Desperately seeking a room

Most students feel like they can sit back and relax after being admitted to the RUG. But for those coming from abroad, that is when the real work begins: they may have found a place to study, but they still have to find a place to live.
By Valia Papadopoulou

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.

In a word, Antonella’s room hunt so far has been frustrating. ‘I knew that it would be a difficult process, but I wasn’t expecting it to be this challenging.’

Sitting on a wooden bench by the Harmonie Building on an unseasonably hot day, Antonella recalls how happy she was when she found out she was accepted to the RUG in June.

But she still wanted to wait to hear back from other universities where she had applied before choosing where she would ultimately enrol. By the time she finally decided on Groningen, it was already the beginning of August.

In the same situation

Since campus accommodation were not an option and with only Facebook groups and at her disposal, she tried to establish some contacts in town to get a little better informed about what her options were. It turned out to be quite a let down: that route yielded no leads.

‘I had lived in London for some time in the past, so I was already prepared that it wouldn’t be very easy. But I was hoping that I would manage to find something,’ she recalls.

Her next attempt was to start looking for an apartment together with several other people who were also seeking a room. ‘A guy posted in one of the Facebook groups that it might be a good idea to try to find something together since we were all more or less in the same situation.’ They created a Facebook group message and started searching together.

‘The problem with that is that you need to rent the place really quickly’, she says. ‘One guy was already living in Groningen and went to visit an apartment. He texted us as soon as he got back home: ‘Do you agree with this or not?’ And you have to reply immediately. The plan failed,’ Antonella explains, disappointedly.

Really frustrating

‘I didn’t give up, though. I tried the same thing a couple more times with other people I found on Facebook.’ But she soon realised that for students, it is virtually impossible to find a three bedroom apartment, even via a rental agency. ‘Most of the time, you ring the agency, saying: ‘We are a group of three people and we want to rent this house. Can we visit it?’ and then the answer is always the same: ‘No, this house is only for families.’ It was really frustrating for me.’

Due to working as a babysitter in France, she couldn’t move to Groningen earlier than the 30th of August. She booked her flight and kept the search going in the meantime, but when it became clear that her efforts would be fruitless, she and the rest of her would-be housemates decided to wait until arriving in Groningen to find a place.

Antonella admits she was concerned about resorting to this approach. ‘I was actually thinking that once I moved here, I would manage to find a place to stay way more easily and probably within the first couple of weeks.’ She knew it would be risky, but without a room beforehand, she had no choice but to set out for the Netherlands, hoping things would just work out.

Read about Antonella’s room search after arriving in the Netherlands in the second part of this series next week.



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