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Danae Barboudi: ‘I want to make Leiden as enjoyable as possible for international students’

Two years ago, Danae Barboudi (26) moved from Greece to the Netherlands to study at Leiden University. Next to her studies, she is also one of the people behind the Orientation Week Leiden (OWL) – the introduction week for international students.

From Greece to Leiden

‘Before I moved to Leiden, I studied in France for an Erasmus exchange programme. It’s always hard to move away from home and it can be quite overwhelming. I do miss my family and friends, but I’m quite independent and I’ve settled down in Leiden and met a lot of people.’

‘It’s really nice to study in Leiden. There’s a very strong international student community, so when I go out I see people I know or have met before. Compared to where I’m from, Leiden is a very small city, but it feels like home. Of course, it helps that there are quite a lot of Greek people living here.’

‘While choosing my master's, I only applied for Leiden University: there are a lot of programmes to choose from and the fees are cheap. I’d heard good things from people who were already studying here. I liked the programme, Book and Digital Media Studies, and luckily I got accepted. It’s really broad and we cover many things: like the historical, theoretical and practical side. I like that you get to study the book as an object: the material.’

New friends and new experiences

‘When I first came to Leiden, I participated in the OWL – the Orientation Week Leiden. You’re in a group with other international students and every group has two guides. Much like the Dutch introduction week, the EL CID, you’ll get to know the city and learn about Dutch student life. I had a really good time and was able to meet a lot of new people. It’s a very intense week, but you bond with your group and it’s amazing how you can become such good friends after. I feel that international students who don’t participate in the OWL have more trouble meeting people. When classes begin, there are already some groups formed and it’ll be harder to blend in.’

‘The year after I participated in the OWL, I signed up as a guide. I had some free time and wanted to meet new people. Together with my co-guide and group, we had a fun time and we still meet up regularly.’

‘I am now Commissioner Guides and Crew of the OWL Board. That means I’m in charge of recruiting and training all the guides and crew members. It was a quite impulsive decision, I thought ‘let’s just do it’, and I’m very glad I did. It’s a whole different matter to experience the OWL from the inside. Together with the other board members, I’m now preparing the Summer OWL of this September. We expect about 1,000 new students, so there’s a lot to do. Fortunately, we get along and balance each other out. We work together with a lot of other parties and have close relations with for example the International Student Network Leiden (ISN Leiden) and Leiden United. We all have the same goal, and that’s to make the Leiden student life as enjoyable as possible for international students.’

‘You do a lot of fun things while organizing the OWL, but the best part is the end. That’s when you see how happy people are. It’s great that you see so many people who’ve made new friends in just a week and it’s an incredible feeling: ‘Yes, we did it!’.’

‘I’m planning to stay’

‘My favourite place in Leiden is around the Hooglandse Kerk, there’s a very small bridge and the scenery is wonderful there. I also really like going for walks or go to the Saturday market. When you’re doing a master’s, people come and people leave, but I am planning to stay. Ideally, I’d like to get a job at a publishing house or work with archives. For now, my plan is to stay in Leiden, there are lots of things to do here. I might want to move to Rotterdam or Utrecht, but not Amsterdam I think. It’s too chaotic, I’d prefer the small city of Leiden.’

In the Humans of Humanities series, we will do a portrait of one of our researchers, staff members or students, every other week. Who are they, and what do they do? You can find more portraits and information on this page.

Suzé Klok
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