Universiteit Leiden

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‘This mentor group will be their new family’

For many a first-year, student life has well and truly begun. This also applies to students in The Hague, who were thrown in at the deep end during the HOP introduction week. We paid them a visit on a sunny afternoon at Landgoed Clingendael.

Pablo and Yoeran

HOPweek is only one-and-a-half days in, and yet Pablo and Yoeran pose for the photos as if they’ve known each other all their lives. These brand-new Security Studies students are clearly enjoying themselves. ‘I come from Switzerland,’ says Pablo in very good Dutch, before adding in English: ‘HOPweek is a good opportunity to get to know people because I don’t know anyone at all in the Netherlands.’ He came to The Hague for a highly rated degree programme he says – and for stroopwafels and Heineken. 

Yoeran comes from Aalsmeer and has just done last week’s EL CID introduction in Leiden. ‘In comparison HOPweek is really relaxed, with plenty of attention for studying and student life. We’re visiting Europol tomorrow.’

Pablo (left) and Yoeran


Whereas some groups are quietly enjoying the sun, mentor Irene (Nene to close friends) and her group are buzzing with energy. This Italian with Indian roots is racing around the picnic table issuing ‘her’ mentees instructions for various games. After a few rounds of Hints, it’s now time for Werewolves, or in her melodious Italian: lupi e contadini. ‘This will be their new family,’ she says, briefly stepping out of her role as game leader. ‘We’re hoping to break the ice with these games, to help them get to know each other better. We’ve already played a game where each first-year has to say two things that are true and one thing that is a lie. The rest of the group has to guess which is the lie.’ It seems to be working: her group is already very open, says Irene. And there will be other times this week to connect with others. ‘I’ve got great expectations of the Zumba and boxing.’



With his long crimson coat, painted nails and bling-bedecked fingers, Niek stands out from the crowd at Landgoed Clingendael. This cheerful International Studies first-year feels right at home in the international community here. He can’t wait to start his studies. As a child he lived with his parents in a number of countries including China and Cambodia, and hopes to resume this travelling life after he graduates, maybe for an environmental organisation like Greenpeace. He’s just played Spin the Bottle with his mentor group, where you have to down a drink if the bottle points to you. ‘A glass of Coke, that is,’ Niek says, in a tone that suggests he wouldn’t have minded a beer either. But when asked what he’s looking forward to most during HOPweek, his inner child proves not quite to have vacated the premises: ‘We’re going to watch Shrek!’



Vivi from Germany looks as though she’s just stepped out of an action film with an all-female cast. With her blue bandana tied over her long hair, she looks confidently into the camera, a hundred percent ready for what the future will bring. And it’s true: this Urban Studies student knows exactly what she wants. ‘I came especially to The Hague because it’s the international city of peace, justice and security,’ she says. Through her studies she wants to help make cities more future-proof. ‘The climate will become intense. You could see that with the flooding in Germany and Limburg. We’ve got to adapt our cities.’ She’s really enjoying HOPweek, but is disappointed that the trips on Friday are already fully booked. Otherwise she’d have gone to Madurodam. Oh well, she’s got another three years to do that.


Pierre-Loup, Alessandra and Julia

It’s a bit of an absurd situation: Pierre-Loup, Alessandra and Julia are introducing the first-years to student life this week, but have barely experienced student life themselves. They’ve spent an entire year following classes online, and Covid scuppered their own HOPweek last year. English-Italian Alessandra describes it as follows: ‘This is really also an introduction week for us, the second-years. That’s one of the main reasons why we’re taking part.’ Pierre-Loup from France thinks it’s amazing to finally meet people now the Covid restrictions have been eased. Julia from Poland reiterates how great it is: ‘It feels like my first proper academic year!’

Vlnr. Pierre-Loup, Alessandra and Julia

Text: Merijn van Nuland
Photos: Melissa Schriek

See the EL CID week portraits too

Our reporter met students at EL CID week, the introduction week in Leiden. See the photo reportage.

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