Universiteit Leiden

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A summer school by the French coast

Three Indonesian students participated in the Leiden summer school Crises in Biology. ‘In the end, we were all just one big group.’

Social media post

Two weeks in Normandy, France, and one week in Leiden. When they saw a social media post from their dean about the Leiden summer school ‘Crises in Biology’, they knew it was a chance they could not pass on, tells Sarah Audadi Ilham. ‘This summer school was perfect: it was situated in Europe, which we don’t see so often. It was about biology, which as a Biology student of course makes it easier. And it fitted nicely into our summer vacations – many other summer schools last much longer!’

Balqis Arche Nofinska and Rani Octavia nod, approvingly. All three are Biology students at Universitas Indonesia in Depok, West-Java. Together with some twenty other students, they participated in the summer school offered by the Institute of Biology Leiden, from 19 August to 3 September. It is centered around the origins of life on Earth. 

Cosmetics company

Balqis Arche Norfinska: ‘It was perfect. We learned about lots of new topics, much more than I had expected beforehand.’ ‘For example, we studied algae in France’, says Sarah Audadi Ilhams. ‘This was very nice, since I have previous knowledge about algae from Indonesia. This I could compare to what we learned in France. Amongst others, we visited a cosmetics company that uses algae in its products. I don’t think anyone in Indonesia has thought of that, so it’s a great idea to take home.’

Geology

But the course not only touches the field of biology; it also involves geology. Rani Octavia: ‘We traveled to lots of incredible sites, which were really interesting.’ Balqis Arche Nofinska was most thrilled about a laboratory excursion the group undertook. ‘We got to use a novel DNA sequencing machine called the MinION. These machines are very new; I don’t even think our lecturer in Indonesia has tried it.’

Education gap

Apart from the program itself, all three students thoroughly enjoyed the reception and company during their summer school. Sarah Audadi Iham: ‘I loved the fact that all lecturers were very supportive. Sometimes there was a gap in previous education between the students, but they tried their best to make sure that everybody learned as much as possible.’ Also, they talked a lot to the Dutch students in the group, she adds. Rani Octavia: ‘In the end, we were all just one big group.’

Master in Leiden

Was everything a warm bath? ‘Well, we really did eat lots of baguettes, every day…’ Sarah Audadi Ilham replies. And being used to 35 degrees summers in Indonesia, the French and Dutch weather took some adjusting, Rani Octavia adds. Nevertheless, Balqis Arche Nofinska and Rani Octavia plan to return to Europe in the near future. ‘Hopefully we can do our master’s programmes here.’