‘You bring an international flavour to the city’
Students and PhD candidates come to Leiden and The Hague from all corners of the world. On 16 November, the municipality of Leiden presented current international students with a certificate as a token of appreciation for their presence in the city. ‘This makes me feel even more part of the local community.'
Chinese, Spanish, Bantu, Greek… It isn't often that so many different languages can be heard at the same time in Leiden's city hall but, with 239 students from 40 different countries all invited by the municipality of Leiden to the award ceremony, this diverse spread of languages was no surprise. Deputy mayor Paul Laudy explained why: 'You give the city an international flavour. Hang the certificate on the wall in your room and be an ambassador for our city.'
University is not an island
On behalf of the University, Professor Han de Winde, Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Science, emphasised the importance of international students. 'The University has no desire to be an island in society, separate from the local community. With that aim in mind, it's important that we have so many different nationalities here.' He expressly welcomed the group of students and PhD candidates from The Hague, who were also presented with a certificate.
More part of society
Konstantinos Zompoulakis, a PhD candidate from Greece, was the first person to receive his certificate from Laudy. What did it mean for him? 'It's a nice surprise and this gesture makes me feel more a part of the community.' Sompoulakis, who comes from Athens, has already studied law in Leiden. Returning to his own country that has been in a state of crisis for many years is not an option. He therefore seized the opportunity of a PhD position with both hands, and he is now conducting research on European constitutional law. ‘I really love being here. The professors are very supportive and they are all experts in their field. And, in comparison with Athens, Leiden is a lovely city with a high standard of living.'
Chie and Mexico
Natassja de Matthos Rojas from Chile exchanged experiences with Jose Manuel Monry Diaz from Mexico. Rojas studied Latin American Studies. She opted for Leiden because of the way the programme is structured. 'It has a high cultural content, and a lot of attention is paid to film analysis.' Diaz is studying Crisis and Security Management in The Hague. 'There's no similar study in Mexico and I particularly like the combination of theoretical and practical aspects. It was quite an eye opener for me to discover that the difference in level between Leiden and my old home city is so great.’ Once she has graduated, Rojas will return to her home country, Chile, but Diaz has other plans. 'I'nm hoping I can find a job here.'
Studying African history from outside Africa
How do Dutch and European academics teach their students about Africa? This is what Joan Mumbfu Nformi from Cameroon wanted to find out. 'I wanted to study African history outside Africa.' What she particularly notices is the 'multinational approach' in Leiden. ‘In Cameroon we are mainly interested in the history of our own region, but in Leiden African Studies is much broader and we learn about a lot of different perspectives on the continent.' The programme does not leave her untouched. 'As a student you have to be objective. I must admit, however, that the history of colonialisation and the slave trade does affect me.'