Crash course on Leiden for foreign students
Around 1,100 foreign students are participating in Orientation Week Leiden. Thanks to the crash course on Leiden student life they quickly become acquainted with their new city and the university. ‘It’s quite peaceful here compared to Seoul.’
Dozens of Chinese students roar with cheers when Vice-Rector Simone Buitendijk says ‘China!’ She welcomes the new foreign students in the Hooglandse Kerk by mentioning each of their various nationalities by name. A full 86 of the world’s 192 recognised nationalities are represented, and with over 100 students the Chinese form the largest group. The vice-rector praises the students for the ‘brave step’ they have taken by going abroad to study. She hopes that this is the new generation of world citizens who will help solve global problems. ‘We are going to provide you with the tools you need.’
But first the students need to get to know both Leiden and each other. Miranda Verboon, Orientation Week Leiden (OWL) chairwoman, points out for the newcomers some of the things that they are going to discover: their area of study, those crazy Dutch ‘ggg’ sounds and new friends. This orientation week—a good mix of practical information and immersion in student life—is the pressure cooker that makes this possible. The students become acquainted with their faculty and with the study and student associations, and at the bike sale they can buy a bicycle right away.
At the Hooglandse Kerk, the American comedian Greg Shapiro warns about such peculiar Dutch phenomena as the gigantic bicycle jungles in the city centre. Events planned for later in the week include a crash course in Dutch language and culture. But it is hoped that the students have already learnt one of the most typical Dutch words, ‘gezellig’, an adjective denoting a convivial, enjoyable atmosphere.
‘I come from a small town in the United States: Salem. It’s exciting to be in the Netherlands. I’d never been outside of the US before! I chose this university because of the interesting courses being offered, like Corporate social behaviour. Leiden is a wonderful city. I enjoy being in a city of this size. It feels more open and social than Salem. There social activities often take place indoors. Here it seems like everything happens out in the open.’
‘Leiden is one of the few European universities offering Eurasian Studies. I originally come from Sheffield in England, and I studied in Scotland. I want to study in the Netherlands so I can better understand Europe and the European mentality. Because I don’t feel completely European. Leiden is a beautiful city, and, compared to what I’m used to, inexpensive. The people here make me feel very welcome.'
‘A Korean classmate of mine was very enthusiastic about his experience as an exchange student in Leiden and recommended that I come here to study. Leiden University is well known for its Asian Studies programme. I particularly like the social sciences approach taken here. I come from Seoul, a busy city with ten million inhabitants. So, for me Leiden is very calm and peaceful. Students predominate the street scene here. It’s really a university town.’
(25 August 2015 - LvP)