A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

A Board Year in Times of Corona

This summer, I decided to take a board year. In the Netherlands, it’s a pretty big part of student culture and regularly recommended as a career building device. So for one year, you take on a specific position within a student-led organization and you run them like a professional (or at least you try to).

To be honest, I was a bit hesitant to do a board year during a pandemic. Board years are supposed to be hands-on experiences and the social component is usually huge. And when I say huge, I mean that by the time the year is over, you’ll probably know your fellow board members better than your family. But it wasn’t just about the borrels we couldn’t have, I was also wondering what a board could actually do for student life during a lockdown. Nevertheless, I decided to apply and see for myself. And so far, it was a great decision.

Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on

When Covid hit the Netherlands, many aspects of student life came to a full stop. The sports centre closed, events were cancelled and teaching was moved online. Even something seemingly as mundane as meeting your friends in person became a scarcity. Now, with the second lockdown upon us, it again feels like the world slowed down so much, we could’ve just hit pause instead. Since I started on the board, however, I realized that student life is still very much alive.

First of all, all the 19/20 boards faced an enormous task at the beginning of the pandemic. They had to adapt very quickly in order to bring all your favourite activities to your home and lift everyone’s spirits during self-isolation. This year’s boards will have the advantage of knowing what they’re dealing with, but face the challenge of Corona-proofing their activities.

Let’s take my board year as an example: For this year, I am part of the Sustainable Business Battle (you can read about it here: ). Usually, this is a three-week in-person event, that brings many (big) groups of students together, in order to reshape the business world into a more sustainable version of itself. Naturally, we can’t expect that it’s possible to hold such an event next year. So we are working on a solution that is feasible under all circumstances. At this stage, I cannot tell you what the SBB will look like in 2021. But what I can tell you is that we’ll be back and that you won’t be disappointed in the result.

Look how many people were in the same room! Photograph provided by the SBB 2019

Okay, so there is enough work to fill a board year – that’s great. It means that exciting events are coming our way, even when there’s a pandemic. What about the social aspect though? Our board was fortunate enough to meet each other in person (outside and with a distance of course) before the second lockdown started. All our other meetings are online now and we’re honestly making the best of it. For example, we’re including some fun online games after each meeting! Even though it’s not the same as meeting in person, it still feels like you’re getting to know each other and, depending on your group, you can certainly make new friends that way.

My verdict? As with everything in the post-Corona world, you have to adapt to a new way of doing things. And while that might take some getting used to, it can be absolutely exciting and is definitely worth it. So if you see a call for board applications, I wholeheartedly recommend applying.

Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments?

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