Warm welcome for Leiden's adventurous international students
A meet & greet in Leiden's town hall with Mayor Henri Lenferink, and a valuable certificate. This is how Leiden University and the municipality welcomed these new international students and PhD candidates to Leiden. The students were pleasantly surprised: 'Our mayor is much more formal.'
At the door of the town hall sturdy winter boots were exchanged for elegant heels and hair was carefully patted into place. The invitation for this gathering on 18 November described the dress code as 'smart casual'. Vice-Rector Simone Buitendijk welcomed the group in the town hall's reception room. 'We are an international university, but our Dutch students are unfortunately not so keen on foreign travel. Many of them decide not to study abroad because they like it here in Leiden too much. That's why we need adventurous students like you who are more daring: you bring a different perspective, and you give our Leiden students the opportunity to come into contact with other cultures.'
Henri Lenferink, Mayor of Leiden, also stressed the added value of international students. 'You are what makes Leiden such an international place to be. You look at the city with fresh eyes, so if you notice anything that we can do to improve the quality of life here, let us know.' After the speeches, all the students and PhD candidates present were given a certificate stating that their good study results have earned them a scholarship to study in Leiden. 'This kind of official document carries a lot of weight abroad,' commented Cindy Schotte, Leiden's scholarships officer.
Having presented the certificates, Lenferink mingled with the students and PhD candidates, who were keen to tell him about their research and to make photos of him with their smartphones. Sharon Nakandha from Uganda, master's student of International Law, told him with a broad smile: ‘I feel very welcome here and am so pleased with my certificate. It's evidence that I am a good student, and an official document like this is always useful for showing to potential employers later on,' she explained.
Chen Guangchao, a Chinese PhD candidate of Environmental Studies, remarked: ‘I live in the north-east of China in a city around the same size as Leiden. But I don't think our mayor would organise this kind of visit for students. Things are much more formal where I come from.' Julia Heuritsch from Austria, who is studying for a master's in Astronomy, agrees. She, too, is pleasantly surprised by the mixed group of students and PhD candidates. 'At my university in Vienna the faculties really are separate units. There are hardly any joint meetings for the whole university. Meetings like this - especially free ones - are extremely rare. We even have to pay for our graduation ceremonies!'
(18 November 2013 - LvP)