With only three weeks to go until the new academic year, students during KEI week should be excited and full of expectation. Instead, a lot of them are stressed because they don’t have a room in Groningen yet.
‘I’ve been looking for a room for nine months’, says Alicia Li (18). She’s applied for at least twenty rooms without success and now that she’s about to start her international business study at the UG, she’s feeling nervous.
Earlier this year, the UG sent prospective international students a letter warning them not to come to Groningen if they hadn’t found a room by August. But Dutch students like Alicia are also struggling to find a place.
‘I have to commute from my parents’ house in Zwolle’, she says. That’s an hour by train each way. ‘But I have no choice. At least I have a place to stay and I hope I can move out as soon as possible.’
Other first-years, like 17-year-old sociology student Saar and 21-year-old student social legal services Iris, are going to commute as well. ‘I would say even for Dutch is hard to get a room in Groningen’, Iris says.
Fellow countryman Thomas (25), who’s starting a master in energy for society at Hanze University of Applied Sciences, did manage to snag a studio. He started searching for a place when he received the acceptance letter from Hanze, but without much success. ‘Then I received an email from WoningNet telling me I got a room. I was lucky because I put my name on the waiting list two years ago.’
But while Dutch students can usually commute if necessary, internationals don’t have that luxury. Justina Penna (18) from Argentina, who’s going to study international and European law, started trying to find a place in June. ‘I applied for fifty houses and only four people replied’, she says.
In the end, she was able to rent a studio from housing company Xior with the help of a friend. ‘You have to log in to the website when they open for applications in one second’, she explains.
German psychology student Berk (21) managed to find a room through a friend, but before that, he ‘stared at the sceen for ten hours every day’, he says with a flair for drama.
‘I was too naive in the beginning’, he says. Some of the landlords replied quickly and gave him a contract fast, but it turned out they were scammers. ‘They always said, you have to decide now because there are many people on the waiting list.’
Justina also got a lot of messages from scammers. They provide lovely pictures of the house and ask the tenants to sign the contract as soon as possible. ‘And if you ask questions, they will be mad and ask you if you’re still interested’, she says. ‘If you feel the process was too smooth, then you may be dealing with a scammer.’
The best way to know if you’re being scammed, say both Justina and Berk, is when they say they can’t show you the house on a video call because they’re not in the Netherlands right now.
Claudia (21), a biology student from Taiwan, sent hundreds of messages to landlords, housemates, and agencies. All that effort paid off: she found a room through an agency. Her tip: ‘Don’t send those canned messages, make it personal. Say something about why you want to live with them, why you like their house.’