Antonella Serrecchia, a first year master’s student in journalism from Italy, is one of the many international students still looking for somewhere to stay. The UK is following her in her ongoing quest to find a home in Groningen.
‘My initial goal was to find a room by the end of September, but it didn’t happen and now I am actually starting to get concerned. Sometimes I do feel like I won’t be able to find a room’, she says.
Although Antonella had found two rooms she could possibly rent, she still felt they weren’t exactly what she was looking for. ‘I turned down both of them. I might be a bit picky, but I really didn’t like the rooms’, she admits.
She and her two current flatmates have extended their stay at the Airbnb apartment for another month. However, by the beginning of November, they will all have to move out. ‘Actually, one of my flatmates has already found a room. So me and the other girl have decided to try to find a studio together. We thought it could be easier’, says Antonella.
Unfortunately but perhaps not unexpectedly, finding a studio has also proven quite challenging for them. Some landlords are not exactly eager to rent to students without a steady income. But this is not their only problem.
‘We realized that if we were a couple, it would be way easier to find something. Once we found a studio that we liked. The tenant gave our contact details to the real estate agency. As expected, we were declined again. Basically, they told us: ‘The studio is only available for couples.’ Seriously? What would the difference be for them if we were a couple? I don’t get it’, Antonella explains, clearly frustrated.
Someone who knows someone
Despite the difficulties, they are persevering, and now, there is a big chance that they have finally found the place they were searching for. ‘I have a Dutch friend who knows someone who will be renting an apartment soon, so this time, we spoke to the landlord directly and had a private viewing arranged’, she says.
‘The place is ideal for us. It is right in the city centre. Each room has its own kitchen, and the only thing that we will be sharing is the bathroom. The price is 360 euros per month, which is good. So my flatmate, another Italian girl – who is also doing the same master with us – and I are thinking about renting the apartment’, Antonella says. ‘The only problem, however, is that the apartment is still under construction at the moment’, she adds.
Construction will hopefully finish in November. ‘We will talk again with the landlord by the end of the week and we will know for sure when we could move in.’
Go for it
But until they have a final answer, Antonella will not stop her room quest. Fed up by the real estate agencies – which haven’t been very helpful thus far – she decided to rely exclusively on the various Facebook groups. ‘I am trying to avoid real estate agencies as much as possible. I think they do take advantage of students due to the high demand for a room and they ask whatever they want to from them.’
With the end of her house hunt in sight, Antonella has some words of warning for her fellow incoming internationals. ‘If a friend of my mine were to move to Groningen, I would advise them to start immediately after they get accepted. If they can come here a couple of months earlier, that would be ideal. I couldn’t do it unfortunately due to my work, but I kind of regret it now’, she says. ‘It would have been much easier for me if I had come in July instead of August. Even if they pay a month extra, they should still go for it, as there is a big chance they will end up paying even more.’
Her personal experience shows that for foreign students in need of a place to live, it may only be a matter of time – and patience. When she arrived in August, the competition was fierce, but by October, she literally has her pick of multiple rooms. ‘A month ago, we would be among a group of at least 20 people attending a single viewing. Now, most of the time, we are only there with around 3 or 4 other people, which is of course better. But this still doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s easy to find a room. If the apartment won’t be ready on time and I manage to find something else in October, even just a room, I will definitely go for it.’