Connecting YOUR world with the world of the Northern Netherlands
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About Connect

More about us

CONNECT INTERNATIONAL is a foundation that began in 1998 as a merger between two other foundations, the International Club Noord Nederland (IntCNN) and Stichting Connect. The IntCNN, a social club for international managers, was founded in 1995 by five different companies in order to provide better services to the international community in the Northern Netherlands. Stichting Connect, founded in 1996, began as the brainchild of a 'trailing spouse' who had found a lack of practical information in English about the Northern Netherlands upon her arrival and set up Connect to rectify the situation. After two years of working side by side, the two organizations merged to become Connect International.

Today CONNECT INTERNATIONAL provides practical information and offers personal advice to familiarize international residents with all aspects of living, working and studying in the Northern Netherlands; organizes events and activities to facilitate making further connections; and offers intercultural trainings to the northern-based companies and their international staff.

CONNECT INTERNATIONAL is defined and supported by its committed and knowledgeable international staff and generous volunteers, a Board of Directors and an Honorary Board. The Board of Directors consists of both Dutch and International members from companies and organizations (N.V. NOM, GasTerra, Talent Performance, Stenden Professionals, The NetworKing Corporation, Rothwell International B.V.) who are committed to making the Northern Netherlands attractive for international residents to live, work or study in. The Honorary Board consists of the King's Commissioners from Groningen, Friesland and Drenthe and the Director of the N.V. NOM.

Our staff:

Karen Prowse (USA), General Manager

I moved to Groningen from the USA in 1996 with my Dutch husband and son and was fortunate to meet another English-speaking mom who had just started a foundation called Connect. As I was eager to make contacts in my new home city, I enthusiastically joined Connect as a volunteer and helped organize events for trailing partners (mostly women, at that time). I loved meeting fascinating people from all over the world and learning their life stories. When my expat friend left the Netherlands to continue her journey around the globe, I took over as General Manager of Connect International to be able to continue to provide information and support to internationals in the Northern Netherlands. Through the years since then, I have been privileged to work with many dedicated, caring people who have all contributed their time and efforts to help make Connect International into the organization it is today.

Yvonne Knevelbaard (The Netherlands), Management Assistant IWCN & Connect Staff

Jani Mahoney (USA), Connect & IWCN Staff

I flew to the Netherlands from Washington State at the end of 2010 and landed in a bit of shock. Although I was in awe of the experience of adopting a new country, I stumbled my way through everything to try to settle, integrate, and feel at home. Cycling around the city one day (lost, as usual), I came across a brochure inviting expats to a Connect International Coffee Morning. It was like finding an oasis of sense in a sea of confusion. I hadn’t realized how easily my questions could be answered without googling all day and how fun networking could be done through this friendly organization. I’ve been with Connect since then in one way or another, as a volunteer, as a participant in many events, and as a staff member. Connect really lives up to its name when it comes to bringing expats together!

Margaret Metsala (Canada/Finland), Connect & IWCN Staff

Connect has been part of my life since shortly after I moved from Canada in 2005. Browsing the internet I found Connect and they invited me for coffee!  After writing stories for the "Connections" magazine, I became Assistant Editor and later began doing membership administration. Now I am one of the faces you meet when visiting our office. I have a degree from Ontario and have worked with the Government of Canada, Province of Ontario, and my local municipality, once even as a town councillor. I’ve managed election campaigns, helped people find solutions to problems with government programmes, and am at ease canoeing and camping in the wilderness. 

Ann van Voorden (USA), Connect & IWCN Staff

Several years ago, after having heard the name 'Connect' mentioned so frequently, I decided to pop in one day to check it out. Well, one talks about a warm bath and that's exactly what is was! Something for everyone. I'm American and had emerged myself in 'being Dutch' for so long that I had forgotten how fun it is to be around internationals. 

Michelle Bokma-Calderón (Mexico), Personal Advice Consultant, Legal Matters & IWCN Staff

Originally from Mexico City, I moved to beautiful Groningen in 2015 to be together with my then boyfriend (now husband) and follow my Masters at the RUG. Moving to the Netherlands has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, but there have also been stressful moments. Despite being quite used to all the technicalities and difficulties of legal paperwork, handling them in a completely different language was really challenging. I needed some urgent guidance with the Dutch system, especially regarding immigration matters. Connect International and the IWCN provided me with this much needed help, and most importantly, they did so with a smile, patiently and always making me feel understood and welcome. They gave me tons of useful information, encouraged me to learn Dutch and provided me with a space where I don’t have to be afraid or ashamed of expressing my difficulties as an expat. As a part of Connect, I would like to help others to succesfully integrate to the Dutch society and their way of living.

Elly Song-Schmidt (South Korea), Events Coordinator & IWCN Staff

I have been an expat for many years now. I used to be a cabin crew at KLM and an English teacher. I met my husband and moved to Germany, and then landed here in Groningen due to his studies. After some months not knowing what to do nor where to go, I heard about Connect International and started attending the workshops and meetings they provided. I loved everyone I met through Connect, and thought “what could I do for this wonderful organization?” That’s how I started to first volunteer, and later work for Connect. I love meeting new people from all over the world and learn about their cultures, and it also gives me great satisfaction to help them feel ‘at home’ here in the North.

Shannon Zurhaar (USA), Friesland Events Coordinator & IWCN Staff

I moved to Friesland from Arizona, USA in the summer of 2016. For over a year I felt like a fish out of water trying to adjust to the Dutch way of doing things; from grocery shopping, cooking, to banking and taxes. Once I adjusted to daily life, I still had a hard time making friends and didn’t feel that I belonged to a community.  However, that all changed once I started volunteering for Connect International.  Now as a staff member, I am meeting new people and establishing friendships with other Connect members. I belong to a community once again - and that makes me feel at home.

Charmaine André (USA), Friesland Events Coordinator & IWCN Staff

My Dutch adventure began in 1999 when I moved here. But I wasn’t unfamiliar with the Netherlands. Having a Dutch mother and lots of family here, I had spent many of my 12 week summer vacations as a child/teenager in Boekelo (Enschede). It was such a contrast to Los Angeles: not as busy and very green! I loved the Netherlands and hoped to live here when I was older, even if just for a few years.  Later I met a Dutch guy who became my boyfriend so eventually I was able to realize my dream. But my first year here was anything but a dream. Getting used to a new culture isn’t as rosy as summer vacations here are. I finally adjusted to life in Deventer but then moved to Leeuwarden. Fitting in here has been a challenge. Connect International has changed everything for me. Through working for  them and attending the events, I have met so many people, shared so many stories about first experiences here, and learned about many different cultures. I am very thankful for Connect International and proud to work for this organization!

Maria Kuznetsova (Russia), Projects Assistant

My love story with Connect began back in 2010 when, being an international student in Groningen, I was searching for an internship placement in the field of Intercultural Communication. After six months at Connect I knew exactly what my dream job was, but back then it was time to move on with my studies. Between 2015 and 2017 I was the Events Coordinator here, and now I'm responsible for the Weekly Tips and assist with big projects within Connect and the IWCN. 

Stephanie Fermor (UK), Publications Editor

I moved to the Netherlands in 2010 to join my Dutch boyfriend (now husband). After nearly two years of trying to integrate into Dutch society I hit a low point, feeling lonely and isolated. That was when I learnt about Connect International and signed up to be a member. I started by attending the Coffee Mornings, then volunteered to help set up the Crafts Club and gave a few workshops about building WordPress websites (as I work as a freelance web developer). In 2013, I was asked by Connect if I was interested in the position of publications editor, and I said yes! Since then I have helped update the Connect website, produced 34 issues of the Connections E-zine, and now manage the Connect Blog.

Our volunteers:

Adeline Chipaux (France), Art Club & Culinary Connect Club Coordinator

Alexandra van den Doel (UK), Book Club Coordinator

After working all over the world for a hotel chain and some less exciting jobs in the UK, I took an international job based in the Netherlands in 1999.  Soon after I met my Dutch husband and we moved to the UK in 2004. Since 2009 we live in Groningen.  I organise the Connect Book Club and contribute to the Connect Blog.

Emma Agneray (France), Social Media Volunteer

I’ve been moving around South Korea, France, the UK and now the Netherlands and communication in my family often starts in French to finish in Dutch with some English in between. Living in foreign countries broadened my mind and gave me the chance to get to know many different kinds of people. I wish to expand this experience within Connect International, where I hope to meet people from all over the world, get a touch and a taste of different cultures, languages, traditions and folklores in a rich cosmopolitan mix.

Janny Koetsier (The Netherlands), Dutch Conversation Fun & Coffee Morning Coordinator

Outi Heikka (Finland), Art Club & Crafts Club Coordinator 

Sarah YJ Bae (South Korea), Running Club & Beauty Club Coordinator

Originally from South Korea, I followed my husband doing his Ph.D. in Groningen. At first, it was difficult for me to quit my 8-year career in the educational field in Korea, which I loved dearly. However, now I am much more enthusiastic in adventuring in all diverse fields, such as beauty, outdoor sports, and meeting new international friends. That’s why I have decided to share my interests as volunteer at Connect International as Beauty club and Running club coordinator.  I find it a great challenge and fun to meet and help good people around.

Tatyana Burlutskaya (Russia), Parents Coffee Morning Coordinator

My family moved to Groningen in January 2017. The Connect International Center helped us to adapt in the new city.  English Conversation Fun helps me improve my English. I started to work as a volunteer at Connect since November 2017 as the Parents Coffee Morning coordinator, which allows me to get to meet new parents in the region, and also find my little daughters international friends they can spend their times with. I find that Connect International helps each person find what he or she might be interested in.?

Terrin Tamati (USA), Events Volunteer

Originally from the United States, I came to Groningen for a postdoctoral position at the UMCG. I arrived at the beginning of my first Dutch winter, and I didn’t really know much about the city or the Netherlands. Connect found me a place to live on very short notice (which at some point I thought would be impossible), and organized fun events for getting to know the city and other internationals. These events really pushed me to get out of the house on those first cold and dark days. I look forward to volunteering for Connect so that I help them continue their great tradition of extending a warm welcome to new internationals in Groningen! 

Are you interested in becoming a volunteer at Connect International? Contact us via, we are always looking for new volunteers to reinforce our team.