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What can the Leiden International Centre do for you?

As an international employee at Leiden University, it can be hard to settle into the workplace, the city, or generally, the Netherlands. The Leiden International Centre can help international employees land comfortably and make living abroad just a little bit easier. Jenny Willcock, coordinator at the Leiden International Centre, explains what exactly they can do for you.

What is the Leiden International Centre?

‘In more technical terms, we’re a non-profit organisation funded by the municipalities we work with, the university, the LUMC, and many more. In practical terms, we’re a centre that exists to help internationals feel at home in their new employment. We do this by providing free information and support. The Leiden region needs international talent for innovation and growth. So it’s a win-win situation really: we help international employees settle in more easily and if they eventually decide to stay, we help the companies retain this international talent.’

What is your connection to Leiden University specifically?

‘Leiden University is one of our founding partners and also partly funds us. In return, we have an agreement with the university that we do all their citizen service number (BSN) registrations. So if you’re a new international employee living in Leiden, you should at some point have been in contact with us for your BSN registration. The BSN appointment includes 30 minutes with our helpdesk, and a welcome bag. We focus on the highly skilled migrants in the region of Leiden, so it’s not only in the city, but also expats working in the Leiden Bio Science Park, for example.’

The LIC helpdesk | Photo by Simone Both

Apart from BSN registration, what services do you offer?

‘Our website has lots of useful information and we also have a helpdesk. We can help people with questions about healthcare, their driving license, we can even help guide your partner to find a job in the Netherlands… You can come to us with any question or query you might have when arriving, settling in, or when you’ve been living here for a few years. We have over 45 partners, so whenever we can’t help directly, we’ll redirect you to one of our partners. For example, we can help you find a reliable housing agent or financial advisor. Our partners also organise free events, for example, around February we have a workshop on filling your taxes, and lately we’ve had someone coming in to do free mortgage consultations every week.’

‘Apart from these more practical services, we also organise free social events to lower that threshold of meeting new people and making friends. I can highly recommend any international employee to come to any of these ‘meet & mingle’ events as they are called. Putting yourself out there all the time can be quite tiresome and these events are set up to make the socially taxing process of making friends and connections a lot easier. They are very open and friendly events where everyone is welcome.’

Where can people find these events?

‘Our website has all the information ranging from visa, official procedures, healthcare, and children & schools, to leisure, daily life and an extensive event calendar. This shows both events organised by us as all other events in Leiden that don't require Dutch, such as exhibitions, outdoor activities, and festivals.’

What is the best way to come into contact?

‘For BSN appointments and our walk-in hours, you can find us in the LEVEL building. We also have video calls available.  However, the best and easiest way to approach us is by sending us an e-mail via helpdesk@leideninternationalcentre.nl.’

Any tips for international employees who have just arrived?

‘I’ve said it before and will stress it again. Do come to the social activities such as the monthly Meet & Mingle. It's important to build a network here to feel at home. Especially meeting internationals who have been here a while. It might be really helpful and comforting to see how they have settled in and they can also help you settle in a little easier. Our next Meet & Mingle on 7 September will also be open to Dutch people living in Leiden.’

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