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Vivian Ng: ‘Because of my job, I’m meeting new people, so it doesn’t feel like working to me’

Vivian studies the Global Political Economy specialisation of the MA International Relations and is the coordinator of the Humanities Buddy Programme. Originally from Malaysia, she has been studying abroad in various places. At Leiden, she focuses her studies on illicit political economy and ensures the internationals feel at home.

Matching international and Dutch students

‘As the coordinator of the Buddy Programme I organise events such as boat tours, dinners and visits to interesting locations. Next to organising events, I write reports and manage the communications of the Buddy Programme. At first it was challenging to speak Dutch at work, but over time, I got better at it.

Most of the work is right before the start of the semester, when I match new international students with their buddies. As a coordinator, I also give presentations about the Humanities Buddy Programme at events attended by international students, like OWL-week and the Masters Open Day.

Focus on crime and time management

‘In my studies, Global Political Economy, I focus my research on illegal trade and organised crime related to drugs and financial crime. So basically, I focus on illicit political economy. I got into this field because it was also the specialisation of my Bachelor’s degree. As a research analyst for my professor, after I got my Bachelor’s degree, I studied the relationship between a Chinese organised crime group and wildlife trade. I got to work with United for Wildlife’s Transport Taskforce, a British non-profit organisation that aims to stop illegal wildlife trade, for half a year. I also took extra classes on illicit trade and through my professor I got to visit an organisation in Uganda, that investigates criminal wildlife traffickers. All of these things got me even more intrigued by the field of illicit political economy.

Working next to studying is not as difficult as it seems, because it makes me more productive. It is also not a full-time job. In the beginning of the semester I was very busy with my job, but less with my studies. When my studies got more hectic due to exams, my job got easier, because I had already done all the recruiting and matching. My job forces me to plan realistically, because if I don’t, I get frustrated if I didn’t get to do everything I planned.’

Borders in the city

‘I like Leiden because it can be peaceful, unlike bigger cities like The Hague, that are always busy. I like the canals, the beautiful environment and the strategic location. From Leiden you can take the train to anywhere in the Netherlands. I like studying here, but what I don’t like that much is that master’s students who study here, usually don’t live here. Many live in places such as The Hague. That makes it more difficult to make friends. Not many stay after class to grab a coffee for example.

There also is a clear line between Dutch and international students. Part of Leiden’s student culture is to join a student association, but not many are open to international students. Something I hear from many international students is: “I have been living in Leiden for a whole year and haven’t even made a Dutch friend”. That’s why I encourage international students to join the Buddy Programme.

Last year, when I first came to Leiden, all I did was study. I missed the social element in my life and felt quite lonely here. Now, because of my job, I meet new people and I really enjoy going to the events. At last week’s event, for example, we visited the Leiden Observatory and it was a lot of fun to look through the telescope together. It doesn’t feel like working to me.’

No more wanderlust

‘Things I like to do when I am not studying or working is going to the park to take a walk, even though I think it is seen as an old people thing. I also like learning new languages, because it is practical. I already know five and now I am trying to learn French.

After my studies I would like to live and work anywhere in the Randstad, but I prefer working in The Hague so I can keep living in Leiden. The Randstad also has more work opportunities for Non-EU citizens. It has been many years since I have been in Malaysia and I have studied in Turkey, Switzerland, Groningen and Leiden. After all the traveling I have done I really want to settle down, despite it not being common among people my age to already want that I think. And I want to settle here, where I am comfortable.'

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The Humanities Buddy Programme matches international students with a local student and organises events to connect international students with Dutch students. The buddy helps the international student with anything that may come up during their studies in Leiden.

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