ROOM in the Van Vollenhovenstraat (about twenty students), King Kong in the Witte de Withstraat (about twelve), Sparks at the Westersingel (no idea how many), Mafkees in the Vijverhofstraat (four or five have been sleeping here for more than three weeks). All those hostels have international students in their dormitories. And they’re not surprised, as they always have homeless students standing on their pavement at the beginning of the academic year for the last few years.
'I've cried my eyes out'
Four months ago she already began searching, calling and emailing, but Rina (19, IBA) still has no room. During the Eurekaweek she stayed in Hostel Stayokay, but her bed was already booked for the next period. “There I was. All the way from Estonia, with my five bags, still without a house.”
Now she is staying in King Kong, but the search continues. “My mother recently called to ask how it was, but at that time I had really turned off all emotions. Later, when the conversation with my mom made me think about the whole house search and the uncertainty, I cried my eyes out.” Renting a room and transferring money from Estonia was not an option for her. “That was how my older sister got scammed.”
Next to her is the 23-year-old Dutch Nienke who has just started college at the Willem de Kooning. She’s already visited at least six houses, but was never chosen. Nienke had hoped that her classmates would have a golden tip. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Rina’s new friends from the Eurekaweek are helping her with the house search. “I had already seen all the ads they sent, but that’s okay. They have promised that I can always crash on their couch. At least I won’t be homeless. ”
That gives the 19-year old some peace, but it’s certainly not ideal. She’s worried about the start of classes. Sleeping in a dormitory and making her assignments in the noisy common room isn’t ideal. “It’s very nice here, but I’m here to study. I want to be able to focus on that.” In addition, it costs Rina merely 15 euros a night, but it’s not really cheap to stay in a hostel.
Permanent and persistent problem
That student housing is a problem in various Dutch cities, is once again clearly visible, says John van Harten. He’s responsible for housing at the National Student Union (LSVb). “The fact that there are tent camps in Wageningen and in Groningen makes it clear that the problem has not yet been solved.” There has been a room shortage for years and that is a permanent problem. “The figures show a growth in the number of foreign students.”
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It’s a persistent problem, according to Erasmus Student Network (ESN). “It would be ideal if the university could offer more housing, as it’s the case in some other countries.” When the students do find a living space, they quickly pay ‘far too much’, ESN warns. “The international students are so desperate that they accept any price.”
Dutch universities continue to attract students from all over the world, without making plans for their accommodation, says Van Harten. “Educational institutions often make agreements with housing corporations that a number of rooms are reserved for students, but that’s not enough. Universities don’t take their responsibility accordingly; they recruit new students, but don’t think about the housing.”
'High expectations with disappointing reality'
That is exactly what Mexican Mateo (21) and the 26-year-old Angel from El Salvador don’t understand; “Why does the Netherlands create an image of a country with a lot of international relations if it doesn’t think about where the internationals have to live?” After his internship in the Netherlands, Angel was offered a job here, but an affordable house seems untraceable. In King Kong he met Mateo, who studies in Delft. “I had a room that I sublet when I went to Germany for six months for my study. When I returned, the house was sold. As a tenant, I apparently had no rights because I was away for six months. This is my last year, it’s not possible to live permanently in a hostel, is it?”
The two can’t wrap their heads around how unclear the rules for landlords are in the Netherlands. “It’s such a hassle in many places to find a house,” says Mateo. “My sister studied in Utrecht for years, but when she moved to Berlin, she quickly found a house.” Angel: “People come here with sky-high expectations, but the reality is harsh.” The young internationals feel let down, and they’re not alone: students Emma and James told us before how frustrating their search is.
Read the story of Emma and James here
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1300 rooms for international students
“It’s certainly not the case that we leave international students to their fate,” says a spokesperson of Erasmus University. “We try to help them as effectively as possible, starting with good information and by pointing out to international students to start looking for a room in time.”However, the university is still working on an ‘online portal’ to provide international students with ‘even better service’.
The university deliberately chooses not to manage the student housing itself, but to collaborate with corporations such as SSH and Xior. This year the EUR has 1,300 rooms for international students, 500 more than last academic year. This is a result of a new agreement with HousingAnywhere. But even with that, not even a quarter of all international students have a roof over their heads arranged by the university.
In May, Erasmus University and Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences demand the Rotterdam politics for more student housing in Rotterdam. “Fortunately, the new Council of Mayor and Aldermen plans to realise 2,000 additional student residences. We know and understand that it’s difficult to find a room in the current, tight housing market. That is why we do our very best to help international students. But it’s not yet necessary here to take measures like in Groningen.”
Students who have questions can ask the Housing Team, says the university. The real consoling words come from the manager of King Kong Hostel, Alisa Kokorina. “I was also 19 when I came to the Netherlands,” she says encouragingly to Rina. “That was quite a while ago and what I’ve seen in recent years, is that more houses will be released from October. Hang in there for a moment. Everything will be fine.”