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International Studies at Leiden: A gateway to success

“At International Studies I explored my long-lasting fascination for European affairs. I chose to compile my own minor in which I included courses on international organisations…and on the European Union…This encouraged me to dig deeper…I chose the programme, especially because of its compulsory internship component.” – Meeri Heinonen, Leiden University graduate

Since being established in 1575, Leiden University (LU) has forged an eminent reputation that resonates worldwide. Here, students become lifelong community members of an influential and international research institution, gearing towards a rewarding future driven by LU’s elite learning culture.

Students here have reaped the benefits of LU’s two varied campus settings since the late 1990s. While some international applicants choose to feed their quest for knowledge in the historic city of Leiden, others opt for LU’s campus in the North Sea coast city of The Hague. As one of the university’s seven notable departments, the Faculty of Humanities positively impacts both of these respected, urban powerhouses.

Ranked among the world’s Top 25 humanities and social sciences departments in the Times Higher Education (THE) University rankings, this highly-specialised school provides an academic experience of the highest form. At LU, humanities students have access to a comprehensive, industry-informed curriculum that is one of the most extensive on the European continent.

Six years ago, Leiden’s Faculty of Humanities launched its three-year, English-taught BA in International Studies; a course that examines the issues and effects of globalisation through the focus of one of eight world regions. Now the BA is the fastest-growing programme in the faculty, with the Practising International Studies (PRINS) Consultancy Project placing it a cut above the rest.

Leiden’s International Studies provision offers a distinct mix of multidisciplinary perspectives and language, plus academic and practical skills to solve complex issues that arise from globalisation. As a student of this programme, you’ll view complex regional issues from a global context. By studying history, culture, politics and economics, you’ll leave prepared to play a crucial role in an increasingly international and interconnected world. In addition to this, you’ll gain the practical and professional skills needed to translate regional knowledge into global solutions.

This is a programme that strengthens your knowledge of one of eight world regions by studying its politics, economics, history and culture, and a local language. You will acquire the professional expertise that make any of your broad career choices easier to reach, whether you want to pursue a Master’s or work in an international business, embassy, ministry, or as an entrepreneur.

Unique to any other BA humanities programme, International Studies’ consultancy project links students to real-world corporations and grants them a direct route to an oftentimes vying profession. It’s a chance for students to catch onto the flavour of their very own strengths and weaknesses, empowering them through the art of self-reflection as their very best qualities thrive.

“What we are seeing…is real evidence that PRINS is one of the most distinctive and transformational aspects of the BA International Studies programme in terms of preparation for career or further study,” says Joost Augusteijn, current programme chair.

One thing about PRINS that continues to prove invaluable is its ability to blend theoretical and practical aspects of the programme. While specialist knowledge and expertise are undoubtedly important in your future career, the chance for these to be applied in real-world working contexts pays off real returns – and this is something LU works incredibly hard to support and which is unique within an academic course.

“For me it was an opportunity to put theory into practice,” says Emma Franke van der Steen, a former PRINS participant, “and I discovered I actually really like the practice – it’s tangible, it’s concrete. I’m really happy to discover I could do that,” she adds. “The other thing is that throughout my BA International Studies programme I’ve been very interested in sustainability, so I was really happy we could integrate theories of societal and environmental costs…in a practical manner.”

But if you are keen to pursue a course such as LU’s BA International Studies, you will want to know what lies in store upon completion of your degree. Across the world, the media is rife with tales of graduates who just can’t find a job. Fact is, you are unlikely to make a costly investment toward your education if in the long-term it doesn’t pay off. The opinions of recruiting employers are what matters most. So, what do they think of LU’s graduate pool of talent in the International Studies field?

“From our organisational perspective, international experience is important,” says Fennigje Hinse, Senior Policy Officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “And you need to show in some way you are willing to continue developing yourself and your ideas and increasing your skillsets,” the professional explains.

“These students know the history of specific world regions, and speak the language of the region. They acquire skills that include creativity and delving into research sources with an inquisitive nature,” she adds, discussing the perks and value derived from LU’s International Studies graduates. “They are really encouraged to think about, and try to really understand, ‘The Other’ – it’s cultural empathy. They not only look at a case or question in a narrow way, but try to understand the dialogue from the other side.”

Your path to international career success begins with PRINS and, if you choose to do so, an integrated internship position. Iris Ten Hoopen started as your typical student – unsure of exactly where she was likely to end up. But after landing a sought-after work placement at The Hague, the student gained priceless insights and industry experience that helped give her aspirations some shape.

Now, Iris works for the most influential PR and Marketing firm in the Netherlands: Winkelman Van Hessen, with her role specifically supporting the China Business Center Netherlands (CBCN). Without her internship placement and experience gained at LU, Iris could never have dreamed of landing such a role.

“This internship taught me: networking is key,” the graduate explains, “whether it is used to get an internship, for working within a business environment or for maintaining a stable, international clientele. This is also apparent in the people that surround me who are reachable 24/7.

“In the Netherlands, it is quite hard to find an internship placement when you are not enrolled on a university course. Therefore, my advice is extend your semester or year to get that internship that fits you like a glove and that may be the stepping stone to a job or career,” adds Iris. “My plan for the future is to specialise in sustainable development and resource management and this internship was a good move for me to develop myself in that direction.”

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Keen to know more? Click here to check out the internship positions these LU students have pursued!

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