A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

Becoming Mary Poppins…

Arriving in Leiden in September I came with a great belief that as an English-speaker, I would be in high-demand for employment, I thought hotels would love to have me; that I could teach English; that my Dutch would be able to be developed over a waitressing career… however, after weeks of asking in shops, cafes and bars, I realised that this gaining employment was going to be harder than I had previously thought…

However, if you have recently arrived in Leiden and were hoping to find work, don’t be too disheartened – there definitely are possibilities, they might just be slightly harder to find than they would be in your home country.

Whilst everyone here seems to speak impeccable English, be aware that most employers are looking for people who are fluent in Dutch – great if you have already swotted up, but not so great if, like me, you came hardly knowing a word!

First to find a job, I would advise asking in some of the employment companies, they are usually really helpful to internationals and sometimes will have English-speaking posts. One gave me a list of all the agencies that would be looking to hire English-speakers which was really helpful, although it did later take a lot of internet trawling to realise that it would be hard to find a part-time job in the Leiden area. If you are willing to travel either to Amsterdam or to schipol, however, it is a lot more likely that you will get the chance of employment and if you work a certain number of hours per week, the Dutch government will also give you some money – so that’s always great!

My breakthrough came when I found the website ‘’ which matches up families who need tutors, nannies, au pairs or cleaners with those willing to work. It’s very simple to use; I wrote a short bio, uploaded a picture and then waited for the replies!

It took me a while to find a family whose schedule fitted my schedule and who lived in a reasonable distance but I was lucky enough to come across a really fun, sweet family with two little boys… I have to admit, when I arrived and was asked to change a nappy, I thought that I was definitely out of my depth, but over time it has become easier to deal with the problems of domestic life, to calm the tantrums and cook the meals. I have also found it so rewarding working with children, building up trust and having lots of fun together! Sometimes I love it because it just means one day per week I live outside the student bubble and at least pretend to be an adult!

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So, be patient with jobs but also proactive and it is definitely possible to find something that you love to do that can fit within your student life! Good luck! 
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This entry was posted on January 27, 2014 by in Gemma, Practical Stuff.

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