‘Studying in Leiden is a life-changing experience’: students on the LExS grant
Last year around 2,000 international students started a master’s degree at Leiden University. To make this possible, there are various grants that these students can apply for. One such grant is the LExS: the Leiden University Excellence Scholarship Programme. Three LExS students tell us about their first months in Leiden.
Indian student Pooja came to Leiden this summer for the Chemical Biology specialisation on the two-year Master’s in Chemistry. She is gradually getting used to student life in Leiden: ‘Leiden is a quiet student town. I’ve only just started the programme, but I’m beginning to get used to it and really like it!’ Studying in Leiden wasn’t Pooja’s only option. She could have done a master’s in Canada: ‘I chose Leiden for the Chemistry programme. It’s exactly what interests me and the curriculum is flexible, which means I can do precisely what I want to do.’
Studying in an international environment is nothing new for Pooja. This is because of her bachelor’s degree in India: ‘I’m used to studying in an international context. That’s normal in India, but I wanted more experience abroad, so I decided to apply for the LExS. The university day is much longer In India. I’m glad we have more breaks here!’
For Paulina it’s been a bit of a wait: she had a place on the Master’s in Cultural Analysis: Literature and Theory last year, but coronavirus made it so complicated to travel to the Netherlands that she postponed it by a year. She was able to come to Leiden this year: ‘When I arrived here it was as though coronavirus didn’t exist. I come from Chile and there are loads more rules there. It’s really great that lectures here are no longer online.’ Paulina likes the programme here too: ‘I’d never considered living in the Netherlands, but the programme in Leiden looked really interesting. I’m so lucky to have been awarded the grant and to be living here now! This will be a life-changing experience.’
Paulina is really positive about the city too: ‘I love Leiden. It’s so pretty! The city is small and quiet. It’s like walking round in a fairy tale. The classes are different from in Chile. There you mainly have to listen as a student. Here in Leiden they expect much more of you: you have to read loads to prepare for each class, and have to ask critical questions and give your opinion during class. Fortunately, the University also does a lot to make students feel at home. Health Week, Sports Week, Career Services, OWL: it feels as though the University cares about you as a student.’
Rashid has also come to Leiden to do a master’s on a LExS. He too has noticed some differences between classes in Leiden and his home country: ‘Pakistan is really focussed on lectures where students listen. You’re not expected to ask questions or actively participate, whereas in Leiden interaction is really important. This means you learn much more, so I think the Leiden method is better.’ The Master’s in International Dispute Settlement and Arbitration is the reason why Rashid applied for Leiden: ‘I applied for several universities, but the programme in Leiden appealed to me most. Here you learn about both the practical and the theoretical side of law.’
Rashid is still pleased with his choice: ‘The professors are good and everyone is really helpful. The programme coordinator has already helped a lot when I haven’t been able to figure something out. The biggest hurdle is accommodation. That’s a real problem. I haven’t managed to find anything yet.’
The Leiden University Scholarship Excellence Programme
The Leiden University Scholarship Excellence Programme (LExS) is for excellent students from outside the EU who want to do a master’s in Leiden. It is also open to students of all nationalities who wish to do the LLM Advanced Masters and the MSC in International Relations and Diplomacy. For the September intake of the 2021-2022 academic year, 1,003 people applied for a LExS grant, and 29 were successful.
Text: Lisanne Bos