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High school students at the Open Day: 'I want to do my own thing'

Last Saturday, the Turfmarkt in The Hague, where during the week thousands of commuters make their way to the many ministries in the city centre, was seething with future young students. It was the Bachelor's Open Day at Leiden University, which took place physically both in Leiden and The Hague. A debut for Campus The Hague, and in the heart of the city, there was no getting around it, literally or figuratively.

The friendly and helpful students manning the stands at the information fair take a short break to catch their breath during the presentations in the lecture halls. The presentations are no sooner over than the hall of the Wijnhaven building is packed with students. A lively gathering that does justice to the term 'fair'. 

The Open Day is about choices, choices and more choices. Or, at least, preparing to make choices. Current students at the University, who are themselves hands-on experts, answer the most diverse questions, while the high school students take a good look at what's on offer.  Some are keen to find out more about a specific study programme, while others, who take a more pragmatic approach, want to explore a broader range of options. 

Jan, Hanno and Frederik.

Going their own way

Three of the visitors, Jan, Hanno and Frederik from Alkmaar (all 17 years old), thought they had found a quiet spot for a coffee or tea after the plenary presentation. 'We're still taking a good look at what's available,' Hanno says. Frederik wants to become a dentist. Wouldn't it have been better for him to go to the LUMC then? He's keeping all his options open: 'Sometimes it's good to know what you don't want, so I think it's worth looking at all the options. I already know I'm interested in dentistry, but maybe I'm overlooking something else.'

These three make a good team - very friendly and relaxed. Jan summarises what they are hoping to find at the University: 'What I most want is to find inspiration for planning a good future and a happy student life.' Hanno already understands that it will probably mean having to let go of some friendships from school: 'Everyone in the class will be going their own way; that's, which is just the way it is.' 



Choosing a study programme is a crossroads in the life of a high school student; they have to find the right combination between what they want to do and what their ambitions are so that they have a well-balanced student life. This is something Lara (17) from Zeist is very aware of: 'I'm looking forward to having the freedom at university to do my own thing, and, of course, I'm keen to meet a lot of new people. I am curious, though, about how the study itself will go. In any event, it will be something I have chosen myself and I'll give it my best shot.’


Big ambitions

There are also students who come to the information fair with a narrower focus in mind, like Yazlin (16) from Kleve (Germany), who has known since she was thirteen that she wanted to study at Leiden University: 'I visited Leiden with my family, and that's when I decided I had to study in Leiden.' Her passion for social issues and her ambition to become a politician ultimately brought her to The Hague: 'Because I want to play an active role in society and resolve our problems.' 

What will she leave behind when she becomes a student? 'My family.' While her sister splutters and tries to keep her tea in its beaker, Yazlin qualifies that slightly: 'What I mean is that I want to become independent and build a life of my own.'

Text: Mohammed El Baroudi
Photos: Twycer

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