Students from all corners of the world
Callum is from Ireland, Sharitah is from The Hague and Kirsten is from Manilla. The new students taking part in the HOP week from 19 to 23 August come from all corners of the world. The HOP week is the introduction week for students at Leiden University in The Hague. The diversity of the student population is what makes it so attractive.
The Information Fair is takingplace in The Hague's Zuiderpark on Tuesday morning. The new students are also provided with lunch: a container of rice with vegetables and a cloyingly sweet chilli sauce, that attracts as many determined wasps as new students. The new students are sitting on the grass, some on picnic blankets, others not, or at tables, talking animatedly with one another. Others are taking a walk around the different stands. There's music and a bar serving soft drinks and beer. Everyone's speaking English.
Joseph and Callum
Joseph and Callum are both from the University of Limerick in Ireland, where they are third-year students. They are spending three months in The Hague studying for a minor. Joseph opted for Intelligence Studies, Callum for Global Affairs. They are seriously impressed by the big city of The Hague; Limerick is much smaller. When asked why they chose Leiden University, their answer is enough to make us blush. 'The education is of a very high standard and the university has a prestigious international reputation. Our professors advised us to come here.' They both feel it's important to leave their familiar world behind for a while. Callum says, 'You get to know a new culture and become more self-reliant. ' Joseph adds, 'It's good to get outside your comfort zone, to find your own feet.' We couldn't put it better ourselves.
Renee is as Dutch as anyone can be, and she's from Deventer. She will be studying International Studies. The international aspect of the programme is what attracts her. The HOP is a great opportunity, not just to meet new people, according to Renee. 'You can also learn a lot from the mentors. They are second- and third-year students who can tell you a lot about the programme, like internships and exams, for instance.' Renee is finding it exciting - and also a bit nerve-racking - having to organise all kinds of things herself. 'I've been to the Town Hall to register, which actually made me worry I might be breaking the law somehow, without realising it.' That was probably a more worrying experience than starting a three-year degree programme in The Hague. Renee was happy to learn at the information fair that there are plans to set up a women's rugby team. That's a team she'll definitely be joining.
Valeriya, Sharitah and Kuba
Valeriya, from Russia, has a different reason for being here: it was love that brought her to The Hague. She lives in the Netherlands with her Dutch boyfriend and decided to start her studies all over again here. In Russia she had studied Law and also worked for a number of years as a lawyer. She looks much younger than her 28 years. 'I don't want to be a lawyer any more,' she says firmly. She has chosen to study a bachelor's in Urban Studies. 'It's a multidisciplinary programme that will give me a lot of flexibility in my future career.'
The situation is very different for Sharitah from The Hague, who has chosen to study Public Administration. She is taking part in HOP to meet some new people, and so far she's really enjoying it. But she doesn't expect too much to change for her. 'I've always been self-reliant. My parents never had to tell me to do my homework, because I always made sure I did it myself. I don't think university is very different from school.'
Kuba is from Poland and will be studying for a bachelor's in Urban Studies. He already speaks some Dutch: 'I studied Dutch for a year while I was still in Poland.' When asked, he says he'll miss his family, of course. 'But I'm sure it'll be fine. It was a conscious choice to go abroad. I realise it's natural to miss my family, so I don't think I'll be too emotional about it.'
Kristen, Kirra and Cederic
Kristen comes from the other side of the world. She arrived on Sunday after an 18-hour journey from Manilla, the capital of the Philippines. Kristen is a third-year student, on an exchange programme. She was able to put together her own programme. She is interested in global issues and will be studying Public Health. Many of her fellow students chose to go to Lille in France, but that didn't appeal to Kristen. 'Here you have students from all parts of the world, which I really like.' And how different will her study week be? ‘In Manilla it's a case of study, sleep, study, sleep - including Saturdays. But, the other side of the coin is the shock of the price of food here. 'A hamburger is twice as expensive here as in Manilla!'
Kirra feels American through and through, but beause her parents are Dutch, she also has Dutch nationality. She apologises for her poor Dutch. It's obvious why she is studying in the Netherlands. But what made her choose Leiden University College (LUC) in The Hague? Her answer reflects the idealist in her. 'I like the diversity of the backgrounds of the students and the fact that they want to help bring about change. You can see that from the different courses; they are what bring many students here. Me too. Of course, I'm sad that I won't see my family very much over the coming years, but I wanted to get away from the US and learn to be more independent.' Kirra, too, is filled with enthusiasm about the planned women's rugby team!
Some of the students visiting the information fair in the HOP week are new students about to start at Leiden University College. These students also have their own introduction week.
Cederic is the second student from The Hague that we met. He, too, is about to start his studies at Leiden University College. What attracts him about the programe is its enormous breadth, ranging from politics and history to social sciences. He is particularly interested in such themes as human diversity en world politics. Isn't it a little unusual that with parents living in The Hague, he will still - like all first-year LUC students - will have a room in the Anna van Buerentoren? 'I expect I'll visit my parents quite often. I'm looking forward to having a fun time with my fellow students, but a the same time I like having my own space. I enjoy spending time on my own, watching TV series and reading. Yes, my life will be different; different, but in a good way.'
Text: Corine Hendriks
Photography: ©Simone Both
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