R. Allan, ‘Going Dutch: A Guide to Studying at Leiden University’

Author: Ruth Allan

This time last year, I was preparing to study at Leiden University in the Netherlands for the 2018-2019 academic year. Leiden Law School is the oldest and one of the largest in the Netherlands, it is well known for its high level of academic teaching which is initially what led to my desire to study there. The experience was one that was both challenging, yet incredibly rewarding.

Orientation Week and Socialising

On arrival, the University arranged a week for international students called OWL week. We were split into groups with other students from across the globe who were likely to be in our classes. The week involved familiarising new students with Leiden itself and with the Dutch culture through numerous social events. This was an easy way to get to know Leiden and to gain a better understanding of Dutch life. I was the only student from Glasgow who went to Leiden for the year and I was initially worried I would find it hard to make friends. During OWL week I found everyone was in the same position and people were very open to get to know one another which made making friends a lot easier than I anticipated. The university had an International Student Union which was student-run and offered weekly social events. This encouraged students to keep in contact with people you had met at OWL week, but also socialise with Dutch students who were in charge of organisation. These social events often had a theme which was related to Dutch culture which was a really fun way to learn more about the country.

Work/Life balance

The workload in Leiden was very different to Glasgow. Days were a lot longer, with classes sometimes not finishing until 8pm at night. However, the work was probably less academically challenging meaning that there was less work to do out with class. This left more time for travelling and exploring new surroundings. The International Student Union organised trips across Europe which were relatively cheap and well organised meaning it was easy to visit other places as you weren’t required to do any of your own organisation. Having said that, I did organise a couple of trips independently, the Netherlands has to be one of the easiest places to travel from with Schiphol airport – just a short 15-minute train journey from Leiden – being the gateway to Europe.

Good to know

On arrival I flew directly from Glasgow to Schiphol, where I got the train from the airport to Leiden Central train station. The total journey took under 2 hours which made having visitors from home really easy. When I arrived in August, there were a few formalities I had to take care of in the first few days. The Netherlands require you to register at your nearest Town Hall to allow you to reside in the Netherlands, this was easy to do with an online appointment booking system and a short ten-minute appointment at the Town Hall. The University recommended Rabobank to International Students and actually operated a drop-in session whereby you could meet with a member of Rabobank staff and open your Dutch Bank account with relative ease. This was an important step, as very few places in the Netherlands actually accept UK bank cards – which was frustrating but easily rectified by transferring money into your Dutch account.

Dutch Accommodation

An important recommendation for the Netherlands in general is to make sure you apply for accommodation early! The lack of student housing was something I found quite shocking – with some students living in tents for the entire first semester. I lived in University run accommodation which was pricey but worth applying for, as the chance of finding private accommodation is very slim.

I had the most amazing year in Leiden and would highly recommend studying abroad – if I could do it all over again I would without hesitation. Leiden is a fantastic city if you want high quality teaching as well as a central location to travel across Europe with your newly made friends.

Dank je wel!

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