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Struggles of student life are central at OpenUp! symposium

The life of a students is not always easy and many students find it difficult to share their problems with each other. For that reason, the study advisers and coordinators of studies of Campus The Hague organise the symposium OpenUp!. This event was awarded with the Van Bergen Prize.

Loneliness, homesickness and depression

The reason for the OpenUp! symposium was a study by students of International Studies in the context of the Students as Partners project. It showed that many students are suffering mentally. Rinske, Annet and Elizabeth are coordinators of studies at International Studies and wanted to do something about this. Rinske: ‘Many students indicated feeling lonely, homesick, and depressed.

As coordinators of studies, all meet with students individually on a regular basis. They noticed that students often felt embarrassed to talk about their feelings. The main goal of the symposium is to make students talk about these issues with one another, so they can support and empower each other and themselves. Elizabeth: ‘For many students, it will help if they know they are not alone.’

Attention for the international student

Leiden University has organised events about mental health of students before. But these events had not been in English and had not been organised by study advisors. Especially international students, who leave friends and family behind, face difficulties and find it hard to share this with their new friends. Elizabeth: ‘International students cannot go home to their parents or their (old) friends. They don’t have that safety net.’

Van Bergen Prize

While the study advisors and coordinators were already planning the OpenUp! symposium, they saw the notice of the Van Bergen Prize. The Van Bergen Prize is awarded annually to initiatives that bring Dutch and international students from Leiden University closer together. When they were invited by the van Bergen committee to explain their plans in more detail, it was still uncertain whether they would receive the prize. Rinske: "After the conversation we went to a cafe. Two wines later we received the good news that we had won! "

The plan is also supported by the faculties that are present at The Hague Campus. Winning the van Bergen prize was an additional recognition. Elizabeth: ‘We see the appreciation on all sides.’


The symposium will be interactive and of course may cover difficult topics. Vice rector magnificus Hester Bijl will open the symposium, after which science philosopher Bas Haring will talk about the struggles of (student) life. Sanne Kooiman, co-founder of foundation SCHERP, will show one of her documentaries and discuss various propositions with the students. The students will also be busy with fun assignments, so that they can talk to each other. The evening ends with a cup of soup and bread. Annet: ‘We want to keep it light, but we don't want to play the issues down either.’

Theme nights

If the symposium is a success, the plan is to organize four more theme evenings this year. Rinske: ‘One of the future themes could be a Let’s talk about-failure Night, where students can talk about bad decisions they have made. So much emphasis is placed on success and performance. Everybody makes mistakes; you can learn from that. You should talk to each other about it.’

Wil je je inschrijven?

Do you want to register?

The symposium will take place on 27 February 2020 in room 2:02 in the Wijnhaven building (Turfmarkt 99 The Hague). It will start at 3:00 pm and with soup and all end at 8:00 pm. The event is open for all students at Campus The Hague. So even if you feel well, you are welcome to learn more about what others encounter.

Register here:



Text: Lieke Bakker
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