Universiteit Leiden

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'I learned a lot as a student, but even more as a human being'

On 22 November, the Honours College certificate ceremony took place in a full Scheltema. Most students had received a diploma before, but this ceremony felt different, says honours graduate Maarten van der Marel. "It's a special moment."

There is an upbeat atmosphere in the hall. Nervous students chat with each other or their lecturers. Many bump into old acquaintances with whom they have taken one or more courses. Together, they reminisce. After a plenary word of welcome, the graduates split into smaller groups per honours track, to receive their certificates one by one.


The last three years, students have taken extra subjects in one of the seven honours programmes. These offered deepening or broadening knowledge in addition to their regular studies. The participants differ per subject and come from several study backgrounds. As a result, issues are approached interdisciplinarily. This allows students to develop themselves scientifically and societally, while also discovering where their interests lie. 

A valuable effort

In their specific honours track, students learned to look beyond the boundaries of their own discipline and followed their own interests. For example, they were able to partly compose their own curriculum. Many participants chose to do something outside their own discipline. For example, public administration student Silke Osinga took a course on archaeology. According to her, the fact that people had chosen the subject themselves influenced the atmosphere during lectures. 'Everyone is there because they want to be.'

Professor Han de Winde agrees that flexibility is the Honours College's strength. If students want to do something extra, you should give them as much space as possible, De Winde believes. 'It costs the coordinators a lot more time,' he jokes. 'But it is so valuable.'

'Not about piece of paper'

Linda Hidding found the emphasis on personal development especially important. She took the course 'Designing Your Life'. Here, students learned how to shape their careers themselves. The emphasis was on the process, not the goal. According to Linda, it is good that students are taught not to look only at the results.

Silke agrees. Many people ask her what she can do with the certificate. 'But that's not the point,' she explains. 'The piece of paper is not the most exciting thing.' The ceremony is dwarfed by all that she has learned over the past few years. For Maarten too, the skills and experience are most valuable. 'I learned a lot as a student,' he says. 'But even more as a human being.' 

Text: Robin Buijs
Photos: Batuhan Keskiner, Buro JP and Eric van den Bandt 

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