On Wednesday afternoon, while newly arrived students were testing out their bicycles in the parking lot at the Kornoeljestraat building, Charlene Chabert, a French exchange student, was still waiting around upstairs to take her last computer science exam at 6:30 in the evening.
‘I’ve had one exam every week for the last three weeks’, she explains, standing in an open room ready for a new occupant. She is staying in another room across the hall, which she is sharing with two other students in the SSH building. ‘The timing is tricky. It means I’m going to miss my first week of classes back in France.’
The rental contracts of first semester exchange students ended on 31 January and the new contracts began on Wednesday, 1 February. The 24-hour turnaround left the common spaces and bedrooms in the SSH buildings spic and span, but some outgoing students found themselves in a housing conundrum: they have to move out of their rooms, but they have not finished their exams yet.
In Chabert’s building, a handful of students have solved the problem like she has: by moving into the rooms that other exchange students have vacated for their last couple of days. According to the residents, SSH notified students several weeks before the winter break that there would be a timing issue with the end of the leases and the end of the exam period.
Some faculties at the RUG and Hanze also made it possible for students who found themselves facing the prospect of having to move out to schedule their exams before the Christmas vacation.
However, staff official for education and students Jan Wolthuis says that there is no way to keep track of exactly how many students were impacted by their exam schedule overlapping with the end of their lease. What is known is that as many as 500 students moved out of their SSH rooms on Tuesday, and about 520 arrived on Wednesday to start their semester abroad. Although foreign students are not required to live in SSH’s rooms, many exchange students reside in one of the roughly 1,500 rooms the organisation provides in Groningen.
‘It’s not a situation particularly caused by SSH, but a problem the university has created for itself’, says Wolthuis. Because of the RUG’s academic year schedule – exams for the first semester are not held before the winter break – students from the first semester may still have exams through the first days of February.
This is becoming a recurring theme: in 2016, some incoming students had to wait to move into their rooms in SSH housing because the leases of the first semester students ran through the day before classes began for the second semester.
‘Each year, we have the same conflicting interests. Depending on the day of the week on which 1 February falls, it is a problem for one group or the other’, Wolthuis says. Finding a solution has thus far proven difficult, since the academic calendar for the university is set years in advance.
Hotels and hostels
According to Jolien Stokroos, SSH manager in Groningen, the housing organisation is searching for other options by talking to hotels and hostels which could potentially offer discounts to students who have to stay in Groningen for a few more weeks. ‘Unfortunately, this will not happen this study year, but we hope we can offer students such options starting next year’, Stokroos says.
As of now, it looks like the academic calendar may present problems for second semester exchange students as well: grades will be announced in July, but their rental contracts will end in June.