I had never seen snow before, so this was weird.

Dressing for the Dutch winter was definitely something I had to figure out. I don’t have a stylish coat like most Dutch people. In the winter, I’m more likely to wear seventy-three jackets on top of each other. But I did acclimate quite well overall. During my first year, I never cycled when it was raining, but I’ve become increasingly Dutchified. I cycle in the rain, against the wind – you name it. But I draw the line at cycling in the snow.

One piece of advice that I would give every international student moving to Nijmegen is to start looking for a room as soon as possible. As early as you can. I really struggled with that, and no one in my first year told me that it would be that difficult. And it was hard."

Studying & working in Nijmegen

Nijmegen has a lot to offer in terms of studying, working and business. The oldest city in The Netherlands is also one of the largest student cities in the country. The city presents itself as a leading global player in solving social issues and problems. With its significant position in the Health & High Tech sector, Nijmegen belongs to the international top when it comes to improving the quality of life, healthcare and the development of high-quality technology for various social applications.

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