German first-year Business Administration student Eliwon (19) has been applying to rooms every day for three months now and has finally found an opportunity in Prinsenland. One problem: he’s not the only candidate. He has 720 euros per month to spare for even just a small room, somewhere in Rotterdam. “But it’s not because of the money that I can’t find anything,” he sighs. That’s why he sleeps in the skating hall during Eurekaweek and after, for as long as it takes.
The pavilion at field hockey club Leonidas, where skating takes place in winter, houses 75 students during the Eurekaweek. In the hall, each student has their own locker. The canvas cabins resemble luxury festival tents. Here and there, clothes and travel cases lie on the floor and the hall smells of wet towels. Currently, around noon, most of the guests are off to Eurekaweek events. Only a dozen or so students, who wanted to take it a little easier, are to be found in the sleeping quarters.
The pavilion has room for up to four hundred students, but the permit allows for only two hundred. In the mixed dormitory there are two sleeping options that students can choose from: a small corridor with ten bunk beds where a bed costs 78 euros for four nights, or an enclosed area with two bunk beds for 20 euros more.
As an international student, Eliwon has an extra hard time finding a room.
“Often I was told that no students are allowed to live in a certain room by the municipality, or that landlords only want Dutch students in the house. The fact that I’m male doesn’t help either.”
Still, he’s happy with the bunk bed, which he shares with another German student. That he has to share the showers and locker room at the field hockey club doesn’t bother him. “You get used to that quickly, but that could also be because it is Eurekaweek currently, then there is more of a holiday feeling anyway.”
Eliwon heard that he can stay in the pavilion until the beginning of September, but he doesn’t want to let it come that far. “I would prefer to have a house by then, of course, though I am glad that the organisation is offering this option. Many international students feel the pressure to find something as soon as possible, but it’s difficult.”
Cheaper than a hostel
First-year economics student Max (21) still sees the pavilion primarily as a hostel. He sits on the bottom mattress of a bunk bed in his own sleeping cabin. “Sleeping at Erasmus Sport is cheaper, but here you have much more privacy and it’s a lot more quiet.” For him, staying longer is not really an option. “I’d rather go home after Eurekaweek,” he says.
The same goes for Simon, who grew up in Slootdorp, a town right next to the Afsluitdijk. “During Eurekaweek this is a nice place and cheaper than a hostel, but I’d rather travel two and a half hours there and back than live here permanently.” He has been looking for housing for four months. “Money isn’t the problem, my girlfriend and I are looking for something together for 1500 euros.”
As long as needed
Ruben van Goor of The Sleeping Agency would prefer to take care of the students who can’t find a place to live for as long as necessary. The Breda-based company facilitates temporary shelter locations for both large festivals and refugees. “Initially, we’d agreed with Leonidas that the students could stay here for a month. After that, many regular sports activities will resume on the grounds. But if the need arises, we’ll see if alternatives are possible.”
Van Goor spent months talking to the EUR, the municipality, and the Eurekaweek board about the project, without much success. “The room shortage is of course a problem that has been going on for a long time and is not being solved, because nobody is taking responsibility. The EUR would like us to accommodate the students as long as possible, but at the same time they don’t want to actively help either. That’s because they also want to get the message out that students need to have housing before they come to Rotterdam to study.”
Van Goor and his business partner Derk de Groot say the project won’t make them rich. “At the moment we are mainly investing. We see the Eurekaweek and the period after as a test to see if we can alleviate the acute room shortage with this initiative. If it works, we want to start similar projects in other cities and develop a more profitable model.”
At least Eliwon doesn’t sleep any worse because of the room shortage. “You do hear from students that they wake up from the zippers of the cabins or from the heat in the pavilion, but I don’t suffer from that. I am a deep sleeper and in the morning the air is still a little damp and very cool. In fact, I feel nice and fresh every morning.”