Student blog by Kaj de Graaf (class of 2014-2015)

It was approximately three years ago that my father told me about a professor who founded the Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing. This professor made a few interesting remarks. Remarks that kept me busy and made me wonder if there was more to ageing than I initially thought. This thought intrigued me and not long after obtaining my bachelor degree in Health Sciences, I enrolled in the master programme Vitality and Ageing.

At day one, I realised that the master students came from all over the world. To me, this was an absolute perk since I got to know people with different cultures and improve my English vocabulary at the same time. Although my English improved significantly, the process of this improvement did result in a few awkward moments when I forgot to switch back to Dutch while trying to communicate with a sixteen-year-old employee in a Dutch supermarket. Fortunately, this didn’t happen too often.   

After a brief introduction, the real ‘work’ started. The different courses were based on different disciplines. This allowed me to assess situations from different angles and to gain great insights in what ageing actually entails. For instance, during the master I learned what ageing is all about in a biological sense, but I also learned how to approach ageing in a more anthropological, sociological, and demographical way. The absolute strength of the master is that a lot of this knowledge is provided by guest lectures. These guest lecturers were, sometimes, literally flown in from around the globe (Sydney). It was great to experience that many of these guest lecturers were just as enthusiastic as we, the students, were.
However, we did not merely gained knowledge about ageing but also about vitality, entrepreneurship, models of care, finance, and clinical epidemiology. In addition, we were trained in academic writing, presenting, crisis communication, and leadership. All these different courses helped me to put things in perspective, allowed me to understand group dynamics, and offered me a chance to present new ideas in a proper manner so that designated target groups would understand it.    

Besides gaining knowledge and improving skills, I also met a lot of interesting people. People with whom I went to Texel to celebrate Sinterklaas, with whom I ate lunch, drank a lot of coffee, and shared stressful moments. People who bought me a birthday cake and with whom I had a lot of fun in Budapest during our study trip. To me, the moments I shared with all these unique individuals made the master a remarkable experience. An experience I can absolutely recommend!