A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Yesterday was Honours Graduation and I thought it might be interesting to quickly summarize what Honours program actually is (well, at least how I experienced it).
“You will be able to develop your own talents while being coached by the finest academic staff Leiden University has to offer.”
The Honours program is organized by the University’s Honours Academy and they promise quite a bit on their website. Apart from the promise to be taught and coached by the “finest academic staff”, Honours College was introduced to us as a way to meet ambitious people and to challenge yourself within and outside your own academic field. Let’s see if they kept their promise:
Meeting people: that worked pretty well I feel. I sat in Honours Classes with Medical students, students from Media Technology and people studying History. In the Honours cohort at the Faculty of Social Science, Psychology (and International Bachelor students particularly) were somewhat overrepresented. Maybe because international students think: “Great, I get more credits for the same study fee”, or because my cohort was the first international one and not that many Dutch students knew about it.
Topics outside the core course work: that one is a bit more difficult. The Social Science Honours Tracks gives you a lot of choice to fill your program. I followed Honours Classes on Mindfulness and on Medical Technologies, a Journalism course and a course on Virtual Reality Applications. Other students stayed more focused on Psychology and took classes that focused on Mental Disorders in the Health Care system, Obesity or Leadership. It depends on your interests and creativity. Honours College opens doors, you just have to look around and pick the one that attracts you most.
Topics that I might have otherwise missed: that are topics in classes that are exclusively for Honours Students. One example is the Mindfulness course I followed. We talked about the philosophical and religious cornerstones of Mindfulness but also about possible applications in schools or at university. On top of that, we practiced Mindfulness ourselves, which is rather crucial if you want to discuss such an subjective idea with others. Now, when teachers in Clinical Psychology or Health Psychology mention Mindfulness as a therapeutic tool, I can relate to that much better and see the problems and possibilities of it. So yes, I learned something that I would have missed otherwise.
Leiden’s finest academic staff: that one is easy. Professors seem to be rather happy and excited to teach Honours students. I remember testing all kinds of equipment in the Psychology lab, watching South Korean films and having dinner with them. This informal interaction taught me to not be afraid of university lecturers: they are human and fun to be around with. As an international student, this was an important lesson.
So, was it worth it? From my perspective: yes! I wrote papers, held presentations, worked on group assignments, meditated, went on excursions and attended all kinds of additional lectures during my Bachelor studies. The time investment was sometimes rather high and writing that 3000 word essay on top of the regular assignments might challenge your organizational skills, but it is worth it. I am taking with me quite some inspiration, new skills and -most importantly- a network of people that are passionate about their field of studies.