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‘I'm in awe of these refugee students’

Proud family members, lecturers and, above all, students congregated in the Van Steenis building on 27 June to celebrate the students' having completed the Preparatory Study Year in Leiden.

The Preparatory Study Year in Leiden (VJL) is a pre-university year for refugee students. The programme was founded in 2015 and is a collaboration between Leiden University, Leiden University of Applied Sciences and UAF, the Foundation for Refugee Students. ‘Twenty-four refugee students completed the VJL this year,’ says coordinator Hildegard Aerden-Wijdeveld. ‘They will go on to do a programme of their choice: at a university of applied sciences or a research university and sometimes senior secondary vocational education and training.’

Cookbook

The students were awarded their certificates but also gave something back in return: their very own cookbook with 25 recipes from all around the world. The cookbook is a collection of the students’ favourite recipes, from sabzi polo ba mahi (cod with rice and potatoes) to liali lebnan (semolina cake with rose water).

The cookbook serves various purposes, Aerden-Wijdeveld explains: ‘To begin with, it was a real project in which the students learnt how to work in a group. Furthermore, it enabled them to share their traditions and tastes with each other and the reader. All of the students shared a recipe from their home country, a recipe that they think everyone should try because it’s so delicious.’ And it also helps preserve memories, Aerden Wijdeveld adds: ‘Traditions, smells and tastes bring you back to your home country, your home town. A memory means you can always return.’

Appreciation

‘I feel most honoured to have been able to support these students. I am in particular awe of their strength, of their ability to stay positive whatever might happen.’ The word grateful doesn’t apply to these students, says Aerden-Wijdeveld. She prefers to call it appreciation: ‘They really do see the value of this education. Dutch students can be more blasé about it. It’s not a matter of course for the VJL students.’

See the photos of the celebration below!

The students’ cookbook, Mooi meegenomen naar Nederland, is available at the Leiden University of Applied Sciences Bookshop (10 euros) or can be ordered by sending an email to vjl@leidenuniv.nl.

Text: Sean van der Steen
Photos: Eelkje Colmjon
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