A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Being an international in the Netherlands is a bit scary at first. I mean, if the language is not enough to scare you off, all the odd traditions will soon reveal themselves, and it can be overwhelming to a fresh foreigner. But that feeling passes, and then you discover how incredible it is to be an international in this amazing country, or more specifically- in this amazing city.
Try to imagine the most welcoming, internationally oriented, friendly city you can. A place so open, you sometimes forget it’s not your home. This is what Leiden is like. Now, before you raise your finger to point out that there are much more internationally oriented citied out there (Rotterdam, The Hague, Amsterdam) I want to be clear- it’s true that those cities are bigger and have plenty more facilities and events for internationals. But none can beat Leiden when it comes to the feeling.
From the moment I set foot in Leiden, two years ago when I came for the open day at the university, I just knew: I immediately felt at home. Walking around the city, even for the first time, you get the odd feeling that you already know it and love it. And it’s the same story with everyone I’ve talked to. You come to visit, naive and unsuspecting, and you end up falling in love.
But it’s not just how the city looks and feels. It’s also how it actually is. I’ll start with an easy one: English. What about it, you wonder? Well, everyone speaks it! It may not sound uncommon at first, most Dutch people speak English very well, but if you travel around a little, you realize that still, it’s not always the case. And it’s not just that everyone speaks it well, but that you can also manage to live and study here- buy groceries, go to the city hall, watch a movie, and literally everything else- not knowing Dutch at all.
Even though you shouldn’t, obviously. Go learn Dutch, would you?
As to my own experience, during the 16 months in which I’ve lived here, I have never felt more welcome or at home, perhaps not even in my home country. I feel it every day, no matter what I do, and I couldn’t have dreamed that it would be this way on that fateful day when I decided to move here.
So, wrapping up, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Leiden will surprise you. It will capture you, enchant you, and embrace you, providing you with safety and freedom, all while being super friendly and open, and plain beautiful. I encourage every international who’s even considering living here to just come to visit. I promise- you won’t have any doubts afterward.