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Scores of students in Rotterdam hostels: ‘I have to pay over a thousand euros for accommodation, but I don’t have any other choice’

Whereas first-year students were forced to stay in hostels in 2019, this year things are…

Approximately one third of the students who took part have not yet found suitable housing. Since students who face housing problems are more likely to fill in the poll than students who already have a decent room, this is not a representative percentage.

The search for housing causes a lot of stress, so much so that some students are even considering quitting their studies in Rotterdam. A lot of respondents do have a roof over their heads, but they have to move out soon. For example, someone is living with the parents of a friend, others are in short-term subleases. Or the distance to the campus is too far: one student still lives with his parents in Germany and is contemplating commuting. It is clear from the answers that students have to deal with scams and prejudices regarding their nationality and racism.

Dutch Only

Nikita Rogozhnikov foto Elmer Smaling
Nikita Rogozhnikov. Image credit: Elmer Smaling

Nikita Rogozhnikov, for example, missed out on a room when the landlord found out he was Russian. He has a roof over his head for one more week, but will be out on the street on 1 September. The Psychology student started looking five months ago. “I did make a few video calls, but then I didn’t hear anything back or the room was already gone. Especially in student housing, you often hear that they want Dutch Only.”

Nikita almost won the jackpot once: “It was a beautiful room in Kralingen. I replied really quickly and before I knew it, I was sitting with the landlord in a bar signing the contract.” Until he showed his Russian passport. “Then the landlord said it wasn’t going to happen after all and said goodbye.”

Mental health

Rana Abuzeid foto Elmer Smaling
Rana Abuzeid. Image credit: Elmer Smaling

For some, Rana Abuzeid’s headscarf was a reason to refuse her a room. She is still cheerful, but the search for a room and the constant rejections have not done her mental health any good, she admits. The master’s student in Forensic Psychology was already doing a bachelor’s degree in Maastricht but had to return to Egypt after graduation because her residence permit had expired.

And so began a difficult online search for a room in Rotterdam. “I would have a really nice time chatting with someone who had a room available,” says Rana. “But then we would get to know each other better via Zoom, and when I would appear on the screen with my headscarf on, you could see the person looking surprised and suddenly the room was no longer available. I didn’t even realise that at first, but after a few times the penny started to drop. I have learned to live with prejudice, but I didn’t expect something like that in a big city like Rotterdam. Fortunately, Rana is sorted out for now, she has a room from a friend as a sublet until December. “Hopefully I will have found something permanent before then.”


Nikita is not one to throw in the towel. “I was devastated for maybe three minutes, and then I moved on. You have to stay optimistic.” So, he keeps searching on Kamernet (‘quite a few scammers’), Facebook (‘nine out of ten are fake’) and Funda (‘zero scammers!’), among other sites. “And if I can’t find anything, I’ll just go couch surfing. I’ve already made quite a few friends during Eurekaweek, so hopefully I’ll be able to bunk down there.”

He is also on a university list which is trying to arrange rooms for students at the Novotel next to the campus. The International Office confirms that it is negotiating with the hotel to offer rooms at a reduced rate. A staff member said that about a hundred students have contacted the office because they are still looking for housing. ” We are currently working behind the scenes to match these students. However, there’s limited capacity and this is not a structural solution”, an employee states.