Universiteit Leiden

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‘There’s only one downside to Leiden: the seagulls’

The third and final introduction week at Leiden University is in full swing. Orientation Week Leiden (OWL for short) is giving a record 1,378 new international students the chance to get to know the city and one another. We got the lowdown from the new arrivals at OWLands Festival.

Michael, Richard and Martin

These three lads from Shanghai (China) are as good as brothers. They were already classmates in Shanghai, and have now come to spend six months at Leiden Law School. They are going to take classes in topics such as cyber law and European law.

Richard: ‘We’ve been given a warm welcome here in Leiden. Everyone is helpful if you need to open a bank account or apply for an ID card; it’s really heartwarming. And the OWL programme has been great fun.’

Michael: ‘What I liked best was the bouldering workshop, where you have to climb a wall without ropes. It was my first attempt at climbing. It’s really difficult, but great fun too. Do I want to take it up professionally? Very funny! Somehow I don’t think I’m good enough yet!’

Martin: ‘I love it here already. In comparison with Shanghai, Leiden is a small, quiet city. The only minus is the food. The lunch is really European, with cold milk and lots of bread. In China, we prefer a hot meal.’

L-r: Michael, Richard and Martin


Sophie comes from Bavaria in Germany. She’s already studying Safety and Security Management at The Hague University of Applied Sciences. But she now wants to do a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy at Leiden University as well.

‘The Hague is one of the few places where you can do Safety and Security Management, so it’s pure chance that I ended up in this region. But I’m glad I did because Leiden and The Hague are rather special. I feel at home.

‘You feel a sense of peace and calm here. That’s because of the vibe in the city but it’s also because of the people. They make for an open, international environment that encourages different ideas. I don’t think I’d have experienced that if I’d have stayed in Germany.

‘So far, OWL has been great. It helps you come into contact with other students. The pub crawl was particularly effective because it was so relaxed. By the fourth café, we were already dancing.’



Nazeer comes from Hyderabad, the fourth largest city in India, which means he has come from a noisy city with a population of 7m to the peace and quiet of Leiden. The contrast could hardly be greater.

‘Someone told me yesterday that Leiden was once invaded by the Spanish. Now it’s we students who are invading! Back in India I already heard that Leiden is an amazing place to do the advanced master’s programme in Public International Law. Because of the good university, but also because it’s such a friendly student city. And that’s completely true.

‘What I like best are the canals running through the city centre. We walked along them during our pub crawl yesterday, which up to now has been the best part of OWL by far. We listened to music, made friends: it was fantastic! And afterwards my buddy took me to a techno party. That was the cherry on the cake.

‘Leiden has one downside: those damn seagulls. They’re incredibly noisy, and if you don’t watch out they steal your food.’

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