A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

The Dutch Connection (part 1): multicultural Netherlands, global opportunities and Nour Project

One thing I have always found rather fascinating about Dutch people is their global presence and influence. Everywhere I’ve been in the world, I’ve come across fellow Dutch speakers and people tied to the Netherlands through either ancestry or some other educational, professional or social experience. Indeed, the country itself is a globally recognised brand, and I’m not even joking when I say that last summer, I paid to see a Dutch tulip display at the Araluen Botanic Park in Western Australia, before flying back to the Netherlands a week later.


Tulips at Araluen Botanical Park, Western Australia

The Dutch connection (as I have now coined this brand-meets-global-network) is very real within our globalised world, and the benefits to circulating within this network continue to surprise, the world over. In this two part blog post, I want to relay the surprising ways in which studying at Leiden has broadened my experience of the world, both theoretically and physically. It has not only giving me new and extensive insights into the cultures, religions and political situations in, for example, India and Indonesia, but my studies have also taking me to and served useful on a cultural exchange to Jordan.


And LU registration makes it all happen

I, for one, had never envisioned that pursuing my Bachelor of Arts in The Netherlands, instead of Australia, would one day result in me studying the Hindi language or the discovery of, for example, my appreciation for Bollywood cinema. I had always known that I was interested in cross-cultural communication, mainly due to the fact that I had grown up in a multicultural environment, but it wasn’t until taking Introduction to Area Studies at Leiden University College, and especially the course Anthropology and Sociology of Contemporary South Asia at the Faculty of Social Sciences, that stimulating this interest also began to open up real-life opportunities to engage with the world, beyond the boundaries of my upbringing.

In choosing to tap into my Dutch roots, and thereby switching from an Australian university to Leiden University, and then later switching programmes from Liberal Arts and Sciences: Global Challenges to South & Southeast Asian Studies, the way in which I have come to experience the world, has genuinely and profoundly changed for the better. Who would have thought that Leiden’s marketing slogan “discover the world at Leiden University,” which reappears on all our lecture slides, actually has real-life validity?

Frankly not me, as I’ve always been quite sceptical of marketing language employed by educational institutions. Yet here I am, proving that it can be true, as long as you take the initiative to make it happen, by seeking out the opportunities available to you through the University or studying in Holland generally. It is also true that I didn’t fully understand (and appreciate) the global scope and impact of my aforementioned choices, and the resulting opportunities, until I spent six unforgettable weeks teaching English in Irbid, Jordan, thanks to my involvement with AIESEC The Netherlands’ Nour Project.


Jordanian flag at the top of the Roman Theatre in Downtown Amman, with views of the Citadel and Hercules Temple

Part of the magic of Nour Project is that the application stage is open to all students enrolled at Dutch universities, and is thereby not limited to Dutch nationality, a particular study programme or even students of Leiden University. Its exclusivity, however, to AIESEC The Netherlands, demonstrates perfectly the desire of this tiny country—or at least a youthful strata of it—to positively influence global affairs and to foster multiculturalism at home and abroad. Obviously, being who I am, I think this is really wonderful and I hope to continue engaging with projects like it in the future.

The real magic of Nour Project, in my opinion, is therefore the aim of this three phase project itself, which is to “bridge the gap between the Western and Arab Worlds,” by means of an AIESEC facilitated learning programme, a volunteering experience in an Arab country and a reintegration programme.

In putting in my application, I very much saw this as an opportunity to meet likeminded students in the Netherlands as well as the Middle East; as an opportunity to pursue my interest in cross-cultural communication and to further develop my soft skills; and, to also be part of a youth movement, which ultimately strives to achieve peaceful coexistence and mutual understanding, with the help of curious individuals, from both regions. Not only then did I achieve all this, it has also absolutely been one of the most extraordinary, rewarding and fulfilling experiences of my life to date! I definitely recommend it to anyone interested in The Middle East and Northern Africa region as well as challenging one’s self.


Hiking in Petra, Jordan, with my AIESEC Irbid family

Curious about how I got on in Jordan, and how my Dutch connection benefitted me there? Then please check-in to The Leidener again soon to read all about it.

About Sarah-Louise@TheLeidener

Hello, Sarah-Louise here. I study South & Southeast Asian Studies, including Hindi (नमस्ते), at the Faculty of Humanities. I am interested in identity formation, their politicisation, and social spaces, and for this reason I like to combine my own photography with storytelling. Feel free to leave a comment below, to request a blog topic or to approach me in person, if you happen to spot me on campus. For my full profile, please visit the Meet the Bloggers section of The Leidener.

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