A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
I was sat today by the window, looking through some photos from the first months I moved to Leiden back in 2014. As I was appreciating the beautiful sunshine, comforted by the immediate proximity of my radiator, I started thinking of my early days in the Netherlands. Specifically, about the part where I really wanted to do an internship as a part of my studies.
Before I came here, I had no idea how common of a practice it is for students in the Netherlands to take an internship as a part of their degree, and it had not crossed my mind that I could even get credits for it like from a regular module with lectures & exams!
Stage 1: Where to start?
What usually happened to me is open 20+ tabs on my browser of potential organisations I would like to join, then 20 sub-tabs for positions that I am really interested in but am only remotely qualified for. Then I would get tired and my research process would end as it would clearly be time for a nap (midday? no problem!…). Or a chocolate treat. Or both.
In reality, there is a chance that your (future) department has some pre-arranged internship opportunities. You can always check with the programme coordinator whether that is the case. In my specialty (Asian Studies), for example, there was indeed such an opportunity for students to go abroad for an internship. Even if that is not the case for you, however, picking 5-6 organisations and focusing on applying for similar roles within them will save you countless chocolate treats in the small hours of the night!
Stage 2: Paperwork
There is in fact a lot of it, if you want your internship to count towards your studies. But it is manageable, and usually can be completed in reasonable amount of time. As I am a student in the Humanities department, for me it was necessary to create a research proposal related to my studies and the internship itself. This had to be approved by a handful of people (personal supervisor, studies coordinator, internship coordinator, and ultimately, the examination board). Small bureaucratic sacrifice, considering how much you can learn and experience while interning! And this outline you create is actually quite helpful in the months that will follow and helps not to lose focus.
Stage 3: Balance & Finance
You might be thinking: work – life balance but I mean: work – university work balance. I was making daily notes on what I am doing, which made writing my final report that much easier. They also help to keep track of your research.
And lastly, about financing: there are many scholarship opportunities offered by the university. And many companies in the Netherlands offer paid internships. The rule of the thumb for me in that area has been: keep looking ’till you find what you need!