Universiteit Leiden

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A spam box full of opportunities

The certificate award ceremony of the Honours College took place in the Hooglandse Church in Leiden on Tuesday 21 November. During the ceremony, two students shared their experiences with honours education while Vice-Rector Hester Bijl addressed the students.

‘Anyone who starts the Honours College is certain to receive such an endless stream of e-mails in the beginning that they end up in the spam folder,’ student Lars Suanet quipped during his speech at the certificate award ceremony. ‘But it turned out that these e-mails were full of great opportunities for Honours students.’

These opportunities were used by more than 200 Honours students this year. In addition to their regular study, they followed a track from the Honours College, where they choose between a track from their own study programme or an entirely different direction. To crown this achievement, they received their certificates on 21 November in the Hooglandse Kerk. The award ceremony was concluded with the customary throwing of their caps in the air.

No ‘one size fits all’

The Honours Academy is for students who want more and can do more. ‘It is crucial for universities to offer different students varied educational paths,’ says Honours Dean Ton van Haaften. ‘A university education should not be a ‘one size fits all’ formula.’ That is how Van Haaften also refers to how the Honours College offers the opportunity to get a feel for multiple disciplines. Something that the supervisor of the award ceremony, Professor Ton Raap, calls a good example of the Leiden University motto 'bastion of freedom': looking beyond the norm.

Honours student Asel Arykbaeva during the ceremony

Try everything

In addition to her medical studies, Honours student Asel Arykbaeva also followed a Medicine Honours track. She explains how the Honours programme gave her the chance to try everything: from studying traditional Chinese medicine to an investigation into the occurrence of lung diseases in her homeland Kyrgyzstan. She is currently doing an internship and is performing research on organ transplantation at the University of Oxford. 'Through Honours, I came into contact with the world of organ transplants. Thanks to the many Honours workshops and courses, I have learned a lot of skills that are proving very useful to me during my research.’

Video report of the award ceremony

Diversity

‘It's very moving to see the enormous variety of people, interests and talents within the Honours tracks,' Van Haaften commented. 'Such a ceremony as this evening makes me very proud of our students.' Honours student Anika van der Klis also mentioned the importance of the diversity of the students in the Honours track as one of it's most attractive features. 'I found it very interesting to take a detour through other disciplines and work together with students who come from other studies and disciplines.' 

Vice-Rector Magnificus Hester Bijl gave the Honours students an extra mission: ‘You have developed skills that will not only help yourselves, but will give you the opportunity to apply them to resolving problems. Not just for you, but also for others.' After thanks had been given to all the lecturers and supervisors, it was time for a celebratory drink.

(Text: Maxime Geervliet / Photos: André van Haasteren)