Universiteit Leiden

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‘Exploring this country has been the experience I didn’t know I needed’

Friday 17 November is International Student’s Day, a day dedicated to showcasing the international experience of international students in the Netherlands. Sacha, originally from the United Kingdom, tells us about her experiences as an exchange student at Leiden University.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Sacha: ‘I grew up in Central London and thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of life there, including the chaos. Both my parents are from the Lake District in the North of England and after COVID they moved back. I have spent a lot more time there since. Like most Brits, I enjoy visiting a pub, but I also love motorsport.’

How do you like studying here so far?

‘I enrolled in the Sustainability, Climate Change and Food Insecurity minor, taught at LUC, thinking that it mirrored my study of Human Geography at home. The lecturers teaching this course have been exceptional at stimulating our curiosity and giving us a comprehensive understanding of both environmental science and sustainable futures. They have allowed me to reconsider my daily habits and future in a way I haven’t experienced before. I still eat meat and waste too much food, but at least I feel guilty now!’

Sacha Thornton

What made you want to come study at Leiden University?

‘From my experience, going on exchange is a little less common in the UK than in other countries. I think this is because we tend to go on exchange for the whole year, as opposed to just one semester. Even though I felt pressure to graduate and join the workplace, I applied for a university programme that would secure me an exchange year. Rather uniquely I had little say on where I would go on exchange – Exeter University, my home university, allocated me Leiden University.’

What has your experience here brought you so far and what will you take with you for your future?

‘This experience has already brought me so much. The night before I moved here, a friend of mine said to me that after a year here, I would never want to leave. As time passes his words increasingly fruition: I have met the most fantastic people including some very accommodating Dutchies and other students from all around the world. Exploring this country has been the experience I didn’t know I needed.

Since being in The Hague, I have explored the city as best as I can. One way I have tried to do this is by cancelling my gym membership and running around the city instead. I regularly run down the beach promenade and into the leafy neighbourhoods around Oud Scheveningen and Statenkwartier, near where I live. The only negative of this is that my schedule is dependent on the rain and wind, of which there is a lot.’

Do you have tips for other international and exchange students studying here?

‘My tip for other international students and exchange students would be to try and spend one day of the weekend exploring somewhere in The Hague or around the country. It can be a little expensive, but there are plenty of options with the OV chip card. This keeps me sane and reinforces the feeling of excitement you get when living abroad and exploring new things.’

Text: Julia van der Elsen

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