A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Last Thursday I witnessed a very cool thing! I went with a couple of friends to the opening night of an exhibition about Buddhism at Leiden’s Museum Volkenkunde (the museum of ethnology). The entrance was on invitation, which was already a very cool thing in itself. We had drinks, listened to long speeches in Dutch without understanding more than a sentence, and felt very much like Carrie and her friends in “Sex & the City”. However, what’s special about this exhibition is that students of Leiden University helped create it. I come from a previous academic background that was mainly focused on theory and classical studies, therefore seeing what students are able to do here caught me by surprise, but also inspired me and reminded me of why I chose to come to Leiden university for my Master’s in Asian Studies.
I arrived in Leiden for the Spring semester which started in February 2015, and when I got to choose my classes I completely disregarded the one that was called “Hands-on research experience in Museum Volkenkunde”. After seeing what the students of that class did, I regret it. At the same time, I am able to tell the story from the perspective of one of my best friends, who actually saw her name printed out in the list of collaborators, both in the exhibition itself and in the official catalogue.
She told me that it was a massive task, researching every bit of theoretical information which must form the stories and explanations that we now see in the museum. They also shared ideas about implementations, such as interactive touch-screen maps, and their ideas were not only taken into consideration, but also put into practice in the actual exhibition. Despite the huge workload, however, I can only imagine how proud these students are of what their hard work turned out to be! Undoubtedly, if I could go back I would choose that class immediately! The knowledge and experience students can gain in such hands-on, practical classes is unprecedented in any other kind of academic environment I have studied in before; getting to study the things that we love, and at the same time have a taste of what the jobs related to our studies can offer is a chance we should seize whenever we can (which is exactly what I didn’t do). And after months of hard work, enjoying the results with your friends over a very classy glass of white wine is priceless!