A tiny cabin on a ship is a long way from a brand-new studio in the centre of town. For the latest batch of students enrolled in Erasmus University College (EUC), the academic year started slightly differently than expected. Although these unusual quarters also have their advantages: “You do get to know each other really quickly.”
When Holly King (19, Zimbabwe) pulls the curtains open, fellow student Daphne Cornelisse (20, the Netherlands) has to swallow a few times. Holly’s windows don’t just let in sunshine; her cabin also has a splendid view of Noordereiland. In Daphne’s cabin, on the lowest deck of the ship, you don’t look out over the water and Erasmus Bridge. You get a section of quay wall. And Daphne only has direct sunlight during tide: the rest of the time the rays are blocked by the nearby quay. “But I’m not complaining, because living on the boat is quite nice. We have a lot of fun, and at least you have a room of your own with a shower and a toilet. Except you know what you’re missing out on, which is a bit of a shame.”
Because what Daphne, Holly and a group of some 200 fellow first-year students have to – or had to – miss out on is a room in a converted office building on Stadhuisplein in the city centre. In the ‘Lucia’ – as the new housing complex for first-year EUC students has been dubbed – each resident has his or her own furnished or unfurnished studio with a floor area of nearly 20 m², including a kitchen and bathroom.
Great – except for one small problem: work on the building still needs to be finished. That’s why some 100 students haven’t moved into their studios yet. Two weeks from now, half of this group will be moving to Stadhuisplein, with the rest following in two months’ time. To compensate (the first years pay the full rental price) the first years get coins that can be exchanged for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Until then, the students will have to make do with the river cruise boat on Boompjeskade. If not for the dozens of (Swap) bikes parked out in front, you’d think the vessel was waiting to load up a group of old-age pensioners for the next boat tour along the river Rhine. The dining room, the upper deck, the carpet – it’s all very fuddy-duddy. But the students enjoy it for its camp value. “And since the cabins are so small, you can’t really hole up in there,” Daphne says with a smile. “Which makes it easy to make contact with other students, which is very nice.”
Holly too emphasises the positive effect that this temporary housing arrangement has had on social interactions. “For me, moving here from Zimbabwe, it has been a soft landing. We eat together every evening in the dining room and you can study there during the day. You get to know a lot of people that way. And the parties on the main deck are lots of fun. It’s like being at school camp.” In fact, those parties were so much fun they’ve had to move the boat. Initially, the boat could be found one quay closer to the city centre, but according to the students, it didn’t take long for the residents of the surrounding flat blocks to start complaining about the noise.
“Of course I’d prefer to have a bigger room,” says Holly, who expects to move to ‘Lucia’ in two weeks’ time. Even walking around her cabin is something of a challenge, since she’d already bought the inventory for her studio before news came in that it wouldn’t be ready on time. “But the fun we’re having here makes up for a whole lot.” Daphne murmurs her agreement – although she does have one wish for the last two months on board the boat. Her future studio is on the top floor of ‘Lucia’ – meaning that she will be the very last ‘passenger’ to move out of the boat. “I’m going to ask if I can have Holly’s room when she moves out. Because then I’ll have sunlight all day too.”