There is an increasing shortage of student accommodation in Rotterdam. Marieke Oomen, the newly elected Chair of the Erasmus Student Network (ESN), sees many desperate foreign students. She is concerned about them: “International students are paying too much for rooms Dutch students would never accept.”

How significant is the problem?

“We don’t have exact numbers, but it’s a huge problem every year. Many students can’t find a place to live. So they stay at a hostel for a month before eventually ending up in Schiedam or Capelle. They pay way too much for rooms that are too small – rooms Dutch students would never accept.”

“During ESN’s introduction days, a girl told me she was paying 400 euros a month for 8 square metres in Capelle, the home owner’s study. Although I felt she was being ripped off, she was just happy she had managed to find a room. Other international students actually envied her.”

In what condition are the students who turn to ESN for help?

“Last week a girl came to our office, completely in tears. She had been looking for a room for over two months, had tried everything and was at the end of her wits. At such moments, many students feel like they are never going to find anything and that they will be staying at a hostel for six months. Obviously, that’s not a great start to the academic year. They spend hours surfing the Internet, calling home owners and viewing rooms, but they are up against so much competition. And if another student is prepared to pay twice as much, they simply don’t stand a chance.”

How do you help students who have accommodation problems?

“We mainly provide emotional support. Students can come and see us any time. We refer students looking for bedsits to the International Office, which can help them find accommodation. In addition, we show them several ways to find rooms, such as Housing Anywhere, Kamernet and Student Hotel.”

Should the university and the municipal authorities be doing more?

“Of course there is always more that could be done. International students are a great addition to the university and Rotterdam student life. This influx of international students is to be encouraged, and the university is doing just that. But if we wish to continue actively recruiting international students, we must ensure that there are enough rooms for them. The municipal authorities could do more to help in this regard. Of course it’s not easy. You can’t just construct a student accommodation building in two months. As far as that is concerned, I feel the university has paid a great deal more attention to accommodation for international students in the past year – for instance by hiring the new Xior building. I hope they will do so again next year. It will be the only way to accommodate the influx of international students.”

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