Biology internship in the Netherlands

This past winter I did a biology internship at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. To find the internship, I searched online for ongoing research in universities and companies in the Netherlands. When I found topics that seem interesting, I’ve sent an email to the professors/ companies asking If they had any vacant spots for an internship. I would recommend starting this process early, as it took a little bit of time to put things in order. I’ve started the search at the beginning of the summer and my internship began at the end of November. I was lucky and I found spot early in the process of sending Emails, so it didn’t seem to difficult neither was it frustrating. I didn’t even do an interview, my main communication through this process was mainly per Email. I knew I wanted to do my internship in the Netherlands first of all because the Universities are English-speaking, and it would be easier to communicate and to find a spot. Secondly, I’ve considered moving there for my master’s and I wanted to “test it out” to see If it was a good fit for me.

I took part in ongoing research concerning the perception of acoustic patterns and auditory parameters that songbirds use. I was there to basically help a PhD student with his audio discrimination experiment on zebra finches. The experiment was already ongoing when I arrived, so I did a lot a data analysis in excel and in R. I also was responsible for the birds that were at the time in the experiment. I had to change their water, refill their seeds and clean their cages. Other than that, I’ve helped create stimuli for the next experiment. I needed to learn to use audio editing software and to have a deep understanding of audio structure to complete this task. In addition, our department had weekly meetings, where usually students either presented a paper that they found interesting or their own research plan and results. I also got the chance to give a presentation on a paper that I’ve online and I’ve received useful feedback, that’s going to be valuable for all future presentations. I got to learn a lot about how behavioral biological studies should be conducted and what some of the limitations are. I now know a lot more about methodical work, organization, what it’s like to work in a team and personal accountability. I’ve also made important connections with the professors and the students in my department.

The most difficult part was finding accommodation in Leiden. I’ve even searched in the surrounding areas, but the listings were few and no one seemed to want to sign a contract for only three months. At the end I’ve found the Budget Hotel, where they offer long-stay prices for a reasonable cost. The hotel was about 20 minutes away from Leiden with the bus and it was located in rural area, which was a really strong contrast from the environment in Berlin. It was the first time in my life that I haven’t lived in a central location in a city and although this came with its challenges, I’ve also enjoyed the peace and the beautiful scenery that comes with. Some of the problems though were, that the closest supermarket was 2 Km away and there was a bus only every half an hour. I’m not used to this, so I’ve had to adapt and learn how to pre-plan my meals and my outings.

Leiden itself it’s a picturesque small student city with lots of stuff to explore.  It has beautiful architecture, lots of canals and a big windmill in the middle of the city. Some call it “little Amsterdam”. Leiden has mostly a student population, which made the city vibrant with a lot of people out and about in bars, cafes and restaurants. The location of Leiden is ideal for exploring the big cities in the Netherlands. It’s only a half an hour away from Rotterdam, forty-five minutes away from Amsterdam and fifteen minutes away from the Hague. This made it easy to spend a day in another city during the weekends and visit a lot of interesting museums and to sightsee. I wish I could have been there during the summer or the spring, as I’ve missed out on a lot of opportunities due to the cold weather. I would have liked to see the tulips, explore more cities, done a boat tour in the canals of Amsterdam and so much more. The silver lining is that I got to experience the Christmas time in the Netherlands and learn all about their traditions.

The most important thing that came out of this internship is that I decided in what I want to specialize in the future. After the whole experience working the Behavioral Biology field and a talk from a candidate-professor for the department, I’ve decided I want to do my Masters in Cognitive Biology and Neuroscience in the Netherlands. I’ve already checked what programs are available in the Netherlands and now I know that the next step to take is do my final internship in the Neurobiology field, so I’ll have better chances to get in the program of my choice.  Now I have a clearer path for how I have to proceed if I want to achieve my goals in my career.


Tipps für andere Praktikanten


Start looking months in advance, if you are renting in Berlin maybe you should find someone to rent your apartment for the duration, you’ll be gone so you don’t have to pay two rents. If your internship is close enough you should look into going there with the train or the car because you won’t have weight limitations for your luggage.


Look in the internet and send emails directly to the companies you’re interested in even if their website doesn’t state that their looking for an intern. Write individualized emails to each company explaining specifically why you want to work there and include your CV.


This wasn’t easy for me but if you can’t find any listings on renting websites you can try looking for local Facebook groups/communities.


DAAD offers a full insurance specifically for students that are doing an internship abroad with really cheap prices.


Formalitäten vor Ort


I didn’t need to pay for an internet connection, neither did I get a new telephone number.


I didn’t open a bank account.


If you are going to be staying in the Netherlands and are going to be opening a bank account, you should apply for a personalized OV-card for all public transport. With the personalized card you can book different offers regarding the trains and other public transport.




The Netherlands has a lot of impressive museums for all tastes. It’s a small enough country that you can explore a lot of cities in a small period of time.


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