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Chinese Student at Leiden University - Feel Adventure, Feel at Home - Wei Yang

It was back to the 1st of October in the year of 2016 when I started my first day as an international PhD student at Leiden University. With curiosity and excitement, I came to this welcoming and friendly country in western Europe and started my study and life in Leiden.

As most of the Chinese students here, I felt the “culture shock” at the beginning. I was surprised that bread and cheese can be that many kinds which are the most typical Dutch food at lunch table. I was not prepared for the unpredictable weather while Dutch people can always ride a bike bravely in the rain and in the wind. I was not aware that moving to a new apartment probably means the responsibility for everything of your own including putting up the curtain rods. For the first time living abroad and being a “newborn” in a different culture, I came to know that the everything brand new here would bring me various experiences that I have never had. Impressively on the other hand, I felt the spontaneous politeness and amicability from Dutch people when I received the greetings from a random person on the street, when the pedestrians are always given the priority  by drivers and cyclists and when Dutch people are always willing to help you at any time. I realized that everything brand new here will not be that difficult for me to start with.

As a PhD student at Leiden University, working here has been giving me an enjoyable experience from which I have learned a lot and improved myself for the past three years. Leiden University is the most ancient university in the Netherlands with systematic teaching concept and innovative research teams. This energetic university creates a premium environment for both students and employees. Here the courses are interactive full of open discussions without definite yes and no in many cases. To encourage independent thinking and to develop problem-solving abilities, the students are motivated to come up with their own experimental plans and they learn from making mistakes. Of course  as an international student here, I do feel the different way of communication and working pattern. For example, sometimes Chinese people tend to “embellish” their sentences with courtesy and indirectness while Dutch people are usually straightforward to share their opinions and feelings. People love to arrange meetings even for a very small detail. Though the consensus may not be brought from one single meeting, but this is a good way of communication to know what people think and to find an optimum solution. When everyone is involved in the brain storm, this can generate positive influence that may incubate very nice ideas in our research.

As one of Europe’s leading international research universities, working here also gives us the opportunities to know multiple cultures and to spread our culture to more people as well. As a Chinese student, I would love to share what I know about China and enjoy the “language teaching moment” with my colleagues in Mandarin, Dutch, Italian and Indian...In general, the diversity, openness and inclusiveness can be seen here in both work and life.

For the past three years, I have been working and living in Leiden experiencing its perfect match of tranquility and vitality in this small but wonderful city. From canals to fresh flowers, from cafes to Saturday open market, from museums to the ancient university, I am now enjoying the lifestyle and feeling at home here. I hope all the Chinese students who chose Leiden and who will come to Leiden enjoy their lives as I do.

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