A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

Virtual Exchange

In the last weeks, basically all parts of our lives have moved online. For us students, this has led to a lot of online-lectures and workgroups that now start with the sentence “Can everybody hear me?”.

If you have participated in Leiden’s virtual exchange programme, this is quite familiar. I’d love to recommend a virtual exchange to pass the quarantine, but unfortunately most of the deadlines have already passed. Nevertheless, this great concept deserves some attention and you should absolutely consider to sign up next year. After all, quarantine is the right time to plan more digital adventures.


Going on an actual exchange isn’t possible right now – but digitally you can go anywhere!

What is a virtual exchange?

To be perfectly clear, the virtual exchange programme existed long before we were forced to digitalize our lives. Leiden University collaborates with institutions from all around the globe, to give us the opportunity to participate in courses that are not offered in Leiden.

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No need to pack a bag – you have the (digital) world at your fingertips! – Photo by Nubia Navarro (nubikini) on

As the name suggests, all classes are held in a virtual environment and usually use blended learning techniques. This means that you won’t just watch some lectures and then write an assignment, but rather interact with your professors and fellow students. As such, you’ll still experience cultural differences, for example in teaching methods.

Of course, you will get credits for your effort: either as part of a minor, honours programme, extracurricular credit or even instead of an elective!

Who can sign up?

As long as you are a Leiden University student, you can sign up for any of the courses. It doesn’t matter what your main study programme is; if you’re interested and motivated the virtual world is open to you. Also worth noting is that there are no fees surrounding the virtual exchange!

Which courses can we take?

Right now, the virtual exchange programme offers roughly 30 different courses on a variety of subjects. Whether you’re interested in history, medicine or programming – there is something for everybody. Follow this link to check out the full range of courses:


Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on

Why should we sign up?

A virtual exchange offers you the chance to experience different cultures from the comfort of your couch. Obviously, you’re not as immersed as someone who studies there in person. However, it’s still possible to discern distinct cultural differences, e.g. in teaching methods. It’s like a pocket sized-exchange programme.

Are you interested in practising a foreign language? Perfect! Some courses are offered in the University’s local language. Granted, you need to have a rather solid footing in a language to do that, but it’s a great (and free) way to improve your Spanish or French!

Where/when do we sign up?

Most of the courses are offered in the spring semester, so it’s ideal to sign up until mid-February. All you have to do is register with Leiden University’s virtual exchange office and submit a short letter of motivation.

For me, the most maddening thing about the pandemic is that it feels like I have zero control over my life – it feels pointless to make plans for the near future. If you feel the same way, this mini-version of an exchange is worth considering: True, it’s somewhat in the future, but it is pandemic-proof!

What do you think about online exchange programmes? And where would you like to go (digitally)?

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