A place for Indonesian students to feel like home

By Oscar Cheng-Kai Wu and Yujia Yang

The chill brought by the drizzle and the wind squeezes through every layer of fabric. The weather shows no mercy for those who came to join the annual Indonesian culture festival called “Indonesian Day” that takes place at the Zernike campus. Despite the freezing temperatures, the atmosphere inside is filled with joy and warmth.

“Indonesian Day” is one of the most important events of the Indonesian student association in Groningen. It is held between March and May every year, aiming to create a place that feels like home for Indonesian people in Groningen, and to promote their culture to international people.

“We want to showcase the Indonesian culture that we are proud of, through a varied spectrum of culinary aspects and cultural performances, and to experience some traditional activities like wearing traditional clothes,” says Shania Aurrelle, the chief organizer of the event.

“Indonesia is a huge country with people representing diverse cultures. We try to accommodate as much talent as possible in this event,” she adds.

Discovering the undiscovered culture is the underlying goal of this event. The bazaar and the dinner that come afterwards connect newcomers and entrench family ties and friendships. Shania adds: “Families and Indonesian students from other cities in the Netherlands and from all over Europe come to Groningen to participate.”

“Not only we wish for Indonesian students and residents in Groningen to connect with each other, but we also want to reach out to international friends,” says Shania, who also organized the same event last year. “We are more influential now. Last year, there were not many international people. But this year, I am surprised to have so many international people joining.”

More money, more connections

Another important event that bonds the Indonesian diaspora together is the athletic “Groenscup”, scheduled to take place on April 20th and 21st. The competition accommodates many kinds of sports, such as badminton, football, and table tennis, as well as Esports.

“We can say that ‘Groenscup’ is the biggest sport event for Indonesian students in Europe. Last year, 18 Indonesian student associations across Europe came to Groningen to participate in the games. They even flew in from London and Manchester,” says Risyad Zafran Alghifari, chairman of the Indonesian student association.   

Risyad continues: “We have established ties with other Indonesian associations across Europe through these special events. It is our goal to expand and reach out to more people outside the group.” 

Groningen’s Indonesian student association has grown rapidly in the past few years. It now has around 300 members. “However, we still encounter difficulties, such as conflicting schedules inside our organization and lack of sponsorships,” explains Risyad. “We still manage to pull through it. We hope our university can allocate more funding that will help us expand and connect with more people.”

Risyad thinks that besides the two biggest events every year, there are other smaller activities and events that could benefit from extra funding. “For example, there are other Indonesian organizations in Groningen, not just student associations. So, we want them to cooperate. For example, religious groups could connect with each other by holding a religious festival.”

“All we want is to make Indonesians feel like home in Groningen.”