After angry students occupied the Academy building last September, the UG promised it would improve its communication about the room shortage to incoming internationals. Five months later, the university is still working on that.
It was only weeks before the start of this semester that exchange student Antonia Marzán from Chile was informed about the lack of housing in Groningen. ‘It wasn’t a formal thing, it was in a webinar where they “strongly advised” us not to come if we hadn’t found a room’, says the economics student. ‘But I wasn’t worried, because I had already secured my place with SSH’, she adds.
Czech psychology student Matěj Mičulka was also told about the housing situation by the UG, he says, ‘though not explicitly’: they referred him to the SSH website. He booked his room through the student housing corporation ‘because I had heard from friends that it’s hard to find a place as an international otherwise’.
UG spokesperson Anja Hulshof says there was no need to be explicit. ‘We didn’t have to inform new students about the housing issue, because at this moment we have enough availability for exchange students to rent a room.’
There are still 65 rooms available at the Cornus flat, Hulshof says. Yet some students who moved in there would have loved to have more options. ‘Over 600 euros per month is really expensive’, says Italian law student Ginevra Cappelletti. ‘But I’ve heard about the housing situation, so that was my only choice.’
Analysing the results
Nevertheless, the university is working on its promise, says Hulshof. Over the last months, together with the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, the UG has asked international students for suggestions about how to do this. ‘We are now analysing the results and hope to find some good ideas to improve our communication.’
But would a warning stop students from studying at the UG? Laura Forel from Scotland is hesitant. ‘I’d have still considered coming to Groningen’, the history student finally says. ‘It’s the same situation back in Glasgow.’
And there are also students who are not first-years, but still struggle to put a roof over their heads. Like third-year law student Betija Kaleja from Latvia. Even though she is not new to Groningen, she wasn’t able to find a room after returning from her internship. ‘New students don’t even understand the size of the housing problem, so I really think the university should take more action’, she says. ‘Because, to be fair, the main problem is that the university accepts too many students.’