I have a dual passport, so my preparation process was quite simple and straight-forward. The exchange office was very good with responding to questions that I had and letting me know when things were due. I used a travel card when I first got there but most of my friends had begun the process of opening a Dutch bank account, which is needed if you want the discounted transport card, bike hire and other essentials so it’s worth getting. Since I was entering the semester halfway through the academic year (January), the orientation was not very big and was only really for students living in Leiden and not the Hague. However, they did put all the students who were living and studying in the Hague in one group which made things a lot easier in terms of meeting new people.
Studying at Leiden University
I was taking five subjects within the Humanities Faculty. The subjects were all from Leiden’s Bachelor of International Studies, so they all interlinked in some way. I found them challenging in some respects but also very interesting. Compared to Bond, I felt there was a lot more independent learning and preparation. I had weekly lectures and then a two-hour tutorial every three weeks. It is similar to Bond in that your attendance and participation was marked, and you had to come prepared with the lecture content and tutorial readings. Unlike Bond, where the readings are supplementary to the main lecture slides, at Leiden you had to do the readings in order to answer the questions and fully understand the concept.
The lectures were big compared to Bond; however, the tutorial groups were about the same with max 12-15 people in each, which felt very familiar and comforting for me as that is the environment that I prefer to learn in.
The professors are all esteemed academics with a wealth of knowledge in their field and try to make things as engaging as possible, particularly in lectures, which have so many students. The facilities in both Leiden and the Hague were exceptional with three different campuses just in the Hague that were only built five years ago. They were modern and accommodated every student’s needs.
There is no on-campus accommodation in the Hague, which is very different to Bond. However, they run a housing organisation through the university that provides off-campus accommodation within walking distance for all students. I was living in a single studio apartment in a building that only provided that type of accommodation. I had many friends who had the same but in different buildings or were sharing rooms. The distance from these buildings to campus was about a 10-minute walk or a 5-minute bike ride. The cost per month was around 500 Euros, which roughly converts to $1000 AUD a month. Which, for what I was getting (kitchen, bathroom, shower, desk, bed etc), seemed very reasonable.
Cost of living
The prices seem steep at first, but when you convert to Australian dollars it’s fairly similar, if not a bit cheaper. It’s like every place where you can always find a cheaper alternative if you’re willing to look.
My friends and I would go to the markets every Wednesday morning to get all our fresh produce because we could get a kilo of tomatoes for 1 Euro and we would split them between us. I could go to the markets with 10 Euros and come back with two full bags of produce. If you know how to live like a student and where to find the cheaper things or find people who are wanting to do the same, then it’s very easy to live on a tighter budget.
Speaking the language
I was very fortunate in the Netherlands because English is almost considered the primary language of the country. Dutch students must be somewhat fluent in English by the time they reach high school. So as someone who doesn’t know any Dutch, it was very easy to get by. However sometimes it was challenging, like reading street signs, university messages being in Dutch or government messages etc.
It was unfortunate that my time in the Hague got cut short because of COVID-19, but the experiences I did have there were some of the most memorable I have had had, and I will cherish those memories for a long time. The friends I made, the things we got to see and do, and the little routines we all had just made it so special. From what I experienced, everyone who does something like a study abroad trip is in the same boat as you. Going to a place where they don’t know anyone, where they’ve never been to before and are scared out of their mind. So, having this knowledge made it easier for me at least, to not feel so overwhelmed.
Every person I met was so warm and friendly and as open to meeting new people as I was. If you were willing to be open-minded and a little bit extroverted to get your foot in the door in the first few days until you find your feet, then the rest will be pretty easy. I managed to find a great group of friends and we all went travelling together on the weekends to Brussels, Lille and London. So, we have those memories with us as well as everything we experienced in the Hague together. My advice is to take every opportunity that comes to you, because you never know when you’ll get to experience something like that again!
Exchange at Bond
Bond students have the opportunity to study at more than 80 leading universities around the world - while gaining credit towards their Bond degree