Top 10 tips for study success

A study abroad experience can be exciting and rewarding, but you may need to get used to some new ways of doing things. The top 10 tips aim to help you make the most of your stay in Leiden!

1. Adjust your expectations

The Dutch educational culture and ways of interacting may be quite different from what you were used to at home. The Introduction Programme provides a good opportunity to learn about how things work in Leiden. Getting to understand the new culture will be part of your everyday experiences.  
Try to be open to new attitudes and ways of doing things. If you come from a different educational culture, give yourself time to get used to the new approach.  
Try not to be overly critical, but ask yourself, “What are the expectations here?”

2. Learn the Dutch approach to study

The Dutch approach emphasizes active learning. This involves:

  • Forming opinions
  • Thinking critically
  • Discussing in groups
  • Making presentations   
  • Doing group projects

Learn more about studying the Dutch way

3. Ask questions

If you are not sure about something, ASK!  Don’t be shy about asking. The Dutch are usually very willing to help, but they expect that if you want help, you will ask.

General study information
There is a designated contact person (study adviser) in every faculty/department to advise, help, answer questions and provide information. Make sure you find out who this is for your course. 

Subject- related questions
(paper criteria, improve a paper, thesis queries) Contact your lecturer, tutor or thesis supervisor.  

Administrative issues

  • Residence permits, information sessions, registration and fee payment for high-fee students: Contact your International Programmes Officer at the department of Student and Educational Affairs, via email or make an appointment via 071 527 8011 
  • Finances, administration after registration,  registration and fee-payment (home-fee students) and deregistration: Visit or contact the Plexus Student Centre Information Desk,
    Kaiserstreet 25, 071 527 8011  

    To make an appointment: You can call to make an appointment, although most academic staff and study advisers will probably have ‘open door’ consultation hours.

4. Keep up to date on important information/notifications

Regularly check important websites:  

  • Check Blackboard daily for study information, timetables, notices, powerpoints
    Remember that you need to enroll for your examinations through Blackboard
  • General information and announcements;
    Contains calendar and useful information for international students.

5. Attend workshops at Plexus

Study skills workshops are given regularly in Plexus for international students. These workshops are useful for developing new skills and getting a smooth start! They cover topics such as the Dutch study system, strategic studying and time management. 

Check the workshop calendar for more information.

The 'Looking for a Job in the Netherlands' workshop is given twice yearly by the Careers Centre.

6. Manage your time

Time management is important for study success. Your study programme at Leiden University may be more or less intensive or structured than what you were used to, so you may need to manage your time differently. It is important to set priorities for a good balance between study and leisure. If it is your first experience of  living away from home, don’t forget to make time for cooking, shopping and household chores!
Time Management workshops are given regularly in Plexus.

7. Build up social networks

In an unfamiliar country it is important to have a network of friends and contacts – for your social life as well as for your study. This may not happen by itself. You will need to actively build it up. Students with good support networks tend to have a more enjoyable and successful stay! 

What you can do:

  • Start with the Introduction Programme
    - Students often find that the friends they make during the Introduction Days become the basis for their social network here
    - Visit the Information Market and find out about clubs and associations, sporting, cultural and social activities.
  • Attend ISN activities, join the mentor programme or drop in at the ISN common room at Plexus student centre for a casual chat or to hang-out. 
    Website ISN 
  • Develop a group of study friends. This is valuable for comparing notes, sharing study materials, discussing assessment tasks, hearing tips, keeping up-to-date with announcements and staying motivated.   

8. Stay physically active

Staying physically active keeps you fit and healthy. It helps you stay happy as well, as activity stimulates your body to produce endorphins (‘happy’ hormones):  

  • Get a sports card at the Sports Centre or join courses about dance, singing, drama, visual arts, literature and photography at LAKcourses and meet new people!
  • Join ISN activities 
  • Buy a bike and take up cycling – the perfect way to get around Leiden and explore the sights
  • Take up a hobby -  a chance to try something different 
    Ask the international student counselor or ISN for advice.

9. Give yourself time to adjust

The initial period of settling in to a new culture can be quite stressful. The unfamiliar physical surroundings combined with the different values, attitudes and ways of behaving can be confusing. It is usual to feel uncertain about yourself, more tired than usual and to miss home. This can result in something referred to as culture shock.  

What you can do: read more how to deal with culture shock.

10. Make time to enjoy yourself and relax

A good balance between study and leisure generally leads to better results! So feel free to enjoy yourself and make the most of your stay. Taking time off from study to relax with your friends relieves stress and keeps your energy levels topped up!

Last Modified: 03-06-2015