A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
International Relations and Organisations is described by Leiden University to be a bachelor’s degree where Political Science, global affairs and the dynamics of international cooperation and conflict come together. This international curriculum is situated in The Hague, the location of the convergence of international relations and politics. The university further states that it is the right choice for a student fascinated by political science, global affairs and the dynamics of international collaboration and conflict. It deals with themes such as war and peace, poverty, refugee crises, humanitarian cooperation, nuclear weapons reduction, and globalisation in detail.
When I was just 18 years old this degree caught my eye, to the point where I moved across the world to pursue it. I was the student that was fascinated by all categories mentioned by Leiden University, as well as the desire to study abroad. I was eager to engage in the politics of the world and emerge an expert on all things global affairs – I wanted to be the next UN Secretary General. I mean I still do but my aspirations have become slightly more realistic. This realism has emerged out of both my enjoyment for the IRO programme as well as through the realisation it gave me that international relations may not be my dream after all. Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed my three years in The Hague interrogating the ins and outs of international politics. Therefore, I have decided to review my last three years in the programme.
Leiden is true to its word when it states that this programmes is a rigorous bachelor’s of science – owing to the vital inclusion of statistics and economics. The last three years have put me through my paces in terms of workload and preparation. However, not to the extent that it was impossible to survive. I have still maintained time for an active social life and have even held down a job or two throughout my studies. I do say as a precautionary measure, it is not a degree for the faint hearted but if international relations and politics is your passion then I would say go for it! My favourite classes were those engaging in human rights – a passion I only discovered during this course and now plan to pursue. In the past I have developed a full understanding of political science, global affairs and the dynamics of international cooperation and conflict as promised.
I have moreover thoroughly enjoyed living in The Hague. I chose the city because it was small enough that I didn’t feel like a stranger or tourist in it, but big enough that I didn’t get cabin fever in my own home. It has indeed become my perfect-sized home with the beach just 20 minutes away and parks in every direction. However, I must say that the weather leaves a lot to be desired… It rains most days in winter and the wind pumps to unimaginable speeds. You do get used to it though, I end up laughing sometimes at the force of the wind and my inability to move. The weather is something that comes with living in the Netherlands and Europe in general. Given that I had lived my whole life in South Africa it is no surprise that I disliked the weather…
In terms of friends, IRO is a small community. The campus is removed from the other faculties of Leiden University which are situated in the town of Leiden. This small community is exceptionally international however, with diverse backgrounds and interests. Everyone who I engaged with was very smart but also liked to have a party every now and then – it was as if everyone was simultaneously a nerd and party animal. Although the limited number of people can get claustrophobic at times, it is wonderful most of the time. In spending every day with each other we have become one another’s family – a necessity seeing that most of us live fairly far away from home. The international friendship groups also provide you with many places to visits and many cultures to learn about. I adore the friends I have made, and know that wherever we go there will still be a strong relationship between us.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Leiden University and will miss it dearly when I depart in the coming months. I have become an adult in The Hague and fine-tuned my passions, goals and future. It has been truly life-changing, and even influenced my brother to move across the world to Rotterdam.