Students
Nico found himself a room Photo by Reyer Boxem

Homeless in the housing jungle #3

Getting lucky

Nico found himself a room Photo by Reyer Boxem
Unlike previous years, when most international students typically reserved accommodation by mid-October, this year many of them still haven’t found a home in the run-up to November. UKrant is following three of them.
26 October om 14:42 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 16 November 2021
om 14:54 uur.
October 26 at 14:42 PM.
Last modified on November 16, 2021
at 14:54 PM.

Door Yelena Kilina

26 October om 14:42 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 16 November 2021
om 14:54 uur.

By Yelena Kilina

October 26 at 14:42 PM.
Last modified on November 16, 2021
at 14:54 PM.

Yelena Kilina

International editor Volledig bio International editor Full bio

Michael Zemedkun (26)

Ethiopia

Master in clinical and psychosocial epidemiology

The last time UKrant talked to him, Michael was overjoyed to have found a room – even if only for two months. Three weeks later, he resumed his quest on Kamernet to put a roof over his head.

He’s noticing a difference in house-hunting now compared to September. ‘There are more houses being advertised and I am getting more responses than I did before.’ He even managed to attend two house viewings in one week. Last time, it took him over a month to get invited to a single viewing.

Two months of house-hunting actually feels like two years

But neither accommodation really suited him, unfortunately. The first room was well-priced, but it was once again a temporary solution: someone was subletting it for only three months. Not ideal for Michael, who figured he really needs something more permanent now.

Not desperate 

The second apartment turned out to be much too expensive. ‘I thought 695 euros per month included utilities, but then it turned out that the final cost would be 875 euros’, he says, pondering whether he should go for it anyway. ‘The rental agent told me I could get up to 300 euros back in rent benefit’, he pauses, thinking. ‘So if I get that, and if I get a food delivery job, maybe I will actually afford it.’ He doesn’t sound convinced.

Fortunately, he is going to view another room this week, so he’s in no rush to make a decision and can finally choose a place that suits him. ‘I am not that desperate’, he nods. 

Still, the two months of house-hunting have been a rough ride. ‘It actually feels like two years. But on the other hand, it’s starting to balance.’ For now, his plan is to take the last exam of the block after which he will put all his time in house-hunting, he says. ‘I have one more month left in my current place, so I think I will find something suitable in November.’ He does sound confident this time.

Sarah-Marie Malkus (20)

Germany

International relations and international organisation

Last time, Tami, who we followed earlier, told us he found a room. So we’ll let him enjoy his home and use the space to tell Sarah Marie’s story.

Sarah-Marie has been house-hunting since April. Together with her boyfriend, psychology student Leon Lepenies, she has been sending multiple requests on Kamernet and Pararius. But she and her boyfriend also tried a completely different approach.

They walked through the city centre with a big sign that read: ‘Wanted: room, studio or apartment.’ The couple didn’t even care anymore whether they could live together or not: ‘We just wanted somewhere to stay.’

We brought all of our property because we thought we could find something in a month

Alas, their desperate action didn’t bear any fruit: ‘People were rather shocked to see that sign.’ They realised, however, how dire the housing shortage is: ‘There were so many students saying oh my gosh, I’m in the same situation’, says Sarah-Marie.

Camper van

At first they were hopeful, though. ‘We were kind of naive and brought all of our property to Groningen because we thought we might be able to find something in one month.’ But she has only attended one single viewing so far: six hundred euros for a five-square-metre room. And they didn’t even get it. 

So here they are: moving from a tiny chalet at the camping ground to an Airbnb in the city. They’ve spent almost three thousand euros over the past two months.

Starting off student life while constantly searching for a room turned out to be stressful. At a certain point, she couldn’t even bear to think of it. That’s when both of their parents got involved. ‘They were scared that we would end up homeless and decided to buy a camper van for us’, says Sarah-Marie. ‘So that’s gonna be our future.’

Ringing doorbells

Sarah-Marie and Leon have never lived in a camper van before, nor have their parents. They just thought that this might be the only chance for them to be able to study in Groningen.

Sarah-Marie and her parents drove through the province to find a good spot for the camper van, ‘just randomly stopping by houses and literally ringing doorbells because we were so desperate.’ They found one nearby: it is a fifteen-minute ride from the city centre. 

‘Of course we’re scared as non-experienced campers, especially for the winter, but I think we’ll figure it out.’ But for the future, ‘we would like to move to a real apartment or studio of course’.

Photo by Reyer Boxem

Nico Hatt (19)

Switzerland

Economics

Nico had been crashing with his friends since August, unable to find a room. He felt so desperate, he says, so at some point he got on his bicycle and just cycled to every big rental agency in the hope that they might have an apartment that they didn’t list online yet, so he could head to the address first.

‘I was just going into their office saying, hi, I’m Nico, I’m an international student here. I’m desperately looking for a place. Can you help me out?’

Sleep was more of a problem than the time I spent looking for apartments

And that’s how he got lucky. One rental agency indeed had an unadvertised property, so Nico was invited to view it first. ‘I was super excited and brought two friends with me, just so we could have a good look at the place.’

It was worth the visit: the studio is neat and spacious. It comes with an improvised kitchen and a small toilet. Even the location is perfect. Overall, it ticked all the boxes, except one: the monthly rent of 720 euros was more than students can usually afford to pay for a house.

Overpriced

Being on the fence, Nico even called his parents to ask them for advice, who immediately reassured him that he should take it. That gave him the last push to sign the rental contract. ‘So now I’m looking to get a job, so I can actually afford the rent and pay the deposit.’

Nico is definitely happy to finally have a place of his own. He is also glad that he and his friends can take some time apart soon. Everybody needs private space and the lack of it was a big problem for him.

‘If you sleep in someone’s living room you get woken up by people taking a shower late or waking up early for class, so the amount of sleep was more of a problem than the actual time I spent looking for apartments.’

But his latest find is not the end of his house hunt, he says. ‘I’m going to move in there and just keep looking for rooms, see if I can find something a bit cheaper.’

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