A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
We are currently living in an unpredictable time. Many of us are studying and working from home either completely or partially. University is not the same as it was before, and we all have had to make changes in our lives and adapt to ‘a new normal’. While it may be tempting to shut yourself off from the rest of the world and become a social hermit, it is important to remember that maintaining social connections is vital to our mental well-being. Now more than ever, we need to rely on others for comfort and support.
You may be wondering if it is even possible to socialize with others during these times. There are still ways to socialize while being safe, as long as we maintain 1.5 meters of distance, wash our hands frequently, and stay home if we are feeling sick. It is also important to get tested if you feel that you have Coronavirus symptoms.
So how can you make friends while studying in Leiden (and in a pandemic)?
Leiden University offers a Humanities Buddy Program (for master’s students) to help you meet other students in Leiden or the Hague. You will be matched with an experienced student who can help you settle in! You can attend fun monthly events together such as a boat tour or a museum visit. You can learn more about the buddy program here!
Joining a student association is a great opportunity for meeting new people. A student association is focused on bonding with other students through activities, drinks, and events. While it may sound risky to be meeting lots of different people right now, these organizations have adapted their activities to the current situation. For example, instead of a party, many organizations will have sit-down drinks with distance and a smaller capacity. Some non-profit organizations for international and Dutch students include Erasmus Student Network (formerly International Student Network) and Leiden United.
ESN is not only for Leiden University students, but also students from the Hogeschool and Webster University. Also, it is open for both Bachelor’s and Master’s students. You can become a member of ESN online via this link! The cost of the ESN card is 10 euros (valid for the whole year) during the first week of September. After that, the cost will be 12 euros. As an ESN member, you receive benefits and discounts to our events and activities. Furthermore, you can also receive local and international discounts. To see all of ESN’s upcoming events, check out the Facebook and Instagram or the website!
When you sign up, you can also join one of our Squads which is a buddy program that links you with a small group of people. You can hang out with this group of people throughout the year by attending our events or going off and doing your own thing!
Leiden United is a smaller, close-knit student association that aims to connect Dutch and international students! In order to bridge the gap between the two groups, LU has a one-on-one buddy system to help you settle into Leiden with an experienced Dutch student. They also organize dinners, drinks, trips and other social activities every semester. The membership is 40 euros per semester and it includes the price of all of the dinners! Click here to learn more about how to join Leiden United! Also, make sure to check out the Facebook page for more information on events and activities.
You can also join a study association to meet new friends! Not to be confused with the aforementioned student association, a study association is focused on bonding with people within the same study program. For example, I study Linguistics (BA) and our study association is called T.W.I.S.T! They organize activities and events for their members and it is a great way to meet people who have the same academic interests as you. Click here to view the study associations offered at Leiden University.
Some study associations in Leiden:
Whether your program is a hybrid of physical and online classes–or completely online in some cases–it would be wise to make friends with your fellow classmates. You already have something in common by being in the same course. It can also be useful for your studies to have someone with whom you can talk to about course material and homework. Also, you can ask classmates to study dates or you can join a study group! You can do this in person while practicing social distancing or you can find others who want to do it online!
Healthy University at Home is a guide that provides resources and support for those that may be struggling with studying or working from home. They offer advice for creating better working spaces, maintaining contact with friends or colleagues, and how to take care of your mental health. They also have helplines and contacts such as Coronavirus Student Support, The Listening Phone student helpline: 071 527 1132 (Mon-Fri 9:00-17:00) and Student Psychologists.
Overall, it is possible to make friends during a time like this. As we all collectively go through this difficult time in the world, many people need emotional support from friends and loved ones. However, keep in mind that there is a pandemic going on and that we need to be mindful of how our actions will affect other people. Only do what you are comfortable with and try to remember that we will all get through this together.
Stay updated on the Coronavirus (Leiden University): https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/dossiers/coronavirus-en/updates-en