A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

A Glimpse of Studying Asian Studies at Leiden University

Oh boy, it has been nearly six months since I first wrote something for TheLeidener, but I have not written anything about my major! This time, I will tell you everything I know about my major (Asian Studies) and what it feels like to study about Asia in Europe.

Upon studying here, the question “What are you studying?” is considered as a basic question to get to know each other, especially in meeting fellow international students. I always say with pride that I study Asian Studies at Leiden University, and the reactions are diverse; from the supporting comments (“Wow, that’s cool!”) to critical replies like “Why are you studying Asian Studies in Europe?” So… here is my answer!

The reason I study Asian Studies in Europe is to get a non-biased view about my continent, especially my country, Indonesia. I can only imagine studying about Asia in an Asian country. Europe is well-known for its’ rich culture and its’ tradition of being neutral while studying other continents especially in humanities point of view. At Leiden University, the Asian Studies program consists of 5 specializations, which are History Arts and Culture of Asia, Political, Sociology, and Economy of Asia, East Asian Studies, Southeast Asian Studies, and South Asian Studies. I am a student in Asian Studies program with specialization of History, Arts, and Culture of Asia (abbreviated as HAC among students). In HAC specialization, we do not only study about the arts around Asia, but we can also focus on the history part. Why I put interest in this specialization is because I am interested in the possibility of studying more than one countries, not only in Southeast Asia region but also in Asia as a whole. Being a huge geek on Chinese history and Chinese diaspora history, this is the place I want to be.

What does it feel like to study Asian Studies at Leiden University? I have been here for 13 months, and I mostly feel positive vibes. In my program, I can choose whatever subjects I want to in one term, as long as I do not exceed my maximum credits. The subject varies from one another. I took a class about material culture last semester. It opened my eyes to museum preservation and the rich history of food and drink in Europe. I also took a class about the histories of Southeast Asia, and it gave me a lot of insights on what had happened in my region in historical perspective. The possibilities are endless! Just make sure you know basic knowledge about the classes that you will take because these are MA classes, so they expect you to have a certain amount of knowledge in the related field before taking the course. Or else you would end up stranded for the whole semester.

Another thing I love from studying Asian Studies at Leiden University is the fact that it is very international. The Faculty of Humanities at Leiden University comprises of diverse literature programs so you can see the world at the faculty. They have literature programs from around the world so you can study everything here, from South Asian literature and language to Javanese language. Moreover, the atmosphere in the faculty is international-friendly, and you can find many seminars in English to match your academic interest.

It does not mean I do not have any difficulties too! Some of the classes I took were very small, consisted only around 8 to 10 students. My Chinese Art History class only had seven students. With the small classes, I do not feel a strong bond with my classmates, unlike my other friends in other faculties who usually have big classes with the same classmates for the whole year. However, that does not mean you can have no friends. There are a lot of activities designed for international students in the university so you can meet fellow internationals from diverse study background.

What about you? What are you studying now, and how is your feeling studying at your university? Let us know!

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